Sunday, May 1, 2011

Give Us This Day...A Nutball

"Whatcha makin' mom?" asks the middle bit peeking her head around the corner into the kitchen.

"Bread, Love," replies the mother, up to her elbows in flour.

"What kind?" she asks with a sighing tone that tells me she knew it was bread but she needed more information.

"Ummmm.  A nut ball, Love," was my snarky reply.

"Hey!  I'm a nut ball too!" was the smiling response.  And not to be out done by the middle sister, the other two nut balls rounded the corner with their contributions.

"Hey!  Take our picture mom!  We are all nut balls!"

These are my nut balls.  I made them.  With my own hands.  From scratch.  And they are sooooo good.

Walnut Boule
(pronounced boo-lay, which is french for "ball" and sounds so much cooler than calling this gorgeous loaf a Walnut Ball...seriously.)

A Cooking Light recipe from about 3 years ago, this one is largely unchanged by me.  The walnut oil gives this dense loaf a wonderful, sophisticated flavor, but once I had to use olive oil and the mild flavored result was just lovely.  Moral of the story...either one works fine so stop freaking out about wacky, hard to find ingredients!  Also, don't be tempted to skip the step of toasting your nuts.  It takes just a few minutes and really brings out the nuttiness of the walnuts.  If you've never toasted nuts before, today is your day!  You'll need 3 hours for this nut ball!

3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon toasted walnut oil
2 1/4 cups bread flour, plus additional for kneading
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
cooking spray
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon milk
1 egg white

1.  In a large bowl, pour the warm water over the sugar and yeast; let stand until foamy.  Stir in the walnut oil.  In another bowl, combine the flours and salt with a whisk and then add them to the yeast mixture.  Stir until combined, adding additional flour to get the soft dough to begin pulling away from the sides of the bowl.  Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes until a smooth dough is achieved, adding small handfuls of flour as you knead to keep the dough from sticking to you.  This dough is sticky, but it shouldn't be sticking to everything.

2.  Coat a large bowl with cooking spray and place dough in, turning to coat all sides with spray.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it in a warm spot for 1 hour to rise.  During this hour the dough will nearly double in size.  Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and flatten it out.  Sprinkle the walnuts over the flattened dough and begin to fold the dough over and over itself to incorporate the nuts.  I'm sure an artisan bread baker would have an opinion about exactly how to handle the dough here...but basically you just have to knead it enough for the walnuts to be evenly distributed throughout the dough ball.  Some of them will be poking out the surface, that's fine.  When you've got it well combined, shape the dough into a nice round ball, not a flattened dome, and place it on a cooking sheet WELL coated with cooking spray.  Lightly spray the top of the dough and cover it loosely with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot for 1 more hour.

3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together the milk and the egg white.  Brush the top of the loaf liberally with this "egg wash" or use a paper towel to soak up the egg and glop it all over the top if you do not have a pastry brush.  Using a sharp knife, make two 1/2 inch cuts across the top of the loaf.  Make two more cuts in the opposite direction to form a crisscross pattern.  Bake for 30 minutes until the loaf is nicely browned.  Cool on a wire rack.

Sometimes, if you're lucky, you have a bit of this loaf leftover the next morning for breakfast.  Do yourself a favor, and toast up a nice fat slice and slather it with apple butter.  The sweet of the apples and the bitter of the walnuts is a flavor combination that will improve your life...seriously.

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