Walnut Sourdough Bread
(Pain au Levain with Walnuts)
This is a delightful, earthy, bread. We've used it for making toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, we've enjoyed it with preserves, with cheese, and even by itself. I've made this recipe as a boule or as baguettes, and enjoyed it greatly both ways.
This recipe is from "Bread Alone" by Daniel Leader.
This recipe is for two loaves, either boule or baguette.
Preheat your oven to 350F. Arrange the walnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake them, stirring from time to time, until the walnuts are fragrant and lightly toasted. This takes about 10 - 12 minutes in my oven. WARNING - if you burn the walnuts, even a little, don't use them in this recipe! Burned walnuts are nasty!
Put 3/4 cup of the toasted walnuts into a food processor with 2 TBSP of flour. Pulse the nuts and flour in the processor until they are finely ground. Coarsely crush the remaining walnuts. Set aside, and let the walnut flour and the crushed nuts cool.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for around 10 minutes, until the dough is firm and smooth. Add flour sparingly, but as needed.
Add the broken up walnuts a bit at a time and knead in until the dough is again smooth, another 5 to 7 minutes.
Gently deflate the dough, transfer to a floured work surface and knead briefly. Divide into two equal pieces, form the pieces into balls, cover and let rest for 1/2 hour.
Shape the loaves as you prefer, and let them rise again, probably around two hours.
Preheat the oven to 450F, which should take 45 minutes to an hour with stones in the oven.
When the oven is ready, slash the loaves and slide them into the oven. Put a cup or so of hot water into the bottom of the oven. Then let the loaves bake about 25 to 30 minutes.
A note about 20% bran flour. Daniel Leader feels that plain white flour is just too tasteless for many breads. I can't argue the point. He feels that our American flours are lacking in oomph. And, again, I can't argue the point. So, his answer is to not use bleached white flour and instead to use a flour with about 20% bran in it. He knows of a few suppliers that produce flours with about 20% bran in them. Sadly, the are largely not available to those of us in the hinterlands. For us, he suggests mixing 3 pounds unbleached white flour with 1 pound of whole wheat flour. This has become a favorite flour for me in the past few weeks.
In more recent months, I've come to the conclusion that pre-mixing this flour means you just have one more thing lying around your kitchen, one more thing you need to premix. It's easier to just use white and whole wheat flours. Some of Daniel Leader's recipes have you use 20% bran flour and then add more whole wheat flour. Sorry, life is too short to play those silly games. I'll redo the recipe before long to just use white and whole wheat flour.