Thursday, October 13, 2011

Walnut and Rosemary Loaves

I took the afternoon to bake bread today, something I haven't done in quite some time, and one of my favorite activities when the temperature drops.  These rustic loaves are so much better than sliced bread from the store; dark on the outside, they will stay light and almost creamy on the inside.  This recipe makes enough for 2 loaves, so you can eat one now and freeze the other for later.  Plus, you'll get a dose of your omega-3's from the walnuts.

  • 2 cups warm non-dairy milk (between 100 and 110 degrees)
  • 1/4 cup warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees)
  • 3 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted vegan butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 packages dry yeast (4 and 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 5 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 Ener-G eggs, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon plain non-dairy milk
1. Combine the warm milk, warm water, sugar, butter, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until combined.  Add the yeast; let stand for 5 minutes.  The mixture will foam up in that time, as the yeast activates; I love watching the process, like a mini little volcano bubbling to the surface.

2.  Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife.  Add 2 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture, stirring with a whisk until smooth; cover and let rise for 15 minutes.

3. Add an additional 2 and 1/2 cups flour, the walnuts, the rosemary, and 1 Ener-G egg to the yeast mixture. 

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.  Add the remaining 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup at a time, to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands.  If you need a quick reminder on the steps to kneading, check out this link:

Note: this is a very wet, sticky dough, so I actually added 1/2 cup of the extra flour while still stirring in the bowl, before turning the dough onto a surface to knead.  Once kneading, I only did so for about 5 minutes, until all the flour was incorporated and the dough felt elastic enough - much less time than the 10 minutes or so normally needed.  It turned out to be the right decision though, because if you keep kneading and adding extra flour, you'll lose the creamy texture of the final product.

5. Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning so the top is coated as well.  Cover and let rise for 1 hour.  I like to let dough rise in a closed, unheated oven where it will be warm and free from drafts. 

6. Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface (using floured hands was helpful here as well, since the dough is sticky).  Divide the dough in half and shape each portion into a round.  Place on a baking sheet dusted with the cornmeal.  Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

7. Combine 1 tablespoon milk with the second Ener-G egg, and brush evenly over the top of the loaves.  Make 3 (1/4-inch deep) diagonal cuts across the top of each loaf with a sharp knife.

8. Place the loaves in an oven preheated to 400 degrees, but immediately lower the temperature to 375 degrees once the bread is inside.  Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes - the loaves should sound hollow when tapped.  Let stand for at least 20 minutes before slicing. 

Serve the bread on its own, with a bowl of soup, or to make sandwiches; I particularly enjoyed it with a Tofurky-and-tomato filling. 

Nutrition Info:
2 loaves, 12 servings per loaf (1 slice), Calories 170 

Tasting Notes:
I would call this bread practically perfect, except I don't want to sound as though I'm touting my own bread-making skills.  But wow - the walnut and rosemary not only smelled amazing all through the kneading and baking process, but tasted absolutely incredible - like Christmas, if that makes sense.  The crust had the perfect crunch and the interior was soft, creamy and light.   Tomorrow night, I intend to make a soup tailor-made as a partner for these loaves, so stay tuned.


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