Auberge Walnut Bread (BBB March 2016)

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BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for Auberge Walnut Bread, based on recipes in “Auberge of the Flowering Hearth” by Roy Andries de Groot and “The Italian Baker” by Carol Field; perfumes and scents; memoir; a Bread Baking Babes (BBB) project; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

BBB Walnut Bread Bread Baking Babes’ Auberge Walnut Bread, March 2016

Once again, I demonstrate that bread just wants to be bread!

This past August, we took a trip out west visiting with T’s aging dad. At one point, as T was snoozing and his dad was happily ensconced in his big arm chair listening to The Flying Dutchman on CD, I looked through the cookbooks in the kitchen, just to see what I might have missed on other visits. As I pulled one of the books out, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the smell of my mother-in-law’s perfume.

auberge of the flowering hearth
Auberge of the Flowering Hearth by Roy Andries de Groot

When I opened the book, the perfume became even more intense. (Did she spill some on the book? Or had she doused it in her perfume to get rid of mildewy old book smell??)

I leafed through the book to see that there was a most interesting recipe for Walnut bread… I continued turning pages, holding my breath and waving away the perfume that continued to waft out, and read a little more. Then I asked if it was okay for us to borrow the book. Because we neeeeeeded to read it.

     The first sudden thunderclap seemed to shake the Auberge to its foundations. We were in the dining room, in the middle of lunch. It had grown so dark that Mademoiselle Vivette had come in to turn on the lights and announce that were were about to experience “la grande tempête des Alpes.” Each rolling boom, multiplied by the echoing reverberations of the valley, seemed to envelop us from every direction. One sensed the vibrations beating down on houses, pastures, trees. . . . As boom followed boom in rapid fire, the bright copper pots and utensils which decorated the rooms of the Auberge began vibrating in a buzzing harmony: the long poissonière, the “fish boiler” on the old oaken bread-chest, the tall bidon, the ancient five-gallon “milkcan” standing in the corner.
     The rain came down in almost solid sheets. The windows shook with a steady rhythm. […] I could hear the water rumbling in the valley. I imagined the flooded and steaming landscape, the river swelling and overflowing, the roots of plants laid bare, the most private cracks and gullies of the earth penetrated and violated. Then the storm rolled on and away. […]
     During the storm, the Auberge had filled up with passing motorists, unable to see ahead through the sheets of falling water and afraid of the hairpin bends. The smaller mountain roads, in fact, immediately became impassable-turning into rushing streams a foot deep, with large, rounded, weather-polished pebbles rolling down under water. Alpine storms make no allowances for automobiles. […]
     Mademoiselle Vivette bustled among them, handing out her Carte du Jour, taking orders for le snack, and pouring drinks behind her small copper-covered bar with its back wall of dark green canvas and its striped canopy of apricot yellow and tulip green behind the wrought iron screen. […] [She] would serve, at a table in the dining room, her basic snack meal-available, in an emergency, at almost any hour of the day or night—Le Gouteron pour le Motoriste. It consisted of home-baked rustic-style walnut bread, locally churned butter, a platter of paper-thin slices of mountain-cured sun-dried ham, locally made fresh with goats’ milk cheese, some of Mademoiselle Ray’s superbly light miniature fresh fruit tartlets, a carafe of the house white wine, and coffee.
-Roy Andries de Groot, “Le Snack” is also an Art, Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, p.122-124

We HAVE to try that bread! What a shame that all of my father-in-law’s walnut trees were replaced a few years ago! It would be so fun to make the bread with walnuts from his garden!

But even with store-bought walnuts, for March and its last gasps of winter, this bread seems perfect for the BBBabes.

Here’s how things went:

BBB Auberge Walnut Bread diary:

1 February 2016 13:56 I always imagine that I’ll bake the bread before telling the others what recipe I’ve chosen. But. Have I made the March bread yet? Are you joking? In advance?? You know me…. But the recipe looks good. :-)

And Whoa!! What a bizarre way to list the ingredients! They’re all over the place. And, wouldn’t you know it? The water is missing from the ingredients list. (But DON’T get me started on that idiocy again…).

