Basil and Toasted Walnut Bread

By • July 6, 2010 22 Comments

86 + Save

If you like it, save it!

Save and organize all of the stuff you love in one place.

Got it!

If you like something…

Click the heart, it's called favoriting. Favorite the stuff you like.

Got it!


Author Notes: Here’s a bread that’s fragrant with wheat germ, pecorino romano and coarsely chopped fresh basil, and studded with toasted walnuts. Enjoy! - AntoniaJamesAntoniaJames

Food52 Review: Baking bread may seem like a daunting task, but this recipe produces a very light, flavorful loaf of bread. The carefully written, step-by-step instructions are easy to follow and do not require any equipment, the dough is mixed and kneaded by hand. I tried 2 variations, one with walnuts, and one with pine nuts. I also substituted ½ cup of ground golden flax for the wheat germ, resulting in a slightly darker appearance in the sliced bread. In both cases, I used just 3 cups of bread flour, as directed, being careful to maintain a soft, supple dough. After two 1-hour rises the bread baked within 50 minutes. The bread has a great fresh basil taste with the nuts providing a nice counter taste, and heartiness. It made for a great sandwich with thinly sliced, grilled chicken and roast asparagus. - ECmtlThe Editors

Advertisement

Makes 1 good-sized loaf

  • 3 tablespoons warm water (no warmer than 112 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons honey + several drops for proofing the yeast
  • 2 tablespoons fruity olive oil, plus a bit more for brushing the loaf before baking
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup toasted wheat germ (not the sweetened kind, please)
  • ½ cup pecorino romano, finely grated
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces (Or 1/2 cup pine nuts, if you prefer.)
  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped to make about 1 cup (See note below.)
  • 3 cups bread flour plus more, if necessary, for kneading
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, for toasting the nuts.
  2. If using active dry yeast, or instant yeast that you're not entirely certain is fresh, proof the yeast with the lukewarm water (3 tablespoons) in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Let it sit for at least five minutes, or until foamy. If you're using instant yeast that you can trust, you can skip this step, but make sure to add those 3 tablespoons of water to the rest of the ingredients, as noted below.
  3. TO MAKE THIS WITHOUT A STAND MIXER: Add to the large bowl in which you proofed the yeast (once it's foamy), 1 cup of room temperature water, honey, salt, wheat germ, cheese and one cup of flour. Stir well. Some experts suggest that you beat the dough all in one direction.
  4. Add a second cup of flour and stir to incorporate. Add more flour, a few tablespoons at a time, until it becomes too difficult to stir.
  5. Dump the contents of the bowl on the counter, scraping all of the flour and other bits of dough from the bowl and add whatever flour is left of the remaining cup. Knead for a minute or two, just to bring it all together, then let the dough rest for 25 minutes.
  6. While the dough is resting, toast the walnut pieces on a baking pan on the top shelf of your oven for about three or four minutes, but watch carefully, lest they burn. Remove the walnuts from the pan immediately to allow them to cool. Turn off your oven.
  7. Put your two thumbs together on top of the ball of dough and pull apart to make a large hole in the dough. Add the olive oil, close the dough over the hole as best you can, and start kneading. Some will drizzle out. Don't worry about it. Just knead for about five minutes, or longer if necessary to make a smooth, supple dough. (You add the oil after letting it rest to allow the water to hydrate the flour fully, giving the gluten created by mixing the two the best opportunity possible to form.)
  8. Continue to knead the dough, adding the walnut pieces in thirds. Then knead in the chopped basil leaves, adding a few tablespoons at a time. Let the dough rest for two or three minutes, then knead it for a few more minutes.
  9. TO MAKE USING AS STAND MIXER: Add all of the remaining ingredients except the oil, the walnuts and the basil to the bowl of you mixer. Using a dough hook, mix for about three minutes, stopping every 30 seconds or so to scrape down and push the ingredients into the center. Set your timer for 25 minutes.
  10. While the dough is resting, toast the walnut pieces on a baking pan on the top shelf of your oven for about three or four minutes, but watch carefully, lest they burn. Remove the walnuts from the pan immediately to allow them to cool. Turn off your oven.
  11. After the dough has rested for 25 minutes, put your two thumbs together on top of the ball of dough and pull apart to make a large hole in the dough. Add the olive oil, close the dough over the hole as best you can. Turn your mixer onto medium speed, still using the dough hook. Knead for about five minutes. Don't worry if the oil drizzles out. It will eventually be incorporated. (You add the oil after letting it rest to allow the water to hydrate the flour fully, giving the gluten created by mixing the two the best opportunity possible to form.)
  12. Turn off your mixer, pull back the dough hook and, using the same motion to create a hole in the dough, add 1/2 of the walnut pieces. Push the dough back together, and start kneading again on medium speed. Repeat with the rest of the walnuts, adding the chopped basil at the same time. Knead on medium speed until fully incorporated -- 3-4 minutes. Remove the dough hook, shape the dough into a ball, and cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. The dough should be nice and slick. If it isn't, drizzle a bit more oil into your mixing bowl, put the dough ball in and flip it over to coat, and cover lightly with a damp cloth. Let the dough rise for about an hour. Then continue with step XX, below.
  13. After the first rise, gently punch it down, shape it into a loaf (and put it into an oiled pan, if you plan to bake it in one) or a boule, or baguettes, brush it well with olive oil, and let rise for another hour.
  14. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. At the end of the second rise, cut a few slashes with a sharp serrated knife or a grignette, and very lightly brush with olive oil once more.
  15. If using a loaf pan or a pizza stone, bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Cover loosely with foil after about 25 or 30 minutes if any exposed nuts are getting too brown. If you've shaped the dough into baguettes, bake for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the diameter of the baguettes. (This bread makes great crostini!)
  16. Allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting.
  17. Enjoy!! ;o)
  18. Note: To chop the basil, I roll together 6 or 8 at a time, as if cutting a chiffonade, but cut the roll once lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/8 inch wide strips.

More Great Recipes: Bread, Rolls & Muffins|Breakfast & Brunch|Sandwiches|Side Dishes|Snacks