Here we go gathering nuts in May…
I wonder if that children’s rhyme was written by someone who lived on the other side of the world? No, I have googled and it supposedly refers to the young edible leaves and buds of the hawthorn tree also known as ‘the bread and cheese’ tree. Just nipped out to the garden, grabbed a handful, can report that the leaves are quite soft and well leafy, not bitter though, not so keen on the flowers….back indoors for a cup of coffee – eats shoots and leaves :) – that was a bit of a digression, ok here we go.. PS following Choclette’s comment I have done a bit more googling and I can’t resist adding this link I’ve just found to The Knots of May! Go on guess what they do ?
At the risk of being repetitive I have to say that I love The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard. I love the beautiful photographs and the stories about the people who Dan met on his travels and I have really enjoyed making the breads. This was the first bread book I ever owned and it is a great friend which will inspire and excite you and lead you to try all sorts of wonderful breads that you didn’t dream you could make for yourself.
Cobnut, honey and grain bread by Dan Lepard (with hazelnuts this time)
Using what you have is always a good idea, particularly if your nut and seed collection is getting a little old. I found a bag of hazelnuts in the cupboard and they had been there a couple of months so I thought I had better use them up. They had been kept cool and dark but needed to be used up before they became bitter. Last year for the first time we had nuts from our filbert’ corylus purpurea’ which grows against the fence in our garden. It has beautiful dark red catkins with yellow highlights from February and glorious dark red leaves like a copper beech in the summer and the nuts are sheathed in pinky red calyxes. We find little ones springing up around the garden where the nuts have been buried by the squirrels and carefully lift them and try to bring them on.
Usually I make this bread in the autumn when cobnuts are in season but it works beautifully with regular hazelnuts too. Last year I joined in a bake off of this bread and it proved very popular with everyone on Dan Lepard’s old forum. ! I think it’s too nice a bread to wait another six months to make again though….
I much prefer this bread to the so called ‘granary’ breads you get in the shops. It doesn’t have malted flakes which can make the bread bitter sometimes. The toasted nuts and apple-sweetened rye grains make a fantastic combination.
I would recommend using the hybrid method of leavening too which Dan Lepard uses in the formula; adding a small quantity of yeast to the dough as I like the sweetness of this bread, if you decide to leave the yeast out you will get a different tasting bread with a more typical sourdough crumb, though I am sure it will still be good.
I used rye grain for the grain, it was very hard and needed a long time cooking in the pan to get it soft. I cooked mine for about an hour and a half in the end. 100 grams of dry grain will make about 200 grams of soaked and cooked grain. Then I soaked the soft and cooked grains overnight in some apple juice. Always make sure that they are really soft before you put them in the dough, they won’t get softer when you bake them.
I toasted the hazelnuts in the oven, they had skins on and I got most of them off by putting them in a teatowel and rubbing them. Some were stubborn but most of them came off this way. Then I chopped the hazelnuts coarsely with the whizzer and that was the main preparation done.
As I hadn’t made quite enough starter for this and the second bread I wanted to make I changed the proportions. The dough is made with a mixture of soft and strong flours and this works very well.
The dough is very sticky when you first mix it and the secret is to leave it after the first mix for at least 20 minutes for the flour to fully hydrate and to use a light oil to handle the dough when you fold and turn it during the first prove.
This time I made a batch of rolls and these three smallish 300 g loaves. I cooked them all on baking parchment on trays, where they had done their final prove under storage plastic boxes from the pound shop. The dough is just firm enough to hold a shape freeform though the batards had a lowish profile. On other occcasions I have shaped it the way it is done in the HML and another time I made some rather lopsided mini cottage buns with it. In the back of this picture is my attempt at preserving our own nuts in honey!