My husband goes down to the local coffee bar in the small town closest to us every morning for an espresso, to read the daily newspapers, and to chat with the locals. Recently he came home and told me that the owner had started making this delicious walnut bread with half whole wheat flour and that the bread would be great with cheese as well as thin slices of prosciutto. He liked it so much in fact that he suggested I try making this bread as well in my own kitchen. I’ve had a craving for raisin bread myself recently which is almost impossible to find here in Umbria. I love a good slice of crusty, rustic raisin bread that I can toast in the morning, slather with sweet butter and enjoy alongside my cappuccino. I decided to combine my husband’s request for walnut bread with my craving for raisin bread and made two good sized loaves we can enjoy for a couple of weeks. Once my loaves have cooled, I like to slice them up and then keep one bag in the refrigerator and freeze the rest so we can pull out a slice or two whenever we choose and the bread stays fresh.
I’ve been feeding a sourdough starter the last couple of weeks that I had first dried and then brought here to Italy with us and added about 3/4 of a cup of that into my ingredients as well. If you do not have an active sourdough starter, you could use 3/4 to 1 cup of biga (bread starter – see recipe below), or simply eliminate it altogether and add a little additional water. I think the starter or biga do add flavor as well as a lightness to the crumb of the bread so I try to include it into my recipes when I can. Although I normally add a pan of water to sit in the bottom of my oven while I bake my bread to develop a good crust, I didn’t bother with this bread as I knew I wanted to toast it. It turned out with a pretty good crust anyway, which I assume was due to the wholewheat flour.
I have been learning the benefit of weighing my ingredients for baking rather than measuring them and I encourage everyone to try it, as it really does make a difference and is generally much easier as well. Bread baking is a little more forgiving than baking pastries and such, so if you like more raisins and walnuts (or less), feel free to adjust to your own preference. As well, the amount of water needed may depend on the grind of your flour, or if you use a sourdough starter or biga, so simply add enough to make a workable dough. The dough for this bread was quite firm, so although I started out mixing it in my table stand mixer, I ended up kneading it by hand.
The dough kneaded and ready for rising.
Nice crust and crumb studded with raisins and walnuts in each slice!
The bread is delicious sliced, toasted and spread with creamy, sweet butter.
Deborah Mele 2011
- 1 Pound (16 Ounces) All-purpose Flour
- 1 Pound (16 Ounces) Whole Wheat Flour
- 3/4 Cup Sourdough Starter (or Biga - Recipe Below)
- 30 Grams (1 Ounce) Active Dry Yeast
- 2 Teaspoons Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Honey
- 110 Grams (4 Ounces) Walnut Pieces, Coarsely Chopped
- 150 Grams (About 6 Ounces) Sultana Raisins
- 3/4 Liter (or 750 ml) Warm Water (Approximate)
- 1/2 Teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
- 1 Cup Lukewarm water
- 2 Cups Unbleached, All-purpose Flour
- To make the biga, mix the yeast and water together, and then slowly start adding the flour, mixing well.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for up to 6 hours, then refrigerate overnight.
- Use 3/4 of the biga for this recipe and refrigerate the rest to use within 3 days.
- In a large bowl, mix together the flours, salt, and yeast.
- Add the starter (biga) if using, the honey and raisins.
- Fill a large liter measuring cup water that feels warm to your wrist.
- Begin to add about 16 ounces (2 cups) of the warm water to your flour mixture.
- Stir, and continue to add additional water until the mixture comes together as a workable lumpy dough.
- Dump your dough out onto a lightly floured hard surface and spread out.
- Sprinkle the walnuts on top and roll into a ball. Knead by hand for about 7 to 8 minutes or until the dough is fairly smooth and no longer sticky.
- You may need to sprinkle on a little additional flour on top of your dough as you knead.
- Roll your dough into a ball and place in a large, lightly oiled bowl.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to double in size, about an hour and a half.
- Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll into an oval shape, and place each oval loaf onto a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with a little cornmeal and flour to prevent sticking.
- Cover each loaf with a kitchen towel and let double in size, about 45 minutes.
- During the last 15 minutes of rising, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
- Just before baking, dust the tops of your loaves with a little flour and cut a few slits into the top of each loaf with a dough lame, kitchen shears, or a very sharp knife.
- Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and has reached an internal temperature of 190 degrees F.
- Cool before slicing.