Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hearth Bread

This is one of the first yeast breads I ever made, over 30 years ago. I fell madly in love with it and it's still my favorite bread. The recipe has French origins -- to the best of my memory, it's also called la fouace aux noix ("the fouace" -- couldn't find a translation for that word so maybe I have it wrong -- "with nuts") -- and is excellent as a picnic bread with a good cheese and fresh fruit. It's also incredibly easy to make and I've never had a loaf not turn out well, so if yeast breads intimidate you, this is a good one to start with!



  • 4 c. unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 T. yeast
  • 1/3 c. lukewarm water
  • 1 c. lukewarm milk
  • 3/4 c. coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

Dissolve yeast in the warm water; let start for 5-10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix the flours with the salt, then make a well in the center and add the softened yeast. Add milk and stir well to make a spongy dough. Mix in nuts and butter with a hard rubber spatula or your hands. The dough will be fairly stiff.

Place dough in a well-oiled bowl, turning the dough so that the entire surface is oiled. Cover with a damp towel; set in a warm, draft free area to rise 1-2 hours or until double. I often use the inside of my oven (unheated, of course) for rising bread, especially in winter.

Punch down dough and knead for a few minutes. Form into a ball. Sprinkle a cookie sheet or pie pan with cornmeal, place the loaf on it and let rise 30 minutes, then turn the oven on to 425° F. When the oven is hot, slash a cross in the top with a very sharp knife. Put a pan of hot water on the lowest shelf of the oven, and the bread on the middle shelf.

Bake for 30 minutes; remove the water and turn the oven down to 300° F; bake for 30 minutes more.

Slice (or, if you're on a picnic, go ahead and just tear off chunks!) and enjoy!

And always remember to cook, eat, dance, love!