After calculating the weights, I checked the percentages…

  • 663g flours/wheatgerm 100%
  • ground nuts 8%
  • water 72%
  • yeast 0.9%
  • salt 1.8%
  • honey 13%
  • butter 5.4%

Then to remind myself about bakers’ percentage, I took a look on the internet:

[M]any bread recipes call for far more yeast than is really required. Many, it seems, are rooted in recipes written in the 1950’s and 1960’s when “helping the homemaker save time” was all the rage, rather than making superior bread. […] If you want, you can use as little as 1/8 teaspoon of yeast in a bread.
Hearth breads have a wider range of hydration, typically in the 60-70% range, though you may find some sneaking close to 75% hydration. Again, whole-grain flours will require more hydration to achieve dough characteristics that approximate white-flour doughs.
Salt also varies from one bread to another. Most have salt contents in the 1%-2% range. […] Many seeds and whole-kernel grains that are added to bread dough benefit from either soaking or cooking prior to use in the dough. Otherwise they are apt to draw moisture from the surrounding dough and make the bread dry. Nuts usually go in as is, although some formulae will suggest toasting them first for flavor reasons.
– Paul, Advice on ideal ratios for flour/water/yeast/sugar/fat/ salt etc when combined with different ingredients?, The Fresh Loaf
The percentage of yeast in a formula depends on quite a few variables (other ingredients, fermentation time, etc.), so the following ranges are quite wide, and are just guidelines. Note that, as always, percentages are relative to the weight of the flour, and we’re talking about commercially-yeasted doughs here (not sourdoughs):
     Fresh yeast: 0.7% – 5%
     Active dry yeast: 0.3% – 2.5%
     Instant yeast: 0.2% – 2%
– Susan, Baker’s Percentage Tutorial, Part 2, Wild Yeast

11 March 2016 11:11 I just finished mixing the dough – it still needs to be kneaded more; I might have to enlist help….

Not that it’s particularly stiff dough. It isn’t. In fact it looks pretty good. I’m just feeling tired. It took me over and hour to put the ingredients together – fighting with our stupid freezer to find things (do the people who design freezers have any concept of storage areas??), cleaning the electric coffee spice grinder before grinding flax seed (someone decided to grind achiote seeds in it but didn’t think it was necessary to clean it out afterwards), being generally slow.

But. I’m happy to report that I a.) didn’t fall off the step stool when climbing up to get the severely crystalized honey from the top shelf and (even better) b.) did NOT burn the walnuts when toasting them.

Speaking of walnuts, I made an executive decision that 200g of whole walnuts is too many. I halved the number and will use only 100g. I’ll make a little note on the actual recipe.

I also used salted butter rather than unsalted. I don’t have a real reason except that salted butter costs less than unsalted so that’s what we tend to use in cooking because we’re skin-flints.

14:02 We’re just about to head out on our bikes and { Duh!} I just remembered that there is bread dough in the oven with only the light on. Good thing I looked…. It looks ready to shape!

So, I pushed the dough down, covered the bowl with a plate and left it on the counter.

17:19 Our errands took longer than we thought and we just got back. Happily, the bread dough is at exactly the right spot. It looks and smells fabulous.

Shaping the bread was easy as pie (with only a little difficulty attaching the ends to make each loaf into a ring, putting each one onto a parchment papered cookie sheet.

I used the Bien Cuit dusting mixture we learned about last month (5 parts white flour 1 part semolina), covered the trays with tea towels and put them in the oven with only the light turned on.

20:18 Eeeeek!!! I completely forgot about the bread again! (If my head wasn’t attached to my neck, I might easily forget it too.)

Luckily, the bread looks fine. And little puffy, but fine.

22:47 The bread is finally out of the oven! I scored one loaf and left the other unscored. Then just before putting it on the top shelf (to stop it from burning on the bottom), I liberally sprayed the loaves with water. The bread took ages to bake (almost a full hour) and brushing milk on half way through the baking felt very strange.

The bread smells fabulous. And look how shiny it is!! I cannot wait until tomorrow to try it!

walnut bread

We tasted the bread the next morning; it’s delicious! It’s also great as toast. It’s really great as toast with Seville orange marmalade. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

walnut bread

Please note that the recipe in the book uses volume measures. I’ve left them in but as usual, used the weight measures when I made the bread. (I hope that the walnut weights are right!!)

I also took a look on our shelves for other bread recipes that include walnuts and saw that Carol Field includes a couple (one of which we BBBabes have already made) in her book, “The Italian Baker”. I took particular note of her instruction to toast the walnuts first. Good idea!!

With Field’s advice in mind, here is the March 2016 recipe. As usual, I’ve only included instructions for hand-kneading, simply because we don’t own an electric mixer. But by all means, please use your electric mixer if that’s what you prefer! Not everyone is like me and wants to plunge their hands right into the dough.

