Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Organic Hazelnut Bread

nutbread-2

Doesn’t this just look divine?

I have so much respect for bakers, more than I have ever had. I baked these incredible easy breads this weekend. They turned out great, considering I have not baked bread since I was a little girl helping my mother in the kitchen. I remember having to create the dough, then knead it, add flour, knead, rise, punch, knead, rise again and then bake. By the time the bread was in the oven, I was tired and very sore. I remember it taking a long, long time to make bread. But the results were always fantastic and well worth the wait. There’s nothing better than eating a slice of warm bread fresh from the oven with a slab of melting butter atop. Oooooooooo, I can taste it now! {Wait, I am tasting it now!}

So when I came across this simple recipe for baking bread, I dismissed all those old memories. After all, how hard could baking bread really be according to this recipe here? At the end of the day, although my breads weren’t bad, baking bread really is a lot more of a science than I thought.

Did I mention I cleaned out my pantry last weekend (not this past weekend... this past weekend I cleaned out my dresser and my closet!)... along with that came the discovery of lots of pantry items that were uncovered in the archeological dig. Among the treasures were hazelnuts, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. I knew I needed to use up those hazelnuts. I did make home made Nutella one time. I can't remember if I wrote about it on my blog (I’ll check), but it crossed my mind to make another batch.

Then one of my other finds in the dig was my very, very favorite baby / toddler cookbook.

cookbook

I promised in an earlier post that I’d share more of my most beloved cookbooks with you and by far, this one, Baby & Toddler Healthy Eating Planner: The New Way to Feed Your Child, by Amanda Grant, has the most creative and seductive recipes to try. Not all of them are winners, but I’d say 95% of them have had an amazing 5 star reception among all in my household (that would be just me and Oliver, but even back in the day Matt fancied a couple things I prepared from this book). If you buy just one book, I’d say it’s really a toss up between this one and the Lisa Barnes book I mentioned in a previous post. Such great stuff. I never once had to serve Oliver jarred baby food his entire baby life. I made everything from scratch, and both of these books got me on the right track for feeding him solids. Oh but I digress. Let’s move on to the nut bread recipe, shall we?

Here we go....

First, start with organic flour. The recipe calls for all-purpose flour, but you could use bread flour. I did not have either in the house. I did have organic pastry flour. BIG, big mistake! This is the absolute WRONG flour to use because my breads turned out a bit heavy and did not rise quite as much as they could have had I used the proper flour.

I had these yummy hazelnuts:

hazelnuts

And these sesame seeds:

sesame seeds

And these sunflower seeds:

sunflower seeds

I decided to toast them:

roasting hazelnuts

roasting hazelnuts

roasting

roastings

There’s nothing better than a cast iron skillet to do this in.

Once you have the hazelnuts toasted, it’s best to remove the skins. There are several ways to do this. There’s the damp towel method which works pretty well but leaves a big mess ... and then there’s the hand peeling which just takes too darn long. So this time I decided to try my trusty garlic peeler. Yes, that's right. Just roll a few of those toasty nuts in this contraption and the peels fall right off.

garlic peeler

How lovely!

peels from the hazelnuts

Once you have most of the skins removed, go ahead and chop the nuts. The recipe actually called for ground nuts (and seeds), but I decided to leave the seeds whole and to chop the hazel nuts.

chopped hazelnuts

In the mean time, get the yeast action going. In order to have the yeast “proof”, the recipe called for lukewarm water, sugar and the yeast.

Drop the sugar into the warm water. This is what the yeast will feed on.

sugar

You can purchase organic yeast if you are so inclined.

yeast

yeast

For some reason, yeast always grosses me out. I’m not sure why. It’s probably a combination of the smell, the look, and the knowledge that these are active live cultures. Ewe.... they look like little bugs to me and that just ... well ... bleh! But it’s necessary for the bread making process, so I dealt with it. ;) Go ahead all you professional bread bakers out there. Laugh.

While the yeast is proofing (and you’ll know it’s proofing by the little bit of frothing action going on at the top of the water line and by the fine lovely scent of yeast ... that is if you like the smell of a brewery), go ahead and add all the nuts to the flour.

adding seeds

Once the yeast is ready, create a little well in the center of the flour mixture, and go ahead and add the yeast.

flour

I don’t have a photo of me kneading the dough (that would have required a third and maybe fourth hand) but trust me, the process was a bit very messy. Flour was everywhere. I did not have my large bread board out either, so my nice clean table cloth was coated with a light dusting of flour by the time I was done. This step, by the way, is a very important one, and it is one I did not partake in long enough. You will need to knead the dough for about 5 minutes or a tad longer. :)

Next, I decided that one of my loaves of bread could probably benefit from a bit of cranberry flavor. I found these dried cranberries on Oliver’s snack shelf. Sorry Oz...

dried cranberries

Next time I’ll add more and in fact, may have to go ahead and add fresh cranberries to the bread.

I had enough dough to make 2 loaves of bread. I fit them into glass bread pans and covered them with a damp cloth.

Here's the cranberry loaf. I sliced a cut down the center of it. Don’t ask me why. It just seemed like the right thing to do!

dough

Here’s the regular loaf.

dough

The recipe called for 40 minutes to let the dough proof (rise), but that was not the case with mine. I let mine rise almost 2 hours or so.

Once they were about double in size, I coated them in butter and added sesame seeds. Don’t they just look lovely already?

risingbread

rising dough

rising dough

Then I went ahead and baked them at 475 degrees for 40 minutes.

I now know why they suggest using egg white to top the bread with if you are going to coat it with sesame seeds. My seeds barely stayed put. Sadness.

organic nut bread

Regardless, the bread was incredible. Especially the one with the addition of cranberries. Mmmm so good!

nutbread

Here’s the recipe according to the book. If you want to make my version of the bread, read this post closely and take notes.... and if I have time, I will add notes at the bottom of this post to indicate what my changes were. I’m off to work in a few moments, so I may add those later this evening! :)

Nut Bread

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts, ground
  • 3T sesame seeds, ground
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, ground
  • approx 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1t sugar
  • 2t dried yeast
METHOD
  1. Grease the bread pans
  2. Put flour in a large bowl, mix in the nuts and seeds
  3. Put 6T warm water into a cup, stir in the sugar, then the yeast and leave somewhere warm for 10-15 minutes until a froth has formed on the top
  4. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon, gradually adding the rest of the warm water. Use your hands to form a smooth dough that comes away from the edges of the bowl, adding a little more water if necessary
  5. Knead the dough for 5 minutes on a floured surface and then shape into two oblongs and droop into the prepared pans
  6. Sprinkle the loaf with flour and cover with a warm damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes
  7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, then bake the brad for 40 minutes. Remove from the pan and bake upside down on a baking sheet for 10-15 minutes to crisp up the sides and the bottom. When the loaf is cooked, it will sound hollow on the bottom when tapped.
  8. Cool on a rack. Slice and wrap each slice in foil and freeze if you like.


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