I do love bread! It really is the staff of life, don't you think?
As far as I'm concerned, every day is bread day. We invariably have buttered toast each morning for breakfast. Sandwiches are not uncommon for lunch. Bread is often the starch we choose to go with dinner. (A crusty French-style loaf is wonderful with stews and soups; cubes of older bread make great stuffing for roast chicken or croutons for salad; corn bread is a must with chilli; one really can't have palak paneer without naan or chapatis!) And if there's no dessert made and someone neeeeds dessert? Cinnamon toast!
Even though we like so many different kinds of bread, when I heard that Zorra (kochtopf) had chosen an open theme for World Bread Day 2007, I didn't have any difficulty deciding what bread to feature. I knew exactly what I wanted to bake: walnut raisin bread with wild yeast.
And how did I come to this decision to bake walnut raisin bread? In September, my sister-in-law sent me some of her bread recipes, including her favourite: "walnut raisin bread" from Beth's Basic Bread Book by Beth Hensperger. I had already had an idea that I was going to have to try making walnut bread after reading about it in Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery but realizing that raisins could be added clinched it. I really liked that it was a multigrain bread as well. This is right up my alley - especially for the fall! There's something about the cooler weather that calls for a stronger bigger tasting bread.
There was only one small hitch. My sister-in-law's recipe calls for commercial yeast. Nancy Silverton's recipe appears to be quite complex, requiring 3 days of preparation! (I do like her book but it really doesn't seem to be aimed at the kind of home baker I am. It's all I can manage to remember to mix the starter one day before baking! Same day bread is really more suited to my scattered temperament....) But again, I really wanted to use my wild yeast that I captured using the recipe in Piano Piano Pieno by Susan McKenna Grant.
So I winged it once more for how to make the alteration from commercial yeast to wild yeast. I'm still fighting a bit with how much to allow the bread to rise (I'm pretty sure that I am letting it over-rise) so the resulting bread was a little bit on the flat side. But still I was pretty pleased and I can really understand why it is my sister-in-law's favourite bread. I only wish she lived closer so I could take a loaf over to their house next time I bake this recipe!
By itself, the bread has a decided sour aroma - not overpoweringly so but I would like to lessen it. With sweet butter, the sourness disappears completely and the other hidden flavours of the bread stand out beautifully. There is a nuttiness not just from the walnuts and a sweetness not just from the raisins. It really is stellar bread and imagine how good it's going to be when I remember to turn the oven on early enough so it doesn't over-rise!
It is equally wonderful for dessert with cheese. And day-old bread can be sliced thinly, drizzled with olive oil and made into crostini. Slather the toasts with herbed olive-oiled goat's cheese. It's almost so good this way that I have an urge to make a loaf specifically to be kept over for a day just to make crostini!
Here is the Wild Bread with Walnuts and Raisins recipe.
About Baking the Bread: Thirty minutes before you are going to bake, turn the oven to 450F.
At the time of baking, spray the top of the risen loaves liberally with water.
Note that I do NOT throw water or spray the hot oven before putting the bread in to bake. This just lowers the temperature of the oven and could possibly damage parts of it. (I've heard of the glass door or the light breaking.)
Put the bread in oven and immediately turn the oven down to 400F. Bake the bread for a total of 40 to 50 minutes or until the internal temperature is between 210F and 220F. (I use a meat thermometer.) Half way through the baking, turn the bread around to account for uneven heat in the oven.
Remove to cool on a rack. Wait til the bread is cool before cutting it. It is still continuing to bake inside! If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled completely.
To reheat unsliced bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.
Zorra (Kochtopf) is hosting World Bread Day (WBD) again this year and is inviting food bloggers to join with her in another celebration of bread. Any bread fits the theme: yeasted or not, plain or fancy, homebaked or storebought. The deadline for posting for WBD 2007 is Tuesday, 16th October 2006 (There is short grace period: only until Wednesday, 17 October 2007). For complete information on how to participate, please see:
Also, if you haven't already, do take a look at
On a more serious note, please note that today is also World Food Day. Not too long ago, I talked about hunger. But it cannot be stressed enough that unlike us privileged few, there are many in the world who go hungry. Please remember to do what you can to end world hunger.
See more about World Food Day on Floydm's blog.
(edited to fix formatting... I'm having a devil of a time with "rich-text" -ejm)