BBB Auberge Walnut Bread
based on recipes for Le Pain de Noix in Auberge of the Flowering Hearth by Roy Andries de Groot and Pane di Noci in The Italian Baker by Carol Field

Since the lower slopes of the Alps and the Dauphiné to the west of the city of Grenoble are the main centers in France for the growing of walnut trees, it is hardly surprising that Mademoiselle Ray bakes a superb wholewheat whole-nut walnut bread. She gives it the strong character of the nuts by first blending into the dough a substantial amount of finely ground nutmeats and then folding in the uncut nut halves. The dough itself is made with a relatively coarse wholewheat flour, so that it has an attractive chewy country texture.
– Roy Andries de Groot, Walnut Wholewheat Bread, Breads and Cakes, Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, p. 412
The first time I tasted this bread, I was certain that its rich, almost mahogany-colored interior came from freshly milled whole wheat, which shows how much I knew. The lovely dark color comes entirely from the walnuts that saturate the bread with their irresistibly delicate and nutty flavor. Be sure to toast the walnuts lightly to bring out the flavor before you chop and knead them into the dough. Baking the bread in a ring mold with a few whole walnuts on the bottom makes an appealing loaf when it is unmolded.
– Carol Field, Pane di Noci, Celebration Breads, The Italian Baker, p. 200

makes 2 loaves


  • 253g walnut halves, divided
       » 200g (2 c) whole walnut halves (I added just 100g)
       » 53g (0.66 c) walnut halves, finely chopped
  • 420g (1.75 c) boiling water
  • 34g (0.5c) skim milk powder
  • 36g (2.5 Tbsp) unsalted butter (I used salted butter)
  • 12g kosher salt (2 tsp table salt)
  • 0.5g (0.25 tsp) powdered ginger
  • 84g (4 Tbsp) dark honey
  • 634g (~5c) flour (de Groot’s recipe calls for 3c white bread and 3c whole wheat)
       » 250g unbleached all-purpose flour
       » 9g vital wheat gluten
       » 15g flax seed, finely ground
       » 360g whole wheat flour
  • 29g (0.25 c) wheat germ
  • 60g (0.25 c) water at ~98F
  • 6g (2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • milk or cream for brushing during baking (de Groot’s recipe calls for egg-yolk and milk)
  1. Walnuts: In the morning of the day you plan to bake the bread, spread the walnut halves in a single layer on a cookie sheet and toast them in a 400F oven for 8-10 minutes. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn! They’re done just at the moment you begin to smell them. Set aside 200g (2 c) onto a plate to cool. Using a very sharp knife, finely chop the other 53g to produce about 2/3 cup.
  2. Mixing the dough: Pour just-boiled water into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in milk powder. Immediately add butter, honey, salt and powdered ginger and whisk until the butter has melted and the honey is incorporated.
  3. Add flours, wheat germ and finely chopped walnuts (de Groot suggests grating them(!)) on top of one side of the large bowl.
  4. Warm the water for rehydrating the yeast to around 98F, a little over body temperature. Or are you allergic to a thermometer? Heat it until it’s the temperature safe to feed to a baby: a few drops on the inside of your wrist feels warm but not hot. If it’s too hot, add cold water. (Tap water is okay, but please do NOT use water from the hot-water tap! You don’t know how long things other than water have been festering in the bottom of that tank.) Pour the warmed water into a small bowl and add the yeast. Whisk until the yeast has dissolved. Check to make sure that the milk mixture is not above body temperature (do the baby-bottle test on the inside of your wrist again) and then add the yeasted water to the milk mixture. Stir everything together with a wooden spoon to created a rough dough.
  5. Kneading: Knead in the bowl (or use your electric mixer’s instructions for kneading) until the dough is smooth, “elastic and no longer sticky”.
  6. Proofing: Cover the bowl with a plate and allow to proof in a draft-free area (oven with only the light turned on is ideal) until the dough has doubled.
  7. Prepare the pans: Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Walnuts and Shaping: Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and divide in two. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rest for 20 minutes. After their rest, flatten each ball into a disc and even divide the rest of the walnut halves on top, “pressing the nuts in slightly”, then roll each piece of dough to form a log. Joining the ends to make a ring, place each log seam side down on the parchment paper. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise in a draft-free area until the rings have almost doubled.
  9. Baking: Preheat oven to 375F. Just before putting the bread in the oven, spray the tops liberally with water. Put the bread into the oven and immediately turn the thermostat down to 350F. After 35 minutes, brush the tops of the loaves with milk or cream (de Groot suggests using an egg-yolk whisked with milk to create this glaze) and continue baking for about 10 more minutes until the loaves are nicely browned and have reached an internal temperature between 200F and 210F (the bread sounds hollow when knuckle-rapped on the bottom). Remove the bread from the oven. Don’t even think about touching that knife!!
  10. Cooling and Finishing: Allow the bread to completely cool on a footed rack before cutting into it. It’s still baking inside! Of course you may want to serve warm bread: reheat it after it has cooled completely. To reheat and/or rejuvenate UNsliced bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.


