Adding honey to bread gives a lovely sweet finish. It enhances the flavour of nuts in the bread. This is a great loaf to serve with a good cheese platter. Use unroasted hazelnuts, nuts become bitter when baked twice.
- 500gr strong white flour
- 8gr dry yeast
- 10gr salt
- 325gr water
- 75gr honey
- 150gr hazelnuts, unroasted
Combine the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of your mixer. I always knead my bread by hand (and find that immensely satisfying) but for this dough I used a freestanding machine. If you want to do this by hand, follow the method for regular white bread. Make sure the salt and yeast do not touch, as yeast is a living organism which dies when salt is added, making your bread dense. The easiest way to do this is to tuck either the yeast or salt under the flour before you add the other to the other side of the bowl. Add the honey and water – straight from the tap is fine, it doesn’t have to be warm. Cold water will make the dough rise a bit slower, but not much, and a longer rise provides a better flavour.
Knead the dough with the dough hook for about 7 minutes. Be careful to not overmix the dough. The more the gluten develop, the less sticky the dough will become, so once the dough lets go from the bowl it will be pretty much done, check the gluten development.
Take a small piece of dough and to stretch it between your fingers. You should get a nice, thin, stretchy dough that doesn’t easily tear. The rule is that you should be able to read a newspaper through it, but I hold mine up against the light to see if it’s really transparent.
Place the dough in a bowl or container, place a lid, damp tea towel or a plastic bag over the top. Place it in a warm, draft free place. The ideal temperature for bread to rise in is about 30°C, so if it’s warm and sunny, don’t put the container directly in the sun. Be patient for it to rise, you can make it rise faster in the sun (or by placing the container in a tin of warm water, my trick in winter), but a slow rise does produce a tastier bread. My house often doesn’t get warmer than 18°C, which will take longer but the result is still great.
Leave it to rise until more than doubled in size. I aim for about 2-2.5x the original size. Again, I won’t give you a time to let the dough rise, as it is so highly dependent on the temperature of your room, and I am assuming you are a home-baker like myself, without a proving cabinet or other fancy bread baking tools (which you don’t need to make really good bread at home).
Ok, so your dough has doubled in size. Very lightly oil your countertop (add a drop or two and spread it by rubbing your hand all over the counter) and tip your dough out onto it, using your scraper to get everything from the bowl. Now, most recipes say you should knock back the dough. I don’t bother. The dough loses quite some air by tipping it out on the countertop, and when forming. Spread the hazelnuts over the dough and fold the dough a couple of times to distribute the nuts.
Once the hazelnuts are well distributed, form the dough. Pick up the sides and fold them to the middle, forming a log. Do this two or three times, also folding in the ends once inbetween. Spread the rolled oats out on your countertop and roll the bread in this. Place it with the seal (underside) upwards into a floured proofing basket, or in a floured oval container. If you can find unbleached cotton, rub a piece with flour and place this in your container before adding the dough.
Cover the dough and leave to proof (which is the last rise).
Meanwhile, heat your oven to the highest setting (250°C on my oven).
The bread is proofed when doubled in size, and when pressed, the dough springs back gently. If it doesn’t allow to be pushed much, or springs back fully, the dough is underproofed. When the push leaves a hole, or even makes the dough around it sink somewhat, the dough is overproofed. You will get a knack for seeing when the dough is perfect by trying. You will fail occasionally but you will get the hang of it eventually.
Place a baking tray in the oven until very, very hot.
Very gently tip the bread over on the hot baking tray. Slice the tops with a very sharp knife (a blunt knife will pull the dough. I use razor blades), which allows for more expansion during baking and a lighter result.
Spray the bread with some water from a plant spray. I have a “bread spray” in my kitchen at all times. Quickly place the bread in the oven, spray water into the oven and close the door. The water creates steam, which stops a crust from forming too quickly. This, plus the initial very hot temperature, creates an extra boost for the yeast.
After 10 minutes, lower the temperature to 190°C and bake for a total of 40 minutes.
Many people do the knocking-test to see if bread is cooked. The theory is that if bread sounds hollow, it is done. However, a thick crust and a portion of the dough being cooked, can result in a hollow sound, while the center is still undercooked. Stick to the time, but if you want to be sure, test with a meat or sugar thermometer. Bread is cooked at 96°C.