There’s nothing quite like the smell of homemade bread baking in the oven. The warmth of the oven encompassing the kitchen and the anticipation of taking the first bite.
Bread is an absolute staple in Norwegian cuisine. You can usually count on a couple of slices for breakfast and lunch, each with a topping of choice. You’ll find, more often than not, an emphasis on hearty breads that rely on a variety of flours, whole grains and seeds. And while it may be easy to just pick up a loaf from the local bakery or store, nothing beats the taste of homemade bread.
Awhile back, I visited my dear friend, Maj-Lis, who is an inspiration in the kitchen. She has taught me to make Jerusalem Artichoke Soup, her famous kringle and even invited me to her beloved rakfiskfest (fermented fish party). Needless to say, I enjoy every moment spent in her kitchen.
This is her recipe for walnut bread and it is really good! It’s a hearty bread with just a touch of sweetness from the raisins. The walnuts and almonds give the bread a wonderful texture. The crust is crispy and the center is soft. It also goes well with both sweet and savory toppings or served in a basket at mealtime. Don’t be swayed by the time is takes for these loaves to rise, this is an incredibly easy bread to make and you’ll be happy you did. With four medium-sized loaves, you can always freeze a couple for later.
Maj-Lis’s Walnut Bread (Valnøttbrød)
(Makes 4 medium-sized loaves)
- 1 kg (8 cups) flour
- 250g (2 cups) fine, whole wheat flour
- 250g (2 cups) coarse, whole wheat flour
- 20 g fresh yeast or 1 packet of dry yeast
- 1 Tb olive oil
- 1Tb honey
- 1 Tb salt
- 1 litre (4 cups) water
- 1 ½ cups walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 ½ cups shredded almonds
- 1 ½ cups raisins (optional)
Place all of the ingredients, except for the nuts and raisins, in a food mixer with a dough hook attachment. Knead the dough on low for about 15 minutes. If you do not wish to use a food mixer, just blend all the ingredients in a large bowl and pour out onto a floured surface and knead by hand. You will want the dough to be quite elastic.
Place the dough out onto a floured surface and press the dough into a rough square. Sprinkle the nuts and raisins over the surface and roll up the dough. Then, knead briefly again to ensure the nuts and the raisins are thoroughly distributed throughout the dough. Shape the dough into a round ball, place in a greased bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about 3 hours. Maj-Lis swears by allowing the dough enough time to rise.
When the dough has finished rising, divide it into 4 equal parts and roll each into a ball. Place them on a prepared baking sheet with enough space in between to allow them to double in size. Sprinkle the tops with plain flour and leave them uncovered for 1 hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 240°C/465°F. Place the bread on the bottom rack of the oven and immediately drop the temperature to 200°C/400°F. Bake for 40 minutes (again, on the bottom rack).
Allow the breads to cool before serving. Perfect when warm with a slab of butter or top with your favorite topping like cheese, jam or honey. I might suggest a slice or two of brunost (brown cheese)!
*If you wish to freeze any of the loaves, just be sure to wrap them well. When you are ready to eat one, allow the loaf to thaw completely and come to room temperature before unwrapping it. The moisture will become absorbed back into the bread. Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and place the loaf in for a couple of minutes.