Chico Nut Bread
A new prospect is on the horizon.
This new prospect keeps me focused, keeps me pushing, keeps me mixing and baking.
At breakfast and dinner my starter is fed freshly milled flour still warm from its transition from grain to powder. Everyday I watch, smell and taste the starter and notice how temperature and different milling techniques play a role in its development. The biggest change I have ever noticed took place this week when I changed my milling practice.
Reading an article about Dave Miller in the 2012 Spring issue of the BreadLines newsletter I noted that he considered the flow rate of grains into the stones an important factor. I have no control over the high speed of the stones in the Komo mill so perhaps I could control the flow rate rather than just filling the hopper? So began a series of experiments in slow, time consuming milling ... grains trickled into the hopper bit by bit ... and the results?
... I started producing the coolest, finest flour that my little mill has ever produced. The flour was silky to the touch and no heat was created. The change in flour had an immediate effect on the starter feedings ... Water was absorbed more rapidly in the mixing and volume had increased by 10% at the end of a cycle with even aeration throughout.
Unfortunately there was a downside to this milling practice—one I am still to fully understand as I am not an engineer. The mill motor started to overheat quite badly when milling large amounts of grain ... noticeably ... I could smell it ... then it shut off. I had to wait for the motor to cool down before it would switch back on. (I was not even sure if it would) Needless to say I was a little stressed about this!
So I have returned to my normal milling routine of producing high speed, high temperature flour, but all the time thinking of ways to slow this process down.
I came to the idea of utilising freshly milled grains by the way of Gerard Rubaud and his unending quest for flavour. This was a completely new idea for me having only been exposed to bags of flour sitting on store shelves.
So I bought a small stone mill and from that moment when I first experienced fresh, sweet whole grain flour I knew I was hooked.
This ever increasing fascination in stone milling and how it can work within a bakery environment has been furthered along by the likes of Dave Miller of Miller's Bakehouse  in Yankee hill. For Dave the mill is a necessary part of his bakery set up. His holy trinity he calls it - mill, mixer and oven. He is a one man show and for me is the epitomy of the local village baker. The wheat is grown, milled and made into bread—all locally.
In the BreadLines newsletter Dave contributed a formula for his 'Chico Nut Bread'. Chico, California where Dave sells his bread is surrounded by walnut and almond orchards ... "a natural choice for whole grain doughs" says dave.
I was excited by this bread ... a walnut sourdough is one of my favourite breads to both make and eat.
A glance at Dave's formula can prove more daunting than the actual feel of the dough ... he uses a lot of water with his fresh milled whole grains. But remember, the formula is not the bread—feel the dough and trust that it will come together. It also seemed that only Californian walnuts were available from my local shops ... so perhaps my bread would be closer to California than I thought :)
Chico Nut Bread courtesy of Dave Miller
Formula 6 x 700g
Levain build – 3 hrs 26°C
Freshly milled organic wheat flour
Final dough - 24°C
Freshly milled organic wheat flour
This is my adaptation of Dave’s process for home baking.
- Mix final starter and leave to ferment for 3 hours at 26°C
- Mill flour and mix with water (hold back 10% of water) and autolyse for 20 mins.
- Add starter to autolyse then mix in bowl for 5 mins. Add salt and remaining 10% of water and squeeze through bread to incorporate (dough will separate then come back together) then mix and squeeze a further 5-10 mins. The dough is very wet but should start to feel some strength by the end of this mixing.
- Add walnuts at the end of mixing.
- Place in a fridge at 4°C for 15 hours. I gave the dough a fold at 30mins and 1.5 hrs.
- Increase or decrease the number of folds depending on the strength of your wheat.
- Remove from fridge. Divide at 700g. Preshape.
- Bench rest 45–60mins. Shape and roll the dough on a wet cloth and then in sliced almonds. Proof in couche or narrow basket.
- Final proof was two hours at room temperature. Watch the dough!
- Bake in a preheated oven at 250°C for 10 mins with steam. Reduce temp to 200°C then bake for a further 40 mins.
Work quickly, utilise your scraper and be brave! This is the most alive feeling wholegrain dough I have ever made. It is a little hard at first to believe the amount of water that is being poured into the bowl and even after the autolyse I was nervous.
Mixing is the only way to describe the initial dough development. I dared not take it out of the bowl and used both hands to squeeze, fold and turn the dough … it’s not until you perform folds during bulk ferment that you feel the strength really increase.
The long cool bulk ferment also allows for maximum water absorption and makes handling the dough a little easier the following day!
The toasted almonds scattering the outside makes for beautiful looking bread bursting with texture and aromas … but it was the taste that won both Nat and myself.
The walnuts and almonds flavours almost seem to merge and it’s hard to distinguish between them—making indeed a true ‘nut bread’. The walnuts give the crumb a creamy texture and it’s characteristic purple hue. We love this bread toasted until the walnut pieces turn white within that coloured crumb.
Winter has arrived here with cool days and nights which are just perfect for baking ...
Happy baking everyone.