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Whole Wheat Pecan Bread

Nearly any bread recipe can be improved by making an over-night sponge. The finished flavors will be deeper, and the bread will have an over-all better texture with a sponge. Preparing a sponge takes one minute - but you must remember to make it ahead. Six to eight hours later, the sponge will be bubbly and a bit slimy - a perfect science experiment.

Over-night sponge:
1 cup water
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 cup white whole wheat flour

Whisk sponge ingredients in a quart-sized glass or ceramic bowl. No need to completely incorporate all the flour, some lumps may be present. Cover with plastic film or a plate and leave overnight at room temperature.

Next morning add to bread machine (or stand mixer with dough hook):
the entire sponge
½ cup water
1 Teaspoon honey
1 Tablespoon canola oil (optional)
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup finely chopped pecans
2 teaspoons dry yeast

Use a setting on the bread machine to mix and knead the dough and let it rise once. Punch down the dough and turn out to a floured board. Let rest ten minutes, then shape to a boule or fat baguette (your choice) and place the shaped dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a tea towel and let rise again in a slightly warm place until doubled. Bake at 400° for about thirty minutes or until brown and loaf has a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

Fresh from the oven

Pass the butter