I've recently got interested in bread baking. I saw the Bread Bible: 300 favorite recipes by Beth Hensperger, and decided to take a stab at the recipes. What I liked when I browsed the book was that the recipe seemed good, well thoughout, and no nonense recipes that didn't require every newest gadget at William Sonoma. Every recipe had hand mix instructions, and these are the recipes I could see people eating 20 years from now.
The recipe that caught my eye was the Italian whole wheat raisin walnut bread. Ever since my stay in Germany, I found that I have become drawn to the nuttiness of whole wheat and multi-grain breads. When made properly, they have a delightful chewiness and sweet, concentrated flavor that sets it apart from white breads. And when properly made, they are not heavy.
The process for this bread was straight forward. Luckily for me, someone at Food.com have uploaded the entire recipe and saved me the effort from retyping. The recipe calls for poofing the yeast, kneading and giving the dough two rises. Because I decided to start this recipe at 11pm at night, I decided to not wait until 5 am to finish the kneading in one setting. Instead, after the first raise I put the dough in the back porch, which I rated at about 20F at night, and will continue the second stage when I return from work the next day. The second day after I kneaded the dough I decided once again to sleep first and wait until third day to bake the bread. I crossed my fingers and hoped the bread turned out ok and not into a pungent fermented sourdough.
I finally got around to baking the third day. Mostly because it was the infamous blizzard and I didn't have anywhere else to go. Given that I had let the dough sit for two days without adjusting the yeast called for in the original recipe, I was expecting something that tasted like breaded sourkraut. Here is the picture of the bread, sliced:
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how beautifully the bread looked when it came out. The bread had a beautiful, even crust. The interior was moist and dense. It was obvious that the bread was slightly overly fermented as the bread had a sour tang and the air pockets reminds me of the yogurt bread. However, it was still one of the bread I ever tasted. The balance between the sweet raisins and crunchy walnut set in whole wheat bread was just perfect. I circumvented the sour problem by topping the bread with honey. The only other issue that I noted, besides the slight over-fermentation, was that I had to add a lot of flour (+ 1/2-1 cup) during kneading to prevent the dough from sticking too much. This threw off the sugar and salt balance slightly, and the bread did feel like it needed a bit more salt and sugar. Next time I may add a little less water to start with, and tried to follow the time instructed!