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Walnut Bread with Strawberry Mint Jam

Walnut Bread with Strawberry Mint Jam

You have to have a ton of patience to make bread and preserve jam. It’s very time consuming but worth the investment (and the clean up!).

I’ve been making the same walnut bread for the last few months as I got frustrated making challah, a traditional braided egg bread served on the sabbath. There is an art and science to making challah and quite honestly it never tastes as good as my sister-in-law’s. At one point I asked her what she does to make her challah so yummy. She said to use King Arthur’s flour and Land O’Lakes unsalted sweet butter, and that I should check the temperature of my oven with a thermometer to make sure it was accurate. I did all this but it still wasn’t as moist, sweet, or delicious.

As I was flipping through my Cooking Light I noticed a recipe for sweet challah but also a walnut bread which is braided (similar to challah). As a plus, walnut bread is healthier!

The first time I made the walnut bread it was gobbled up within 24 hours. It’s delicious toasted or immediately after slicing. In my first bite I realized this is how I’d like my challah to look and taste — moist and delicious with a golden brown crust that’s hard to stop eating. Even the end pieces are hard to resist.

As I was making my second batch, I started researching how to make jam. During the berry season I stocked up on fruit from the farmer’s market and froze it. I thought strawberry mint jam would be a great, refreshing combination so I combined several different recipes to come up with a jam that is both sweet and tart. I noticed that all the recipes required 1 to 3 cups of sugar. I couldn’t imagine using that much so I reduced it to 6 tbsps and added honey. To balance the sweetness, I added in the zest of a lemon and it’s juice for tartness. It was the perfect combination.

While making jam is pretty easy, preserving it is precise and time consuming. This is how I did it:

  1. Prior to starting the jam, I washed the preserving jars in hot, soapy water. Once they were dry I put the jars and lids in boiling water for 20-25 minutes to sterilize them (an easier alternative is to put the jars and lids face up on a baking sheet — not touching — and put them in a 175 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes). If you are using the boiling method for sanitizing the jars, you need to use a sterile set of tongs (place the tongs in boiling water for a few minutes) to grab the jars and lids out of the water. Allow the jars and lids to dry and cool completely before using.
  2. Once the jam came to room temperature, I filled each glass jar to the top, leaving about 1/4 inch or less (you may want to consider using a funnel). I wiped the edges to make sure there wasn’t any jam outside or on the rim. I affixed the lid and screwed on the top.
  3. I then placed each glass container in a pot with water to cover about 2 inches above the tops. I brought the water to a boil and let it boil for 10-12 minutes. I used sterile tongs to lift the jars out and place them on a rack to dry and cool.
  4. Within 12-24 hours the tops of the lids should make a popping sound and become concave which will signal the jars are sealed. To test this you can unscrew the top and try to pull off the lid. If the lid doesn’t lift off then you did it right! My husband and I were on the couch when we heard the first pop from the kitchen and immediately high-fived each other. It’s amazing how the little things make us happy!

Next time around, cinnamon sugar apple walnut bread and strawberry mint & basil jam…stay tuned!

Walnut Bread

Walnut Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light
- makes two loaves -

1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup boiling water
1 pkg dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
6 tbsps honey
3 tbsps canola oil
20.25 ounces AP flour (about 4 1/2 cups), divide
9 ounces whole-wheat pastry flour (about 2 cups)
2 1/2 tsps salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Cooking spray

1. Toast walnuts. Chop or wait until after pulsing oats in next step and use same food processor. (Cooking Light doesn’t say to toast the walnuts but I think it intensifies the flavors).
2. Place oats in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Combine oats and 1 cup boiling water in medium bowl and let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3.  Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of stand mixer and let stand for 5 minutes.
4.  Add buttermilk to oat mixture, stirring to combine. Stir in honey and oil. Add the oat mixture to the yeast mixture and mix with dough hook until combined.
5.  Weigh 13.5 ounces of AP flour (about 3 cups) and 9 ounces of whole-wheat pastry flour. Combine flours with salt.
6. Add flour mixture to buttermilk mixture. Mix dough on medium speed for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Add remaining 6.75 ounces AP flour 1/4 cup at a time to prevent dough from sticking. Add walnuts and mix at medium speed until just combined.
7.  Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place free from drafts for about an hour or until it’s doubled in size. You can test it by gently pressing two fingers into the dough and if the indentation remains the dough has risen enough.
8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
9. Punch dough down and divide in half. Divide each half into 3 equal portions.  Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), shape each portion into 14-inch ropes. Place ropes lengthwise on baking sheet (with silicone pad or coated with cooking spray). Pinch ends together on one end and braid ropes, pinching the loose ends together to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
10. Spritz top and sides of loaves lightly with water from spray bottle. Bake on center rack of oven for 24-28 minutes until golden brown (I shortened the cooking time from the original recipe as I like the inside to be soft). Remove and cool on wire rack.

Strawberry Mint Jam

2-3 pints of strawberries
6 tbsps sugar
6-8 tbsps honey
Zest from 1 lemon and it’s juice
1/2 – 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, to taste

1. Sterilize glass preserving jars as detailed above. Please review important USDA preserving guidelines by visiting the National Center of Home Food Preservation website.
2. Place strawberries in a heavy pot and turn burner onto medium heat until fruit starts to produce liquid. Mash in pot. Add in sugar, honey, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix, turn down heat to low and add mint.
3. Stir occasionally and watch fruit as it becomes thicker. I left it at a simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. Turn off burner once consistency you like is achieved. Cool and place in sterilized mason jars. Place domed lids and tops on jars and sterilize as detailed above and the preserving website. Once domed lids become concave, store and enjoy for up to a year.

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