* Carol Field suggests baking the bread in a greased ring-mould, putting a few strategically placed walnut halves in the bottom of the pan before putting the shaped bread in, so that when the bread is overturned, the walnuts will created an attractive design on top of the loaf. I considered adding that instruction but didn’t want to miss out on trying the milk wash near the end of baking.

** Roy Andries de Groot calls for 3 cups bread flour and 3 cups whole wheat flour. I lowered the amount of white flour (to make an equivalent to 2c white and 3 c wholewheat). The resulting dough was beautiful and soft. I think that with more flour, the dough may have become too dense.


walnut bread

Bread Baking Babes BBB March 2016

As you already know, I am hosting March 2016’s Bread Baking Babes’ project.

[Auberge of the Flowering Hearth] is fantastic! I want to crawl between the cover[s] of this book and never come out. Out of the zillion recipes in there I want to make, I started with the whole wheat walnut bread, designed to be consumed with smears of delectable French cheese. It lives up to its description. It is fantastic.
-Heather in SF, Recipe Swap & Recipes

Please note that the original Auberge recipe calls for 3 cups white bread flour and 3 cups whole wheat. (It must have been a typo in my original transcript of the final recipe, when I said 2 c white and 3 c whole wheat.) But. I used the amounts listed in the above recipe – equivalent to 2c white and 3 c wholewheat. The resulting dough was beautiful and soft. I think that with more flour, it may have become too dense.

walnut bread This walnut bread is delicious sliced and slathered with sweet butter, as toast with Seville orange marmalade, and for chicken sandwiches. We still haven’t tried it with cheese (as suggested by de Groot) but I’ll bet is stellar that way too.

edit: Here are more tidbits from my voluminous diary that I neglected to include in my haste to post this month’s recipe in time:

22 February 2016, 06:12 Ilva asked why American recipes often use milk powder instead of actual milk. I think it’s simply because milk powder can be kept in a cupboard (ie: doesn’t need refrigeration). But the reason I put it in the recipe is that I’m lazy. I don’t want to heat the milk because it means I will have another pot to wash….
The original Auberge recipe calls for scalded milk rather than water. But I’m pretty sure that any milk we get now has been heat-treated and doesn’t require scalding to remove the enzyme that will inhibit yeast action.
15:28 Tanna and Kelly did a little research (actually, they did a lot) and divulged that powdered milk is not necessarily heat treated. !! I did not know that powdered milk might not be entirely heat treated! But, if the powdered milk is added to the boiling water (as in the directions I typed) then I suspect it will basically be scalding the milk.
If you can’t get powdered milk, use 420ml (1.75 c, 420g) scalded milk and 60ml (0.25 c, 60g) lukewarm water.
The formula that I use to decide how much skim milk powder to use to simulate actual milk is the one that is on the outside of the milk powder package:

  • 1/3c (23g) instant skim milk powder + 1c water = 1c milk
    1c = 240ml

Obviously, it doesn’t have to be all milk in the recipe, but the Auberge recipe calls for milk with just a small amount of water (water is NOT listed in the ingredients list :stomp:) for reconstituting the yeast.
If you want to use fresh yeast instead of dried, use this handy javascript converter that my sister made
15 March 2016, 10:07 if you use too much milk, your crust will get darker, that would be probably from the Maillard reaction to the extra lactose sugar.
-Kelly, in message to BBBabes

Ha! But if we apply Golper and Kaminsky’s Bien Cuit idea to strive for a dark crust, we will want to use ALL milk. Hmmm, perhaps that’s why Mademoiselle Ray does the milk brushing step during baking. Maybe she really wanted the bread to be dark dark brown.
Please note that I don’t usually bother scalding – considering that any milk we get has been pasteurized through heat treatment. And I’m pretty sure that the milk powder we get has also been heat treated. The only reason I used boiling water was to melt the butter (yes, I’m lazy).

