Saturday, September 19, 2009

Lavender, Honey and Walnut Bread

I have a new toy--a professional series Kitchen-Aid Mixer that my wonderful husband got me for my birthday. It makes baking bread and other treats a fun adventure, so Scott and I have been playing with it. A lot. This is the first of many forays into bread baking. I'm looking forward to modifying it a little to make it my own. It comes from one of our favorite cookbooks, The Herbfarm Cookbook. If you enjoy playing with herbs in your kitchen, I'd highly recommend it. This bread was picked as one of the first experiments because we have some lavender from a friend's wedding. I enjoyed stretching out their celebration a bit to our house. Cheers to Joey and Nichole!

Lavender, Honey & Walnut Bread

Makes Two Loaves

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (105F to 110F)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons medium-to strong-flavored honey (we use sunflower)
1 1/2 tsp coarsely chopped dried lavender buds
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups flour (we've been using a 50/50 mix of unbleached white and whole wheat in our kitchen lately)
1 cup/4 ounces coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Dough. Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Sprinkle yeast over water and let sit for several minutes to dissolve. Add honey, lavender, salt and flour and mix on low speed until all the ingredients are incorporated. Knead for about six minutes on medium speed. The dough will be very soft and should pull away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough sticks to the sides, add up to 1/4 cup more flour, a little at a time. Spread the walnuts on a work surface and turn the dough out on top of them. Sprinkle the dough lightly with flour and knead briefly until the walnuts are evenly incorporated, using a dough scraper if it sticks to the board. Place the dough in a large mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a clean towel. Let rise at room temperatures until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

2. Shaping. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Dust with flour and pat into a 10-inch square. Fold in half, pat out a little, then fold into quarters and pat again. Cut the resulting 6-inch square in half with a sharp knife. Stretch each piece out into an approximately 12x4 inch oval. Transfer loaves to a parchment-lined baking sheet and dust again with flour. Cover loaves with a clean towel and rise again at room temperature until doubled, about 45 minutes.

3. Baking. Preheat the oven to 375F. Bake the loaves on the center rack until they are dark brown and osund hollow when thumped on the bottom, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely on rack before slicing.