A Nut and Raisin Loaf based on Lahey's Walnut Bread Recipe.
If I had walnuts, this might have just been Lahey's Walnut Bread. But since an 11pm search of the cupboard and refrigerator turned up only pecans, almonds and cashews, I decided to experiment a bit further. So while the Recipe I started with was Lahey's Walnut Bread, that was merely my point of departure.
I have been reading about Hooch. It has been some time since I refreshed my sourdough starters, and I have been noticing that there is quite a bit of alcohol floating on the top of them. I was wondering how much, if any, toxic methanol is part of that band of yeast exudate, so I was doing a bit of reading on it in various Internet web sites. Just casual browsing, not true research.
I guess I learned that the alcohol that yeast produces when it consumes grain starch is about 13% ethanol; there are a lot of other impurities in it, but probably there is very little of the dangerous methanol, because if any of that was produced, it will have been changed to water and carbon dioxide just from being in contact with the oxygen in the air. The old prospectors who lived off sourdough apparently drank some of this hooch, for want of other ways to get inebriated. Most sourdough bread bakers will just stir the alcohol back into the mix, because it adds to the flavour of the bread that will be baked. However, it does inhibit some of the yeast growth. And the alcohol will burn off during the baking of the bread.
As an experiment, I scooped just under a tablespoon of the hooch from the layer of alcohol atop my all-but-expired sourdough starter, and tossed it into my dough to see what would happen. I was hoping that some of the flavours that are found in the sourdough would be transferred to this loaf I was making.
Adding the hooch
12 hours fermenting
Here is how I changed the original Lahey walnut recipe:
* I added 1/4 tsp more of cinnamon
* I added another pinch of fresh pepper
* I added 2 tbsp more of water
* I added almost a tbsp of hooch
* I used almonds instead of walnuts; and I ground them pretty fine.
* I used cracked wheat instead of bran for the crust.
* I only baked it for 15 minutes with the lid off, so the crust wouldn't get too hard.
Even as I covered the dough to set it aside for 12 hours, it smelled terrific. The dough had a nice rise to it, and it was wet but not overly sloppy to work with. I didn't hit the middle of the crock pot with precision, but it didn't seem to affect the rise of the loaf too badly. The cinnamon in the dough is very fragrant, the raisins smell sweet and winey.
This loaf is for my wife's friends who are coming tomorrow night. I may not be around to get the picture of the crumb, or to even taste this loaf.
Notes to Myself:
- Try sprinkling some raw sugar, or turbinado sugar, on the top surface of this bread as it bakes.
- If hooch works to flavour the dough, why wouldn't other alcohol? Try some whiskey (one for the bread, one for you, one for the bread...), or perhaps some port or sherry.
- Sprinkle some nutmeg on top of this loaf just before baking
- What if you ferment the raisins in some hooch by themselves?
- Try using walnuts, the official nut of the original Lahey recipe, but don't grind them too fine.