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This dark, savory Black Bread with Walnuts is the perfect sandwich bread. It can be sliced thickly or paper thin and will hold up to any filling without overpowering it. With a few surprise ingredients, this bread has a long fermentation giving it a depth that no store-bought commercial bread can have. And it will hold up for over week if well-wrapped and left on a counter.
We love bread in our house and bake different kinds every week. My husband has gotten into baking and now makes the best challah hands down. It’s my recipe but his work that makes it so delicious. Andrew is more of a scientific baker, which is not surprising given his background in astrophysics. But I am an instinctual baker. I go by look and feel and smell and can’t be bothered to weigh out ingredients (except when making cakes) or to measure so that each strand of dough is the same size from week to week. Don’t misunderstand. I completely appreciate when someone can standardize things so that they will always work.
I do have a sort of formula that I follow when cooking or baking from my own recipe – just as I do when I make my salad dressings. But like a jazz musician, I’m not afraid to riff on it and go where the music – uh recipe – takes me.
Therefore, I hesitated writing down how I make my weekly bread. It’s never quite exactly the same. But I love that freedom and innovation. However, this bread was so delicious and has such a wonderful crumb that I felt I should try to make it replicable.
My flour comes from an organic farm in Illinois that I began buying from during the pandemic when flour and other staples had disappeared from grocery shelves. I love it so that I buy 25 pound bags of it now. And they have heritage flours that you might not see anywhere else.
As any bread-maker will tell you, there are many factors that can affect your finished product. The flour, the water, the yeast, the humidity, your oven and on and on. So can I say that your bread will turn out exactly like mine? In all honesty, I cannot. But if it inspires you to make your own delicious bread, then it is worth the journey. And this one is just too good to pass up.
You will need a Dutch oven to make this bread as well as parchment paper. I know that some people are put off from baking bread because it seems to be so labor and time sensitive. But it doesn’t have to be. The actual amount of hands-on time for this bread is under an hour. There is no long kneading and the bread rests overnight while you are sleeping or doing whatever it is you do at night. Then the bread is formed and has a second shorter rise while your oven heats up. It bakes for about 40 minutes and you have a gorgeous loaf of bread and a house that smells AMAZING.
There are many wonderful bread recipes on my blog so if this one doesn’t float your boat or if you are looking to expand your repertoire, please check them out.
Yield: One large loaf
1.5 teaspoons Active (or instant) Dried Yeast
3 cups of lukewarm water (You may not need all of it)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, lightly pan-toasted
Rounded 1/2 cup dark rye flour
2 Tablespoons diastatic malt powder
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon instant espresso coffee
1 Tablespoon Kalonji (Nigella) seeds
2.5 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup Black Emmer flour (This is an ancient grain, high in protein and with a wonderful depth of flavor. You could substitute another whole grain flour, but I encourage you to try using this wonderful flour.)
2.5 cups Artisan Bread Flour ( I use Janie’s but Bob’s Mill Artisan Flour is also good)
2 cups whole kernel bread flour (Use whole wheat if you are not buying specialty flour)
Flour for dusting the counter and bread
You will need a Dutch oven to make this bread as well as parchment paper.
Mix together all of the dry ingredients (including nuts and seeds) either using a whisk or your hands (nature’s whisk!) There is no necessity to proof your yeast even if using active dry yeast as I do. Unless your yeast is really old, there shouldn’t be a problem. Most of the fermentation is achieved slowly and naturally overnight. This slow fermentation also gives exceptional depth of flavor and allows the bread to hold up well for days.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add 2 cups of the lukewarm water and slowly start to gather in the dough, adding water as necessary to allow the dough to come together. As the dough begins to form, remove it to a board or counter and knead just enough so that all of the flour is incorporated. When you can form the dough into a smooth ball with no visible signs of dry flour – STOP. That’s it. Place it back in the bowl and cover it.
Place the bowl in a draft-free place and let it rest overnight. The dough can rest for anywhere between 10 to 14 hours. You have leeway.
In the morning, place a Dutch oven (at least 6 quarts) in the oven and preheat the oven and pot to 485 degrees F. You want the Dutch oven and your oven to be hot.
Gather the dough from the bowl, lightly flouring it if it is sticky and form it into a ball. If you have a 9-inch banneton flour it and place the dough ball inside. If you don’t have a banneton, just use a stainless or other bowl that will hold the dough ball with only a little room to expand.
Cover the dough and allow to rise to the top of the banneton or bowl. This takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on how warm your place is and the amount of yeast spores floating around your place. The more you bake, the more of these spores exist and the faster (generally) your bread will rise. I have made certain of these slow-rise breads with as little as a 1/2 teaspoon of active yeast.
When the dough has risen, remove the very hot Dutch oven from the oven. Carefully turn the dough out onto a lightly floured piece of parchment. Carefully place the parchment and dough into the HOT Dutch oven.
Cover the Dutch oven and place it in your HOT oven for 40 minutes. Then partially uncover the Dutch oven and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. The internal temperature should be about 205 degrees F. (I rarely check by temperature but use the smell and knock test. I take a wooden spoon and knock on the bread. If it sounds hollow, the bread is done.) Turn the dough out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Then enjoy.