Nuts, I Say

Happy mid-April.  "Spring has sprung, the grass is ris'n...  I wonder where the birdies is?"  No, I have a pretty good idea where the birdies is, since they left their little presents all over the top of my car while I was at work yesterday.  EWWWWWW.  Sorry - had to get that out of my system.  Thinking about nuts & grains got me thinking about bird seed, which set off my bird tangent.  See - I can't even keep focused long enough to start a topic, let alone finish one...

Several mind-clearing breaths later...

One of the things I continue to enjoy about home baking bread products is the opportunity to sneak add whole grains to my diet while avoiding the "addititves" that are so common in many store bought "grain" products.  I don't mean to sound all uppity-tuppity or anything, but have you ever read the back of a typical loaf of bread???  Have you????  It's a little scary to me.  I was a chemistry minor in college.  There was a point in my life where I was learning to draw out the structures of compounds that sound suspiciously like the ingredient list of a common loaf of bread...  (ok, so I used a little hyperbole - and yes, I know that not all of those things are bad and blah, blah, blah.  I am just mking a point here...)

Any way, I am a real fan of the KAF Whole Grain Baking Cookbook.  It actually has recipes made with whole grains that are usable (and edible).  One of the cool things they do with many of their whole wheat recipes is add orange juice.  I am not sure why this works, but there is something magical about the addition of OJ to WW that makes it all work in the end.  I am sure they explain this in the book somewhere, but for the life of me I can't remember off the top of my noggin'.

I almost followed the recipe from the book directly (the best intentions of mice and men and all that...), but I made two change-ups (one on purpose and one by accident).  The intentional changed up was to substitute 1 Tbs of granual lecithin for for 1 Tbs of the fat in the recipe (i.e. butter).  GL is supposed to help the bread become more tender and is also supposed to increase shelf life.  The accidental change-up was the addition of pecans.  This recipe happened to be across the page from a recipe for a Wheat-Walnut bread.  I kept cross-reading and somehow the nuts made it in - frankly, I am lucky that is the only "substitution" that ended up in that recipe (focus, Cher, focus...).  It was "all good" in the end, because nuts (heart) whole wheat bread. 

By now, it's no secret that I (heart) King Arthur Flour products.  Their whole wheat and white whole wheat flours really are in a class of their own compared to many of the other brands that are out there (Hodgson's Mill is a close second for whole wheat).  And good ingredients usually turn out a good end-product.  This ended up being a really nice dough to work with.  Sometimes, whole wheat can seem a little dry, but this one was very supple.  And supple dough is a good indicator of yummy bread (generally speaking, of course). 
Fresh out of the oven...  Some tenting during the last few mintues of baking helped keep this from getting too dark. 

Sliced up the next day...  I am not sure if it was the GL, the recipe or that the stars were lined up in my favor, but this was one of the most tender wheat loaves that I have ever made. 

And with some of my "Fig" (Date) Butter that I whipped up a couple of weeks ago.  HMMM... there seems to be a large chunk missing from the corner of my slice.  Must have been the house gremlins or something.  I don't even dare make a joke about it being mice at this time of the year...  (Shudder, shudder....  Think of a happy place.)

Recipe for Micro-Brewery Honey-Wheat Bread (with nuts)
Adapted from KAF Whole Grain Baking
3/4 cup Lager or Stout at room temperature
1/4 cup orange juice
3 Tbs honey
3 Tbs butter (room temp cut into 6 pieces) + 1 Tbs granual lecithin or 2 Tbs butter
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached AP flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
2 1/4 tsp yeast (if not using instant, proof yeast & beer & 1/2 cup flour for about 10 minutes until foamy - then proceed with adding remaining ingredients)

Mix all ingredients until batter forms.  Knead until a soft, smooth dough forms (~6 minutes using a stand mixer).  Place dough ball in a lightly greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until almost doubled in bulk (1.5-2 hrs). 

Lightly grease a standard loaf pan (8.5 x 4.5).  Lightly deflate risen down and form into a log to fit in pan.  Cover and let rise for a 2nd time until dough is ~1" above top of pan (~2 hrs).  Preheat oven to 350F.  Bake @ 350 for ~30 - 35 minutes in middle of oven until loaf taps hollow - tent halfway through baking time to slow browing of crust.  If bottom needs extra time toward end of baking, remove from pan and bake directly on oven rack for another 3-5 minutes. 

Cool before slicing.  Will keep for 3-5 days well-wrapped in plastic.   

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