I haven’t baked at all, not even bread, in the past couple of months except for a batch of cupcakes a couple of weeks ago. All the kids (grown-ups really) in the extended family were home at the same time after about 3 years or so and that was reason enough to bake some celebratory cupcakes. Otherwise my oven has been on a well-earned break.
I’ve been itching to bake bread for the past week and when I saw the Bread Baking Babes (BBB) decided to “go healthy” this month, I knew it had to be that. The healthy reference was a big part of the attraction to bake the bread, it being a whole wheat bread with bran with walnuts and raisins.
This month’s BBB host is Lien and she chose a recipe by the Simili sisters (from the book “Pane e Roba Dolce” by Sorelle Simili), the famous cooking and baking twins from Italy. I halved the original recipe (you can find that on Lien’s blog) to make one small loaf as there’s only two of us at home right now. I also substituted the suggested raisins with dates as my husband absolutely loves the combination of walnuts and dates in breads and cakes. Rather than soak the walnuts and dates to soften them, I added them as they were. I lightly toasted the walnuts (I like them this way) and my dates were already on the soft and somewhat squishy side. I also used oat bran instead of wheat bran because that was what I had on hand.
I also made a slight change to the way the dough was prepared. I have previously baked Peter Reinhart’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread and his recipe/ method calls for soaking the whole wheat flour overnight. This makes the softest whole wheat bread I’ve ever made so I decided to follow that method for this Bran Bread. I mixed together most of the whole wheat and bran with water, salt and a little vinegar into a dough and left it overnight on the counter. I then kneaded in the remaining ingredients the next morning and proceeded with the recipe.
Whole Wheat Bran Bread With Walnuts & Dates
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup water (approx)
- 1/2 tbsp vinegar
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup oat wheat bran scant /
- 1 1/4 tsps yeast instant
- 1/2 tbsp honey
- 15 gm butter , soft at room temperature
- 1/3 cup milk powder
- 1/3 cup walnuts coarsely chopped toasted
- 1/3 cup dates coarsely chopped
- more bran to dust loaf
- First make the soaker. Mix 2 cups of whole wheat flour, the bran, salt, vinegar and 1 cup water together in a bowl until all of the flour is hydrated. It doesn't need kneading, just mixing together. I found that I needed a little more water and this can change from flour to flour. The soaker should be somewhat like a slightly sticky bread dough in consistency. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for about 8 to 12 hours (overnight is good).
- The next morning, add the remaining whole wheat flour, the yeast, the honey, butter, honey and milk powder to the soaker. Add a little more water if necessary and knead the dough well until the dough is elastic but no longer sticky. Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and leave to rise for about 1 1/2 hours.
- Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and press it out into a big oval. Sprinkle half the chopped nuts and dates over the dough and fold the dough oval in half. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts and dates over this and fold again. Press out again into an oval shape and roll the dough, jelly roll style. Pinch the seam closed and tuck the sides down neatly.
- Place the dough in an oiled loaf tin dusted with bran (8 1/2" x 4 1/2"), loosely cover and let it rise for about 45 minutes to an hour. Check if it's ready to bake by pressing a floured finger in the dough, it the dent springs back, leave it to rise longer, if the dent doesn't disappear, it's ready to bake.
- Brush the top of the dough with water and sprinkle some bran over it. Bake the bread at 200C (400F) on a stone or metal tray pre-heated in the oven for about 30 to 45 minutes. If the top browns too quickly cover with aluminium foil, and bake till the bread is done and sounds hollow when tapped.
- When done unmould the bread gently and let it cool completely before slicing it.