Last night I decided to make the walnut and onion bread I'd originally planned for 2 February (Candlemas). The ingredients listing was definitely wrong (2/3 cup of flour to 1 cup of milk? Really?), so I kept adding flour until it seemed right to me. I also read the instructions incorrectly and proofed the yeast with all of the milk instead of just a quarter-cup. Oh well, the yeast didn't seem to mind. I made a single one-pound loaf instead of shaping the dough into two baguette-type loaves as well, and had to adjust the baking accordingly.
I refuse to be one of those stereotypical Canadians who overheat their homes in the winter, so my apartment is a little cooler than average. That's fine for me, but not yeast. Usually I let the dough rise in a cold oven, reasoning that it's at least draft-free, but last night I had a brainwave: why not turn the oven light on to warm up the inside of the oven, but not so much that it will kill the yeast? I tried it, and the yeast loved it. I bake with wholegrain spelt flour, so usually I wind up with denser bread than if I used white wheat flour anyhow, but dough rose much better this way.
Here's what the results looked like:
The adventure didn't have a completely happy ending — I underbaked it a little and so the centre was still a little on the moist side. Next time I'll add 10 more minutes to the baking time.
Final version of the recipe:
- 1 cup of warm milk
- 1 sachet of regular bread yeast (not instant)
- 1 generous teaspoon of honey
- 1.5 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
- about 2 1/2 cups of wholegrain spelt flour (aha! maybe it was 2-3 cups originally)
- half a red onion, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
- Mix the honey into the warm milk.
- Add the yeast and let proof for 10 minutes. The mixture should be foaming.
- Meanwhile, measure the flour, place in a mixing bowl, and make a well.
- Add the butter and salt to the milk/yeast mixture and stir until combined.
- Add the milk/yeast mixture to the flour and mix/knead until combined.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured board or a nonstick pastry sheet (my preference) and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic —10-15 minutes.
- Place the dough in the mixing bowl, cover with clingfilm and place in a cold oven. Turn the oven light on to warm up the oven just a little. Leave until the dough is almost doubled in size — about 2 hours.
- Punch down the dough and gradually knead in the chopped onion and walnuts until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.
- Form the dough into a loaf shape and place it in a loaf pan (I use silicon; if you use a regular tin, grease it first). Cover with clingfilm and return it to the cold oven with the light on for 30 minutes.
- Remove the loaf from the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Leave the loaf in a draft-free area until the oven is preheated.
- Remove the clingfilm and bake the bread until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. I baked mine for 30 minutes, but 40 minutes is probably better.