I’m not really one for baking, but I do love home-made bread. All you need is a handful ingredients and a lazy Sunday.
It’s so easy to make and (I think) it looks much more impressive than cake; there’s just something so ‘eat me’ about a rustic crust, whereas I think you have to be in the mood for cake.
This date and walnut bread recipe is one of my favourites – I just took a normal bread recipe and added dates and walnuts. It’s not quite as sweet as date and walnut cake, but you still get pockets of sticky dates and the crunch of chunky walnuts.
Best served straight from the oven and warm with butter (the real stuff) or cool and as part of a picky tea of cheeses and cured meats.
My eat of the week
- 750g strong white bread flour
- 2 x 7g sachets of yeast
- 2 tbsps sugar
- 1 tbsp salt
- 470ml tepid water
- Plenty of dates (just buy a standard xxg bag of dates)
- Plenty of walnuts (just buy a standard xxg bag of walnuts)
How to cook
Measure out the flour and tip into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the flour and add the yeast, sugar and salt.
Next, pour half of the water into the well and fold the flour into the water with a fork. Keep adding the water a little bit at a time, folding it into the flour until the water has gone, and you have a doughy mixture. Try to make sure the water is poured evenly to prevent one part of the dough being soggier than the other.
Now for some elbow grease! Dust your surface top with a little bit of flour, tip the dough onto it and knead and knead away, pounding the sides of the dough back into the middle with your knuckles. Do this until the dough is smooth and sticks together without any breaks.
Then roughly chop the walnut halves and dates into good-size chunks – you want to make sure the pieces are big enough for you to actually taste them!
Grab a handful of the chopped nuts and dates and put them in a pile on top of the dough. Then knead them into the dough until they are absorbed and spill out of the other side. Repeat this, adding as many of the dates/nuts as possible until every inch of the dough is saturated. It’s really important not to scrimp on the dates/nuts as the dough will rise and expand and if you don’t use enough you could risk the chunks being quite sparse throughout the bread.
Once you’ve moulded the dough into an even shape, it’s just a waiting game. Put the dough into a plastic mixing bowl or on a plastic tray, cover it with a tea towel and put it in a warm place to rise (I either put it in the airing cupboard or on a shelf above a radiator). Leave to prove for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
After the dough has risen, push the air out of the dough until it is back to its original size. Then cover and leave to prove in a warm place for a further 45 minutes. Turn your oven on to 180C and leave it to heat up while the dough is rising.
Once the dough has risen for the second time, pop it on a baking tray and into the oven. You might want to sprinkle a little bit of flour on the tray to stop the dough from sticking.
It should take about 15-20 minutes to bake all of the way through. It will be tempting to take the bread out too early because it will smell amazing and it will look cooked from the outside, but make sure you leave it in for the full 15 minutes.
Finally, take it out of the oven and leave to rest for 5-1o minutes (if you can wait that long), before cutting into thick slices and smothering with butter.