I did not think I’d like this bread as much as I do. But who doesn’t like surprises, especially the good kind? Thanks to Elizabeth (Blog from OUR kitchen), the host of this month baking project at Bread Baking Babes (BBB), for her excellent bread selection. The bread is based on recipes in Auberge of the Flowering Hearth by Roy Andries de Groot and The Italian Baker by Carol Field. Elizabeth’s personal stories of finding inspiration among her in-law’s cookbook collection added another layer of intrigue and relevance.
There is so much to like about this bread. Starting with superb ingredients. Walnut, one of my favorite nuts for baking, is added in the bread dough in two ways: in the flour (8%) and on the crust. Walnuts saturate the bread with a dark walnut color and delicate nutty flavor. Whole wheat flour is about 60% of the total flour weight relative to 40% of all-purpose flour. (I used white whole wheat flour which lightened the color of the bread. I should have used the regular kind, consistent with a darker tone of walnut.) Surprised so much whole grain flour can be packed into a single loaf. Yet, the outcome is a desirably light and airy bread with an open crumb structure. Most unexpected: the ginger and honey.
I amped up the amount of spices and honey, making the bread noticeably spice forward and flavorful. I might have deepened the flavor beyond what was intended in the original recipe. I used two and a half teaspoons of a spice mixture consisting of: ground anise seed, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. That worked out remarkably well. The bread resembles a mellower version of pain d´épices. It tasted medieval.
|egg wash, no walnuts on top|
The baker percentages are listed in the recipe. They are music to my ear and oxygen for my brain. What better formula could I ask for?
The red highlights in the cheat sheet below show the changes I’ve made to the recipe. I skipped the vital wheat gluten, which I didn’t have, and the flax seeds, which I ran out. I did not shape the dough in rings. Instead, I made two loaves, a round loaf with walnut pieces on top and a rectangular pan loaf without the walnuts. I added a few slices of the latter slathered with mustard to a Belgian beef stew to give it some extra body. This bread delivers a spicy note to savory dishes or dressings. A different way to use and enjoy the bread.
Most unforgettable was the intoxicating scent of warm spices wafting in the kitchen and throughout the house when the loaves were in the oven. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply to savor the rich aroma. Instantly, I was transported to some old-world bakeries where bread loaves are still hand-crafted and baked on premise. Nowadays, there are so few and far between. No complaints here: the sweet reality is that it was happening right in my own kitchen. It doesn’t get much better than this!
Scent can be elusive. Flour is clearly in the air: bread + cherry blossoms.