Wednesday 28 July 2010

Walnut Bread - July’s Fresh From the Oven Challenge

I know patience is a virtue, but it’s one thing, among many others granted, that I’m really not very good at. Once I have an idea, or begin something, I need it to be done speedily. So this month’s challenge was really a challenge: making a starter for the bread. A challenge I didn’t really succeed in, well, I did to some extent, but my patience and the need to wait for 8 hours seemed too long!

This month’s challenge was hosted by Sarah from Simply Cooked. She chose a whole wheat walnut bread from one of her cookbooks, The Neighborhood Bakeshop by Jill Van Cleave. The recipe below is as she wrote it, and the only thing I did different was to use wholemeal flour rather than whole-wheat, although I’m not sure if it’s the same or different, and to only leave my starter for an hour, but you can see by my pictures that by that stage, it was ready to go!

Whole Wheat Walnut Bread
adapted from The Neighborhood Bakeshop by Jill Van Cleave
makes 2 loaves

1 t active dry yeast, divided
2 c (500 ml) lukewarm water (95 - 110F, 35 - 45C), divided
3 c (380 g) plain bread flour, divided
1 T honey
1 T olive or walnut oil
1 1/2 c (180 g) stone-ground whole wheat flour
1/4 c (40 g) semolina flour, or more whole wheat flour
1 t sea salt
1 1/2 c (175 g) coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

First prepare the sponge starter. Dissolve 1/2 t yeast in 1 c (250 ml) lukewarm water in a medium bowl. Let proof until bubbly, about 5 minutes.
Add 1 1/2 c (190 g) bread flour and stir until a thick batter forms.


Cover the bowl and leave at room temperature to rise and bubble for 6 to 8 hours. The starter is ready to use now or can be put in the fridge overnight. (Bring it back to room temperature before using.)

Dissolve the remaining 1/2 t yeast with the 1 c (250 ml) lukewarm water in a large bowl. Let proof for about 5 minutes.
Add the sponge starter and mix well. Stir in the honey, oil, whole wheat flour, semolina flour (if using), and salt.
Add 1 1/4 c (160 g) of the remaining bread flour gradually to form a stiff dough.
Add the walnuts.


Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for ten minutes, adding as much of the reserved flour as needed to keep it from being too sticky. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.


Grease the bowl and return the dough, turning it to coat it in oil. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise until it is doubled in size, about 2 hours.


Divide the dough into two pieces and form into loaves. Place on a baking pan and leave them to rise again, about 30 minutes.


Bake at 400 F/205 C for 30 to 40 minutes, until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Cool on a wire rack.


Again, an easy recipe I’d make again, although they were a bit flat when I took them out from the oven so I might use a tin next time. Delicious though, and great to dip in rich tomatoey sauces or spread as little tartines for aperitif or amuse bouche. Have a look at how we all did at Fresh from the Oven.


  1. We too waited for the sponge starter only for an hour, but it's so hot here that it would have died if left for longer.

  2. Merlotti, fantastic! Your loaves turned out really well and I can see that an hour for the starter was more than enough. I feel pretty confident now that it could be left for any amount of time from 30 minutes to the full eight hours and the only difference might be in the sourdough-ish taste of the finished loaf.

    I think you are right about using a loaf tin--then it's not so flat. Thanks for taking part!

  3. You've made me feel so unadventurous! I wouldn't have dreamed of leaving it for only one hour! I make bread with a sponge often and find it's fine to leave it overnight so you're ready to make it in the morning = fresh warm bread for lunch. The longer resting gives a lovely sour dough like texture. But yours looks great anyway!

  4. You must have really good active yeast, your dough looks so lively! Yum.


Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!
Merlotti x

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