We know you’ll want to make Auberge walnut bread! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make Auberge Walnut Bread in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 March 2016.

Here’s how to let us know:

  • email me
    » Remember to include your name and a link to your post
    » Please type “BBB March 2016 bread” in the subject heading

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please email if you want to be included.

If you don’t have a blog or flickr-like account, no problem; we still want to see and hear about your bread! Please email me with the details, so your walnut bread can be included in the roundup too.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ March 2016 bread:

As Katie has so fittingly said in the past:

As always, we have some very busy Babes at the moment….. But just so you know: We’re all still BABES! (You can tell by the panties….)


Auberge of the Flowering Hearth cover Now, all these months later, after reading Auberge of the Flowering Hearth aloud — not easy when having to hold one’s breath — my mother-in-law’s perfume has finally faded. It’s still there ever so faintly. I hope it stays that way. I love that we have this reminder of that wonderful woman. How I would love to have served this bread to her!


Just yesterday, I finally managed to get “Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread” out of the library and am reading it with great interest. Zachary Golper adds walnuts, Thompson raisins, and pink peppercorns to his Walnut bread. I wish I’d seen that idea before!! Next time….

walnut bread


This entry was posted in baking, BBBabes, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, food & drink, posts with recipes, The Italian Baker on by . BBB Walnut Bread

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24 responses to “Auberge Walnut Bread (BBB March 2016)

  1. Baking Soda

    ooooh Elizabeth you made us so happy! We loved the bread. Husband specifically told me to write down what exactly I did wrong this time because I need to be able to bake this again. Smiles and satisfied sighs all around our dinnertable yesterday night!

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      Nice to meet you as well, Sally! I’m so glad to have discovered your culinary adventures. (I am quite intrigued by your newly acquired slow-cooker. It’s a good reminder for me to post about our latest pork stew that would probably lend itself well to being cooked in a slow-cooker. Remind me!)

      I hope you make the walnut bread. I’d be really interested to hear how it stands up to your walnut cranberry loaf.

        1. Elizabeth Post author

          Thanks for letting me know that the RSS feed link was missing from the sidebar, Sally. I think I’ve fixed it now (I hope so!!)

          I’m looking forward to seeing how your walnut bread turns out!

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      Thank you, Karen! We didn’t know until we saw the photo that the cat had cleverly put himself on the window ledge. It was his shadow that I thought was so cool!

      And yes. This bread is a keeper. I’m glad you think so too.

  2. katiezel

    We have 3 walnut trees, but, sadly, they are infected with ‘black fly. It doesn’t harm the nut but it makes the outer shell rather black and, um, slimy. We love them, and I love nuts in bread and I love old recipes…. Great choice!

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      But the inner nut is still good? Lucky you!

      I’m still reeling that we didn’t pay proper attention to the beautiful walnuts that my father-in-law sent to us for so many Christmases! We cracked them and ate them, of course, and exclaimed that they were delicious but we didn’t realize how many fantastic things we could have done with them when they were still available to us!

  3. Lien

    Your bread looks delicious! I love those whole walnut halves when you slice the bread. Great choice of recipe Elizabeth, we love these walnuts in the bread and healthy too, a winner!

  4. SallyBR

    Made it!!!! Made it!!!! Made it!!!!! OMG! What a great bread, and came together so quickly! I think it will be my next blog post, passing in front of a big line of stuff, cannot resist but sharing it right away! I followed Karen’s recipe since it made a single loaf and had to modify it a bit due to unforeseen problems (not enough walnuts… sigh) – I hope to have the blog up on the 23rd…

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      Excellent! I’m so glad you like it, Sally, and am really looking forward to seeing your full report. Do let me know when it’s up so I can officially add you to the list of Auberge Walnut Bread BBBuddies

      1. SallyBR

        oooh! Really? I can be added to the group? WOW! Doing a happy happy HAPPY dance! will let you know, but you can now count on it – March 23, first minute of the day the post will be up, it’s all written, just a few final touches left…

  5. tanna jones

    I’m late, I’m late, hello, good-bye, I’m late I’m late.
    But I did bake the bread and it was really really good. Different reasons but like you I used salted butter.

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      You did make it; you did! I’m so glad, Tanna. Your bread looks fabulous! The colour of the crust is brilliant. (I wanted to comment on your blog post, but alas, the comments there are closed.)

      I love the reason for you to be buying salted butter! I wish that was MY reason for using salted butter….


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