Saturday, December 01, 2007

Juiced Another Good Bread

I hate being sick. I really do. And getting sick at this time of year, when there's so much baking I want to do, really frustrates me.

But what can you do? When a bug nails you, you've got to rest and take care of yourself, right? And for me, that often means indulging in fresh citrus, something I don't always do. Between fresh orange juice and fresh limes squeezed into my tea, I've been giving myself extra little hits of vitamin C to make me feel better.

And it works. I woke up this morning, feeling considerably better than I have all week (though still knowing I needed to go easy), and to celebrate that fact, I decided to bake. (I know, I know... so much for rest. But when it means I'll have good, wholesome food on the table, it's worth it.) So I pulled out my trusty recipe for pain aux noix, ready to try a new variation that fit the holiday season.

When I was growing up, my parents shared a holiday tradition with me that had been a constant in both their families: oranges and nuts tucked into my Christmas stocking. Even for their generation, such foods were rare treats, not often seen or made affordable throughout the year, but all the more welcome at Christmas for that rarity.

I confess that I didn't wholly appreciate the tradition at the time, but as I've grown older, I've come to realize that I look forward to those flavors as the holidays draw near. This probably explains my desire to bake baklava and sunshine cookies for Christmas!

So when I thought about the pain aux noix recipe around Thanksgiving, I thought how lovely it would be with a hint of orange to accompany the walnuts. In making the recipe this morning, I grated fresh peel of one orange into the dough, and I juiced half the orange to mmix with an egg for the glaze. (I wasn't quite awake enough to consider replacing the water with orange juice, but I suspect that could have been done, too.)

Shaping the dough into a boule, as I do whenever I make this loaf, I scored the top in a criss-cross pattern, a change from the usual lines I slice into the top. Having seen at Thanksgiving how attractive the criss-cross turns out, I wanted to see if it would capture more of the orange-infused glaze. (Oh, it does!)

The aroma wafting from the oven before the timer chimed told me that using the orange flavor in this recipe was, indeed, an excellent idea. What was a superb simple bread before takes on the brightness of the holiday season with the addition of orange peel and juice.

I doubt this will replace julekage as my traditional Christmas loaf, but it will definitely show up in my winter baking repertoire from here on out.

Orange you thinking the same thing?

Orange-Walnut Bread

The original pain aux noix recipe that I use so often comes from The Breads of France (2nd edition), but though I appreciate the simplicity of the recipe as written, I've also found that it makes a great jumping-off point for other flavors, such as in my rosemary-walnut cider bread. Try replacing the water with orange juice if you want an extra layer of that sunshiny orange flavor.

1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 c warm water
1 tsp maple syrup
grated peel of one orange
1/4 c nonfat dry milk
1 T melted butter or vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 c toasted wheat germ
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c walnuts, finely chopped
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp orange juice for glaze

In a large bowl, soften yeast in warm water. Mix in maple syrup, orange peel, dry milk, butter, and salt. Stir in wheat germ. Add flour, 1/2 c at a time, until batter is thick and difficult to stir. Cautiously add more flour to make a dough that can be lifted by hand from the bowl; it should still be somewhat sticky.

Turn dough onto work surface dusted with unbleached flour. Knead for about 6 minutes, banging dough on work surface occasionally to loosen up the dough. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in bulk (a little over an hour).

Press dough down and into a large flat oval. Sprinkle nuts on top and fold in. Knead for a minute more, working the nuts through the dough. Shape into a boule, place on a greased baking sheet, and cover. Allow loaf to rise for approximately another hour.

Preheat oven to 380 F. Slash the top of the loaf with 3-4 shallow cuts with a very sharp knife. Brush glaze over the top of the loaf. Place baking sheet on middle oven rack and bake for 35 minutes, rotating once halfway through, until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom. Place loaf on wire rack to cool.

Makes 1 loaf


At 12/01/2007 3:13 PM, Blogger Ed Bruske said...

evryone I know has had the same cold, and friends recently returned from West Virginia with a terrible stomach bug. I'm not leaving the house unless pushed out the door.

At 12/04/2007 7:11 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Can't say I blame you, Ed. I think mine was a usual sinus infection, not sure it was something I picked up, but I definitely stayed in my ivory tower for the duration. Pity my poor neighbors, having to listen to my coughing all night!


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