Edible Bozeman

Reminiscent of a simple loaf one might find in southeastern Switzerland, this walnut bread is a favorite of mine and one that I like to bake for my family. I encourage you to try it with a rye sourdough starter, if you have one, as the overnight fermentation adds complexity and richness to the flavor. The two days it takes to make this bread are well worth the effort.

With a combination of rye (20 percent), unbleached white, and whole-wheat flour, this bread comes close to replicating the hearty but not heavy breads that are famous in both Western and Eastern Europe. This bread stands well on its own and also pairs perfectly with meats (like our chicken salad recipe) and strong cheeses.


For the sponge

1¼ cups rye flour
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
Optional: 1 tablespoon rye sourdough starter (100 percent hydration)

For the soaker

¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
⅓ cup minus 1 tablespoon rolled oats
¼ cup medium cornmeal
1 tablespoon honey

For the dough

3 cups unbleached white flour
1¼ cups water
1½ cups whole-wheat flour
2½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1¼ cups chopped walnuts

Day 1: Mix sponge ingredients together until smooth. Place in a bowl, smooth the top, and sprinkle the surface with rye flour. Mix soaker ingredients together in a separate bowl.

Cover both bowls with either plastic wrap or a damp flour sack cloth and let sit overnight at room temperature. Sponge is ready to use when the surface is well cracked.

Day 2: Mix final dough ingredients, withholding the chopped walnuts for now. Add in the sponge and soaker. Once all of the ingredients are incorporated, mix for 5 minutes by hand or 3 minutes on the lowest speed in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Incorporate the chopped walnuts either by folding them in by hand or adding them into the mixer while mixing on the lowest speed. When the walnuts are well distributed, the mixing is done.

Cover again with either a flour sack towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a bowl for 30 minutes.

Either French fold (aka “slap and fold”) or stretch and fold for about 10 seconds. Return dough to the bowl and cover with a flour sack towel for 1 hour.

Divide dough into 2 equal portions and shape. Place in a warm, humid environment for about an hour. When the dough has nearly doubled in size, mist with water and sprinkle with flour.

Score and bake with steam* in a preheated oven at 400°F for 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches about 203°.

*Some ovens are equipped with a “steam button.” If your conventional home oven does not, simply roll 2 or 3 small dish towels tightly and place in the center of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Ten minutes before you plan to bake, boil water and pour over the towels so they are drenched and steamy. Place the pan in the oven while it preheats. This will make the air in your oven very hot, so take care when putting your loaves in the oven. The wet towels stay in the oven and emit steam during the bake, which creates the beautiful crust.

Wine Pairing

2022 Maison L’Envoyé Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay

French Chardonnays are often a bit tighter, leaner, and more refreshing than those grown in other countries, with flint or stone flavors coming from the Burgundy region’s limestone terroir in which the grapes are grown. They are traditionally enjoyed with poultry dishes, and this particular wine makes an excellent companion to chicken salad, especially when paired with freshly baked walnut bread.

Available at Hungry Moose Market & Deli, 209 Aspen Leaf Dr., Big Sky; $26

Recommendation by Norm Page, sommelier at The WineTrust, Bozeman.

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