This may have been the last official weekend of summer, but it hasn’t really felt like summer to me in weeks. The air conditioning hasn’t been on, Boyfriend has been in class up in Boston, and at work, flu shot clinics are in full swing. Yes, for me, it’s been fall since at least Labor Day. And I don’t know what it is about the cooler weather, but it makes me want to spend entire days in the house watching football and cooking. Maybe it’s the flavor profile of fall – the rich, spicy pumpkin, toasted nuts, and freshly-baked bread – or maybe it’s just that I crave those hearty, homey meals at this time of year. But whatever it is, this weekend the urge to nest drove me to bake bread. But not just any bread: an Umbrian Italian bread that spoke to me the moment I read the recipe on Serious Eats. Not 48 hours after Gina DePalma posted this fabulous recipe, I had the dough nestled in the fridge to rise overnight.
Not the most patient of individuals (I think we all remember how that worked out on Boyfriend’s birthday), it was tragically difficult for me to wait during the multiple rising times, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t worth it. And of course, mine didn’t come out as beautiful as Gina’s did, but I assure you – the taste was still there.
Umbrian Walnut Bread
Adapted from SeriousEats.com.
This bread combines several of my favorite things into one: wine, cheese, and fruit. Don’t be put off by the union of those three unlikely ingredients – this bread is wonderful, hearty, and seriously fall. And be sure to let the bread cool completely before you eat it. It’s a little boozy when it first comes out of the oven, but it really sings when you let it cool.
1 packet of active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup hot water
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, plus more for the board
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup red wine (Use wine you would drink, not that crappy cooking wine – you can really taste it here)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
4 ounces grated pecorino cheese
1 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted and cooled
Dissolve the yeast in a medium bowl with 3/4 cup of hot water and a generous pinch of salt. Let it bubble for a few minutes, then whisk in 1/2 cup of flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it proof for 30 minutes.
In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the wine and raisins until the wine simmers, then turn off the heat and let the raisins soak up the wine. Cool the mixture to room temperature.
In a large bowl, mix together the yeast/water/sugar with the rest of the water, olive oil, cooled raisins and wine, and 1 egg. Once the ingredients are combined and the egg is broken up, add the rest of the flour, salt and sugar and mix again. Once the dough begins to come together, add the nuts and cheese. Mix what you can, then turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead for 2 – 3 minutes, until the dough is a cohesive ball.
Grease a large bowl (it can be the same one you mixed in) and put the dough in it. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and allow to rise overnight.
The next day, when the dough is triple the size, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and gently deflate the dough. Divide into three equal portions, and form each into a ball. Sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet, and lay each of the balls on the sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again for 20 – 30 minutes.
Beat the remaining egg and gently brush the top of each loaf with egg. Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temp to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 20 – 30 minutes – until the bread is deeply golden and sounds hollow when it is thumped with your finger.
Allow bread to cool completely before eating.