02 August 2010

A Nod to Rabelais ... and Yeast

Rabelais, one of France's original 'eat, drink, and be merry' guys knew what he was talking about when it came to wine, bread, and partying. He once wrote, 'There is nothing better than warm fouace with grapes and a fresh rose or mellow Vouvray.'  ... or so says Judith Ryan Hendricks in her book, The Baker's Apprentice. The novel was the inspiration for baking this bread today. I have been wanting to make some bread and the recipe Hendrick's shares in her novel, looked like the best for a simple rustic loaf.

Silent Bob and I fell in love with crusty artisan breads when we went to live in Germany for a while, back in 2004. We would buy our bread from the local Backerei ... big round loaves of Sonnenblumenbrot or tight rectangular loaves of Vollkornbrot ... small round crunchy Brotchen or braided Challah. Germany has got some of the finest bread bakers in the world. Hell, they even have a museum devoted to breadmaking and the significance of bread in the history of different cultures around the world. It's in Ulm, in the shadow of one of the most beautiful cathedrals that we toured. If you are ever in the city of Ulm in the Swabian Alb region of Baden-Wurttemberg, spend an afternoon exploring the city. Back to the topic of bread, though!

Today's bread is a Frenchie bread ... La Fouace aux Noix. I found a couple different recipes when I was researching. One recipe was a sweet fouace made with sugar and orange blossom water. Another had chopped onion along with the walnuts, but that didn't appeal to me as much as the simpler version in which you knead in a stick of soft butter and a measure of chopped walnuts.  I loved the sound of a whole wheat bread with walnuts - nutty crunch and the pull of a firm loaf.  It's a simple and rustic round loaf ... that will be eaten with an easy plate of cheese, garden vegetables,  grapes, and bottle of Old Vine Zinfandel a la Rabelais.

Perhaps another time, I'll crave an oniony version. Perhaps some brunch will call out for the sweet orange-scented version, but for now, I'm happy with the Hendrick's version of a classic fouace. Bon appetit!

La Fouace aux Noix - printer friendly

La Fouace aux Noix - Wheat Bread with Walnuts

Baking Time : 425 degree Farenheit oven for 30 minutes and then
                         300 degree Farenheit oven for 30 minutes more


1 envelope yeast ( 2 and 1/2 tsp. yeast granules)
1/3 c. warm water
4 c. unbleached white flour
1/3 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c . wheat germ
1 tbsp. salt
1 c. warm milk
3/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
cornmeal for dusting the baking sheet

Making the Bread:

Combine the yeast and warm water and set aside 'to proof'.

In a large bowl, combine and whisk together the flours, wheat germ, and salt.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the warm milk and the yeast.

Stir to make a stiff dough that has plenty of dry clots.

Turn in the butter, cut into chunks and work the dough with your hands until the butter is incorporated.

Turn the dough onto a clean surface and knead in the chopped nuts, making the dough into a smooth and firm ball.

Cover with a damp towel and place in a warm and draft-free spot. Let rise until doubled (about 2 hours).

Punch the dough down and knead it for 3 to 5 minutes and then re-form it into a ball.

Dust a lightly greased baking sheet with coarse cornmeal.

Place the bread ball onto the sheet and cover. Let rise for about 15 minutes.

Make a few deep slashes in the surface and place in the middle of a pre-heated oven that has a water tray placed on its bottom rack.

Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the water tray and turn down the heat to 300 degrees.

Continue baking for another 30 minutes. Remove when it sounds hollow when tapped firmly.

A nutty brown dough placed under a damp towel in a warm draft-free spot ...

So... now, we have punched down dough and a new loaf rolled in some reserved walnuts.

Most of those nuts popped off the bread, as it baked. They became overbrown on the baking sheet. DRAT!

Note to Self: Make some honey butter to have with toast  in the morning!


  1. I'll have you know, Dom, your partying and knoshing kind of reminded me of Rabelais! And... that bread you made last weekend was also an inspiration.


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