Going nuts for walnuts

RUTH PRETTY
Last updated 05:00 17/05/2014
walnut
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ

Toasted or not, walnut bread is great with honey or cheese.

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About now, you will find this season's walnuts in speciality food stores or the speciality sections of some supermarkets. In New Zealand, they are harvested in April, freshly dried and sold in or cracked from May onwards. I consider them a seasonal treat.

Today, I am offering you walnut bread, which is wonderful simply toasted and served with cultured butter and manuka honey. Or, in particular, walnut bread shines with cheese - one of my favourite winter Sunday night suppers. I enjoy the no-work aspect, particularly if you happen to have a loaf in the freezer. But more than that, I love the opportunity to relish good cheese as a meal in itself rather than an add-on. A mixed green salad is a lovely way to finish.

WALNUT BREAD

Makes 2 x 350g loaves, 34cm long x 4cm diameter

70g ( 1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp) wholemeal flour, plus extra for dusting tray

45ml (3 Tbsp) lukewarm water, 1st measure

2 tsp active dried yeast

265g (2 cups minus 2 Tbsp) flour

190ml ( 3/4 cup) water, 2nd measure

1 tsp manuka honey

1 tsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing bowl

2 tsp salt

85g (1 cup) walnuts (if making bread by hand, coarsely chop walnuts)

Lightly spray a large baking tray and dust with extra wholemeal flour.

Place first measure of the water into a small bowl and sprinkle yeast onto the water. Stir until combined. Leave at room temperature for five to minutes or until mixture bubbly.

Place both flours into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add yeast, the second measure of water, honey, oil and salt to flour. (Alternatively place in a bowl to mix by hand.)

With mixer on medium speed, mix ingredients together until flour is gathered and forms a ball. Continue to mix on slow speed, kneading dough for 10 minutes. Add walnuts and knead until dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky, and walnuts are combined.

Place dough into a lightly greased large bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. (On a cold day cover bowl with plastic wrap.) Place in a warm area to prove for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in volume.

On a lightly floured bench, divide dough into two equal portions (about 350g each) and roll into balls. Leave to rest for 10 minutes for dough to relax.

Form each ball into a loaf 34cm-35cm long by 3.5cm-4cm in diameter. Sprinkle a light dusting of extra wholemeal flour on top of each loaf. Place onto prepared tray.

Cover with a tea towel. Leave to prove at room temperature for 40 minutes to one hour or until dough has increased in volume by 25 per cent.

Preheat oven to 230°C Celsius place an empty roasting tray on bottom shelf.

Score tops of loaves with sharp knife or razor blade to allow the gas to escape during the baking.

Reduce oven temperature 200°C C place trays of loaves into oven. Immediately pour one cup cold water into empty roasting tray. The water provides steam, which will the bread good colour crust.

Bake for 20 minutes. Open oven door wide to allow stream to escape, close door and continue to bake for a further five to seven minutes or until bread has a golden crust and sounds hollow when the underside is tapped.

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Cool on a wire rack. Serve that day or next. Alternatively place in plastic bags and freeze for up to three months. Thaw frozen bread at room temperature and then place in 150°C oven and refresh for 10 minutes. Cool and serve.

NASHI, CELERY AND WALNUT SLAW

Serves 3-4

This salad responds well to the addition of cheese. Try a creamy blue, an aged gouda or a tasty cheddar.

235g-255g (1-3) nashi pear, cored and julienned

30ml (2 Tbsp) lemon juice

215g-270g celery, trimmed and thinly sliced on the angle

Walnut Dressing

70g ( 3/4 cup) walnuts, lightly toasted and then coarsely chopped

1/4 cup lightly packed chervil sprigs, roughly chopped

%Place nashi and lemon juice into a medium-sized bowl and toss to coat.

Drain well and return nashi to the same bowl.

Add celery and Walnut Dressing and toss to coat.

Just prior to serving, add walnuts and chervil and toss to combine.

Best served at room temperature on day of preparing.

WALNUT DRESSING

Makes 100ml

1 1/2 Tbsp sherry vinegar

2 tsp wholegrain mustard

1 tsp flaky sea salt

65ml ( 1/4 cup) walnut oil Place vinegar, mustard and salt into a small bowl and combine with a small whisk.

Slowly drizzle in walnut oil while whisking.

Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 10 days.

- The Dominion Post

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