On the last day of National Bread Week, taking your bread-making up a notch with this recipe from Simon Thomas.
This does contain walnuts but the name stems from the cut pattern on the crust. I slash it carefully with a razor before it goes into the oven to resemble the pattern on a walnut shell. This loaf is light and full of flavour. It always seems a shame to make it into cheese sandwiches for family lunch boxes but they are the best cheese butties on the planet. One of my family and customer favourites for nearly 20 years now.
350g strong wholemeal flour
150g strong white flour
2 teaspoons Fermipan dried yeast
Pinch nutmeg, grated
150g walnuts, shelled
50ml walnut oil
50g unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
75ml whole milk
300ml warm water (you should not need to use all of it)
Additional white flour for kneading and lining the basket
You will also need a willow basket about 20cm in diameter and 10cm deep to rise the shaped loaf in, and a pizza stone for baking it.
The recipe makes two loaves this size so if you have only one basket you can use a well-greased tin for the other half.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
Beat together the eggs, milk, butter and walnut oil and add to the flour with 100ml of water.
Mix by hand until you have a slightly sticky dough, using more water as required. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel and prove in a warm place for two hours.The dough should rise significantly, but rarely doubles in volume.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and knead gently until the dough is soft and elastic. Divide it in two, and shape each half according to your baking tin or basket. If using a basket, line it with a tea towel and dust well with flour. Put the dough into the lined basket with the tidy side facing down, so that it becomes coated in flour and creates a blank canvas for your cut design.
Heat the oven with the pizza stone inside to 190ºC.
Turn out the basket GENTLY onto a polenta-dusted bakers’ peel or cookie sheet and score the loaf with a sharp blade to decorate. At first you may be well advised to keep the design fairly simple. As you become more proficient with the blade your imagination may be more expansive.
Slide the loaf from the peel or cookie sheet onto the hot baking stone and bake for 40-50 minutes.
It will sound hollow when knocked on the base if it is done. Cool on a wire rack.
Staff of Life, by Simon Thomas and published by RMC Books, is out now priced £14.95.