Apple picking in the fall is one of our favorite family traditions. The first weekend that the apples are ripe and ready, we head out to the orchard. The fun begins with an old-fashioned, tractor-pulled wagon ride. Then it’s time to pick. The kids hunt high and low for the perfect apples. My husband takes turns hoisting the kids up on his shoulders to reach for the apples that are way up in the tree. Those are always the best. Once we have picked as many apples as we can carry, and then some, we head back home. As we’re driving, we can almost taste all of the wonderful apple recipes we’ll want to make when we get home.
One of the things we always make is apple walnut country bread. It uses shredded apple, apple cider and dried apples. We’ve got apples all over the place. It also has warm spices, honey, toasted walnuts and rye. Yum! By the way, don’t be scared off by the rye flour in this recipe if you’re not a big rye bread fan. The rye taste is very subtle, yet it adds to the rustic nature of this bread and gives it a texture and flavor above and beyond what white flour alone could do. I buy a bag of Hodgson Mill Rye Flour just to make this bread. It’s that good.
We love this bread toasted for breakfast with butter or a smear of peanut butter. It’s also perfect with stew or soup on a chilly fall evening. Any way you choose, it’s a great way to enjoy apples. The dough for this bread can be made by hand or in a bread machine on the dough setting. I chose the latter to save time.
Whether you’ve picked apples right off the tree or bought some at the store, this apple walnut country bread is delicious. Let’s get started!
First off you need to gather your main ingredients: apples,diced dried apples, Hodgson Mill Rye Flour, toasted walnuts, and Hodgson Mill Best for Bread Flour.
Next combine the dried apple with the apple cider and microwave it for about a-minute-and-a-half.
Shred your unpeeled apple, I used a Jonathan, and then stir it into the cider/dried apple mixture. Set aside for a few minutes while you get some other things together.
It’s time to wake up the yeast! It has a big job to do. Our dough is going to be filled with apples and walnuts that need to be lifted. No time for snoozing around. Fill a small dish with ¼ cup warm water and sprinkle a package of Hodgson Mill Active Dry Yeast on top. Throw in a pinch of sugar and stir for a second or two to get everything combined. You can see in the before picture that the yeast has pulled the covers back over their little yeasty heads. Not a lot of action going on. After about 10 minutes, the yeast has woken up, had a cup of coffee and is ready to get to work. You can see how billowy and bubbly the mixture has gotten. It will do a fine job of helping our dough to rise.
Either in your stand mixer or your bread machine, combine the apple mixture, yeast mixture, Hodgson Mill Best for Bread Flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, honey, butter and egg. I’m using my bread machine. Start mixing things for a few minutes and then add a heaping cup of Hodgson Mill Rye Flour.
It should look like this after about five minutes of knock around kneading. The dough should be soft, but not sticky. Add a little more bread flour if you have trouble getting the dough to come together. Turn off the bread machine – do not take it all the way through your dough cycle. See all those wonderful apple bits? They will be kneaded to pieces and disappear if you leave the dough cycle on. It’s not a big deal if you forget and take it all the way through the cycle. But, if you are like me and want chunks of apple to remain in your finished bread, turn it off after about five minutes of serious kneading. This goes for the stand mixer, too.
Let the dough rise for about an hour or until doubled.
When the dough is ready, place it on to a floured surface and sprinkle the walnuts on top.
Fold the sides in over the walnuts. Kind of like a burrito.
Then fold the bottom up and top down. Knead the dough a few times to get the walnuts mixed through the dough. The walnuts could be added to your initial kneading, but I’ve always done it this way. No matter what, you’ll be happy about having chunks of apple and walnuts in your bread when it’s finished. It’s part of what makes this bread amazing.
Shape the dough into a 7-inch ball and place it on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let it rise for about an hour or until it has doubled.
It’s hard to tell in this picture, but the dough has gotten much bigger and has almost popped out some of the apples and walnuts in the process. No worries. They will stay put until they get eaten.
Brush the top of the dough with some beaten egg white and bake at 350º F for 35-40 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped. It will also be a lovely deep brown color.
You can see where the egg white wash has given this loaf a nice sheen. As tempted as you are to tear into this bread, let it cool completely or as close to completely as you can get before eating. (This is easier said than done.) It smells soooooo good as it’s innocently cooling on the kitchen counter. Restraint my friends, restraint.
Slice it up or cut into wedges. This bread is full of fall flavor-- apples in particular. Enjoy!
Apple Walnut Country Bread
- ½ cup apple cider (preferably unsweetened)
- ½ cup dried apples, chopped
- 1 cup coarsely shredded apple (no need to peel. I used a Jonathan apple)
- 1 package or 2 ½ teaspoons Hodgson Mill Active Dry Yeast
- ¼ cup warm water + a pinch of sugar
- 3 cups Hodgson Mill Best for Bread Flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- 3 Tablespoons honey
- 1 Tablespoon softened butter
- 1 large egg
- 1 heaping cup Hodgson Mill Rye Flour
- ½ cup toasted walnut pieces
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
Microwave cider and dried apple in a small dish for 1 ½ minutes. Stir in shredded apple; set aside.
Combine yeast, pinch of sugar and ¼ cup warm water in a small dish. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Knead apple mixture, yeast mixture, 3 cups of bread flour, salt and next five ingredients in a bread machine or stand mixer. Add rye flour to make a soft but not sticky dough. Add a little more bread flour if your dough needs some help pulling together. Knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. You can do this by hand or machine. Turn off bread machine, if using, cover and allow the dough to rise for an hour or until it has doubled in bulk.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and flatten slightly. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts and fold from side to side and bottom to top. Knead until the walnuts are evenly distributed. Roll the dough out into a 7 inch ball and place on a greased baking sheet.
Cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in bulk. Brush top of loaf with egg white.
Bake at 350ºF for 35-40 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove bread from baking sheet immediately; cool on a wire rack. Cut into slices or wedges.
Adapted from The Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune, Home for the Holidays