Can you tell I’ve been on a bread-making kick since my course with Emma? Every weekend I’ve been baking something new and sitting on my bedside table is Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery with tags sticking out left, right and centre. And despite flagging up so many recipes to try; last weekend I went ahead and made a loaf without following a recipe, just using my “bakers instinct”. It actually turned out really well, I’m so pleased I made a note of the ingredients as I went because I know I’m going to be making this again. It is superb with cheese and wine, alongside a salad or simply smeared with a little butter and devoured.
The honey is not a strong flavour in the bread but it does depend on what variety you use. The stronger the honey the more the flavour will come through. My honey, made by the bees my Dad used to keep in our back garden, is relatively strong even after all these years being stored in the attic; it provided a background warmth and sweetness. Using honey also makes for a darker crumb so don’t worry too much if the crust looks overdone – it’s really just right. The pepper is rather more distinct, it’s perfume hits you when you cut a slice while the heat develops later. It’s not aggressively hot but provides a pleasant tingle on the tongue and tastes fabulous with strong cheddar.
Honey, black pepper and walnut bread
Makes one loaf
- 200g strong white flour
- 200g strong wholemeal flour
- 20g fresh yeast (or 7g dried)
- 4g sea salt
- 2tbsp coarse freshly ground black pepper
- 40g honey, warmed
- 300ml warm water
- 150g walnut pieces
Mix the plain and wholemeal flours in a large bowl. Place the salt at one edge and the pepper next to it.
Crumble the yeast (or pour if using dried) into the flour on the opposite side to the salt and pepper.
Stir the dry ingredients together and add the honey and most of the water, bring together to form a sticky dough adding more water if necessary. Turn out on to a clean but un-floured surface.
Knead the dough until it becomes smooth. If it seems too sticky at first cover and leave for quarter of an hour for the flour to absorb some of the water.
Once the dough is smooth and pliable fold in the nuts and knead until they are evenly distributed. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until doubled in volume. Mine took 1½ hours but the weather is a bit chilly!
Grease a small, heavy cooking pot with a lid (I used my 20cm Le Creuset). Turn the risen dough out and gently press out most of the air. Form a ball and place in the pot. Sprinkle some extra flour over the top and, with a quick movement, make a slash on the top. Put the lid on the pot and leave in a warm place for half an hour to prove.
Put the pot (lid on) into the cold oven, turn on and heat to 230°C. Once up to temperature bake for 45 minutes until the crust is crisp and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Turn the loaf out of the pot and place on a rack to cool.