Sage and Walnut Bread


I'd love to be able to write something witty, interesting, somewhat funny, and attention-grabbing here, but I've been staring at the laptop screen for about half an hour and my mind is still a blank.

Do I talk about how much I love homemade bread?

Nah, done that with pretty much every other bread post.

Talk about Tofino? 

Done that already, not much has changed since last week.

Talk about why I don't have anything to write about?

Well...


I've come down with a nasty cold. Totally anti-climactic, I know.

My brain is a foggy mess and I can't seem to concentrate on anything for more than 20 seconds. My nose and forehead feel like they're about to explode, my eyes are constantly watering because it's feel like I have to sneeze 24/7, and my nose is running like a faucet. This is just the beginning, too. I can feel the tickle in the back of my throat that will turn into a full-fledged cough sometime in the next day or two. 

Aren't I just a joy to be around?


There has been lots of tea drinking and comic book reading while laying in bed with a roll of toilet paper next to me (for my runny nose). The weather here in Tofino is reflecting my sickness - it's rainy and about 14 degrees celsius for the past few days. It's almost better to be sick when it's raining because being sick when it's sunny and hot out just doesn't seem fair.


Despite my foggy head, I can still remember a few basic bread recipes. I've got the Overnight White Bread recipe fermenting right now and I've managed to borrow a cast iron skillet from the girls next door. The bread will be proofed in a pasta strainer lined with a kitchen towel tomorrow. It may not be my proofing baskets and my little red dutch oven, but it still produces pretty good bread. It reminds me of home. 

Make do with what you got, you know?



Sage and Walnut Bread

Biga
800 g all-purpose flour
544 g water, at 27 C/ 80 F
0.64 g instant dried yeast

Walnut Paste
50 g walnuts
20 g walnut oil
20 g honey
50 g water

Final Dough
100 g all-purpose flour
100 g whole wheat flour
50 g spelt flour
206 g water, at 41 C/104 F
22 g fine sea salt
2 g instant dried yeast
1,345 g biga
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
300 g walnuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped

Put 800 g of flour in a 6-quart (or equivalent) tub. Put 544 g of water at 27 C/80 F in a separate container. Put 0.64 g instant dried yeast in a separate, small container. Add about 3 tablespoons of the 27 C water to the yeast. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes, then stir with your finger. The yeast may not be completely dissolved, that's okay.

Pour the yeast mixture into the tub with the flour. Pour a few more tablespoons of the 27 C water into the yeast container, swirl it around, and dump it into the dough tub, along with the remaining water.

Mix by hand, using the pincer method, alternating with folding the dough, just until all the ingredients are incorporated. Cover and leave out overnight at room temperature (18 to 21 C), 12 to 14 hours. It should be slightly domed, about triple in volume, and have a strong, ripe smell of alcohol.

For the walnut paste, combine all the ingredients in a food processor and create a smooth paste. Set aside.

Measure the three flours into a 12-quart (or equivalent) tub, add the 22 g of salt and 2 g of yeast and mix by hand. Pour in the 206 g of 41 C/104 F water and mix by hand until just incorporated. Add all of the bigs, using your hand to ease it out of the container.

Add the walnut paste, chopped sage, and chopped walnuts to the dough.

Mix by hand, wetting your working hand before mixing the dough so the dough doesn't stick to you. Using the pincer method alternating with folding the dough to fully integrate the ingredients.

This dough needs two or three folds which are best applied during the first hour and a half of fermentation. The total fermentation time is 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

After it has fermented, flour your hand and a work surface. Gently ease the dough out of the tub and onto your work surface. Use a bit of flour to dust the area in the middle where you'll cut the dough, then cut it into 2 equal sized pieces with a dough knife or metal bench scraper.

Dust two proofing baskets (or your substitution) with flour. Shape each piece of dough by folding it, flip it upside down, then cup your hand around the back of the dough ball. Pull the entire dough ball 6 to 8 inches towards you on a dry, unfloured surface, leading with your pinky fingers and apply enough pressure so the dough ball grips your work surface and doesn't just slide across it. This will tighten up the ball and add tension to it. Give the loaf a quarter turn and repeat this tighten step. Repeat again until you've gone all the way around the dough ball two or three times. Repeat with the second loaf of dough. Place the loaves seam-side down in the proofing basket.

Lightly flour the tops of the loaves. Set them side by side (in the bowls/baskets) and cover with a kitchen towel. Preheat the oven to 475 F (245 C) and place a dutch oven on the middle rack with the lid on. The proofing time for this bread is about 1 hour, check the proofing with the finger dent test. If you only have one Dutch oven, place one of the loaves, covered, in the fridge 20 minutes before the first loaf goes into the oven.

Be very careful with the extremely hot dutch oven in this next step. Invert the proofed loaf onto a lightly floured countertop, keeping in mind that the top of the loaf will the side that was facing down while it was rising - the seam side. Remove the preheated Dutch oven from the oven, remove the lid, and carefully place the loaf in the Dutch oven seam side up. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and continue to bake for a further 20 to 30 minutes, until at least medium dark brown around all the loaf. Check after 15 minutes of baking uncovered in case your oven runs hot.

Remove the Dutch oven and carefully tilt it to turn the loaf out. Place on a wire rack to let it cool, about 20 minutes. Put the Dutch oven back in the oven for 5 minutes to preheat it, then bake the second loaf in the same way.

Enjoy!

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