Peanut Bread

Week Twenty-Eight: Breads With Nuts

peanut

This recipe is extra special, you guys!  Here’s why!  Were you aware that in 2005, Team USA won the Coupe du Monde?  I’m sure you know what that is, but for all the incogniscenti, it’s basically the World Cup of Pâtisserie, or in American terms, the Baking Olympics.  Our three man team not only defeated the reigning world champs, the Japanese team, but we beat the French, too!  That’s right, we out-baguetted the French! 

I know, right?!

This recipe was apparently one of their winning creations, and was designed to pay homage to Jimmy Carter, who was once a peanut farmer.  But whatever the inspiration, this bread is super-good!  I’ve tweaked things a bit, mostly in the shaping and instruction end of things, as the original instructions directed you to make a really beautiful but really, really hard to explain shape.  (It’s two fendus bent around to look like a peanut!)  I also fiddled with the recipe itself, because when I followed the given directions, my dough ended up more like batter than dough.

Now, I’m not one to be scared of a wet dough; many of the best breads I’ve made have seemed overly-wet.  They tend to firm up a bit when they rise, as the flour absorbs the water, and such.  Besides, more water in your dough means an airier bread, since water expands to 1,600 times its size when it turns to steam.  (And that’s how come we can power locomotives and turbines and such with just some hot water.  Neat!)  That steam pushes your dough up and away when it expands, and creates pretty holes in your bread before the structure cooks and sets firmly in place.  No, I’m not scared of wet dough, but this was ridiculous.  Even with the adjustments, it was still incredibly wet, to the point of being impossible to knead by hand.

So I’ve adjusted the hydration levels a bit (oh, and translated from the original metric measurements); feel free to adjust to your whim also.  I also increased the amount of peanuts used, as I wanted a real peanutty flavor, not just a faint scent.  And, boy, did this bread deliver!  It tastes like eating a bread peanut, you guys!  If that bothers you, don’t hesitate to decrease the amount a little.

The mostly whole wheat starter used in this recipe is fabulous for two main reasons: the whole wheat complements the flavor of the peanuts beautifully, and the texture also helps disguise any graininess that the freshly ground peanut meal might impart to a totally white flour bread.  It’s important that the whole wheat flour is used for the starter, because the overnight “soak” mellows any bitter flavors in the flour, and helps soften the bran in the flour, which might otherwise cut through your developing gluten (making the bread dense and tough).

You can tell from the picture that there are lovely, giant holes in the bread; but unfortunately, they’re not really evenly distributed, they all clustered at the top.  This means that my dough was too wet, and the heavy bulk of the dough slumped down around those rising pockets of steam.  It’s important to listen to your dough, no matter what the recipe tells you to do!  The dough knows what’s going on far better than any sheet of paper!  If it tells you it’s too wet, then it’s too wet!

Overly-wet dough aside, this bread is really quite delicious.  The recipe instructs you to bake the bread at 475º F, which seems unreasonably high, possibly even a typo.  But it works perfectly, especially with such a wet dough.  Just trust me; it’s not going to burn your bread.  The crust turns out crisp and beautiful, and the crumb is airy, chewy, and delightfully full of holes (though the slices end up a bit misshapen).

And the flavor!  Oh, it really, truly does taste like the distilled essence of peanut, come into bread form.  If you like peanut, you really shouldn’t pass this up.  Need I suggest topping a slice with your favorite jam, or with a banana and honey?  Dare I mention Nutella?  Or using this bread as the base for your favorite Elvis-style sandwich?  Oh, now I’m getting hungry.

Good thing for me, though, that one of those three bakers, one member of Coupe-du-Monde-winning Team USA 2005 has a bakery not 15 minutes from my home!  Maybe I should try to convince Chef Downer to reprise this creation, so I can try the real thing!  Bennison’s ftw!

 

Peanut Bread
Adapted from Bread Bakers Guild Team USA 2005, via Breadcetera
Makes 2 loaves

For starter:
1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
5 1/2 ounces (about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) whole wheat flour
2/3 cup water, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

For final dough:
1 1/2 ounces (about 1/3 cup) peanuts, toasted and ground finely (see note 1 below)
15 ounces (about 3 1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon instant yeast

1.  To make the starter, whisk together the flours and the yeast.  Add the water and mix until smooth.  The starter will be stiff.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature overnight, or for about 12 hours.

2.  To make the final dough, prepare the peanuts as directed (see note 1 below).  Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 12 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) of the flour and all of the water.  Mix until all the flour is moistened.  Cover, and let stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes.

3.  After the rest period (autolyse), add all of the starter, the yeast, and the salt to the flour mixture in the bowl.  Using the dough hook, mix at low speed until all the ingredients are fully incorporated, about 2 minutes.  Increase the speed to medium-low, and continue kneading until the dough clears the sides and bottom of the bowl, about 10 minutes.  Add the remaining flour by spoonfuls as needed to achieve the proper consistency; the dough should be slack but not wet, and should form a cohesive ball.  Reduce the speed to low, and add the peanut meal.  Continue mixing until all the peanut meal is evenly incorporated, about 3 minutes.

4.  Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.  Using a nonstick spatula, gently deflate and fold the dough over itself in a tri-fold (as though you were folding a letter).  Cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.

5.  Repeat the folding procedure, cover, and let rise 1 hour more.

6.  Repeat the folding procedure a third time, then turn the dough out onto a floured surface.  Divide the dough into 2 even halves.  Shape each into a round, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

7.  Shape each piece into a long, oval loaf, and transfer to a parchment paper-lined or lightly-greased baking sheet.  Dust liberally with additional flour, cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and let rise until nearly doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 475º F, along with a baking stone (if using).

8.  Bake the loaves at 475º F for 10 minutes, using your favorite steam technique (see note 2 below).  Continue baking for an additional 15 minutes, or until cooked through and browned.  An instant read thermometer should register about 200º F when done.  Remove to a wire rack, and allow the loaves to cool thoroughly before slicing.

 

Notes:
1.  To roast peanuts, spread evenly in a sheet pan and bake at 350ºF until fragrant, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Cool to room temperature, then grind into a fine meal, either by hand in a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor.  If you use a food processor, use quick pulses to ensure that the peanuts are not overprocessed into peanut butter.

2.  Unless you have a steam-injecting oven (and I’m coming over immediately), you might want to try one of these methods for getting steam onto your bread, and have the crispiest crust imaginable.  I prefer simply spraying the loaf itself with a fine mist of water from a squirt bottle before baking, and every 2 minutes thereafter, until the recipe says to stop.  You can also place a rimmed baking dish or other oven-safe pan on the floor of the oven to preheat along with it, and toss ice cubes into the hot pan when you place the dough in the oven, and replenish as they melt away.  Remove the pan when the recipe indicates to stop the steam.  There are other methods, but I find these to be the most effective.

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