My love affair with bread started around the first time I heard of the Atkins diet as a teenager. I grew up on whole wheat sandwich bread. Leftover sabzi toasties (or “patties” as we called them) were a favorite breakfast in our home. But bread was the workhorse that you took for granted. It was the vehicle you used to eat the tasty stuff.
It’s not surprising then that bread’s new bad-boy status made me do a double take. The first time I tried to reduce the amount of bread I ate, I discovered that it wasn’t just a vehicle, it was goddamn delicious. Since then, I have consumed many loaves of sandwich bread, boules, baguettes, rolls, challahs and brioches, and my love for bread has never been stronger.
It is still a workhorse though. When I get time, I make bread, slice it, wrap it and stash it in the freezer. This way, I always have some on hand when I need a snack or something to round out my meal. It’s also incredibly useful for when I have friends coming over and a mostly bare kitchen. I pull out some slices of bread, cut them into pieces and serve with butter, olive oil, jam if I have any. Other nibbles like nuts, cheese and olives are great too when I have them. Either way, the bread always goes down well.
This walnut cranberry loaf is a new favorite. I only recently realized that I could adapt my favorite no-knead bread recipe to make this delicious version. It requires a couple more ingredients, but still takes minimal effort to make.
A note on the recipe: if you’ve never made no-knead bread, I recommend watching this video to understand the process and get visual cues for how the dough should look and be handled. Also, the walnuts are much better when toasted, but I often forget to toast them, and the bread still turns out delicious (to toast: preheat oven to 350 F, spread walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 5-10 minutes or till the walnuts are fragrant).
- 2⅓ cups all purpose flour
- ⅔ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ tsp yeast
- 1 tsp salt or 2 tsp diamond kosher salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¾ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- ¾ cup cranberries
- 1½ cups water
- Cornmeal or all purpose flour for dusting.
- Mix all the ingredients, barring the water and cornmeal in a large bowl. Add the water and using a wooden spoon, mix until a wet dough forms.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let it rest undisturbed for 12-18 hours, until the dough is dotted with bubbles.
- Generously flour your work surface (a large smooth board or clean countertop). Prepare a tea towel by dusting it generously with a mixture of cornmeal and flour.
- Using a sturdy spatula, nudge the dough out of the bowl and onto the work surface in one piece. Stretch the dough so its slightly oblong, then fold it over twice like a letter. Tuck the edges in to made a round, then place seam side down on your prepared towel. Dust the top of the dough with more cornmeal and place another towel on top.
- Let the dough rest for 2 hours. 30 minutes before the dough is ready, place a 6 quart dutch oven in your oven and preheat to 475 degrees F.
- Using pot holders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Remove the top tea towel and pick up your dough using the bottom tea towel. Quickly but gently turn the dough into the pot, seam side up. Be very careful to not burn yourself!
- Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for about 15 to 30 minutes more, until the crust is deeply browned.
- Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool.
- Once completely cool, slice and eat!
- If you don't plan to eat most of the bread the same day, I highly recommend freezing it: slice the bread, wrap in plastic and then place the wrapped slices in the freezer. To thaw, simply leave the wrapped slices on the counter for a couple of hours. Alternatively, toast the frozen slice under the broiler for about 5 minutes, till warmed through.