Going out for breakfast to celebrate special occasions/the completion of something significant is a tradition in my family. Fortunately it didn’t take much to cajole two of my housemates into doing so after I had finished working at the Australian Open. We ventured to a brilliant joint on the other side of Melbourne and were duly rewarded with the three meals we ordered. However (there’s always a however isn’t there?) I was also able to smugly proclaim that whilst their fig, apricot and pistachio loaf was very tasty indeed, it did not quite live up to that made by yours truly. Boastful? Moi? Let’s just say that this Fruit, Seed & Walnut Bread is one of the best things you’ll ever put down your gullet. Modest, I know.
You’re bound to disagree if you’re ideal type of loaf is white and fluffy. That’s okay, no harm done. This bread is dense. Sturdy. Distinctly whole-wheaty. Peppered with nutritious seeds and fruit. Dates, sultanas and cranberries provide bursts of natural sweetness (eating slices without any topping at all is so a thing). But the walnuts and apricots are the real stars. They combine beautifully to produce an absolute flavour sensation. Not only does the bread taste a treat, it’s a downright healthy breakfast, with a barely a skerrick of sugar to be found. Serve toasted or fresh, smeared with butter or a little ricotta and honey. It freezes fantastically and travels a treat – it was one of my breakfast options for early morning tram trips into the Australian Open.
Now, there’s a confession to be made. This loaf isn’t exactly my recipe. It may in fact be from another café – a wee corner-store-style one situated in Albany, Western Australia. I was ecstatic when I was able to procure the recipe from the owner on my last visit ‘home’ (the café has now changed hands, so it was fortuitous timing). I’ve barely tweaked it (why change anything when you’ve got a good thing going?), apart from reducing the quantities, as the original recipe had you making about seven loaves. Two is plenty – one for now and one for the freezer. Life sorted.
Lastly, my friends, yeast does not equate to difficult baking endeavours. This bread is beyond simple to prepare, if a little time consuming. Why, there’s not a scrap of kneading required! Allow about 3 hours from start to finish (this includes two rising periods and the bake time), and make sure that you grab that first slice, hot from the oven and slather it in melty butter. Greediness is perfectly acceptable where this baby is concerned – even the cat couldn’t resist.
Fruit, Seed and Walnut Bread
Makes two 12x22cm loaves.
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup rolled spelt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp instant dried yeast
2 tsp mixed spice
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup pepitas
2 tbsp flaxseeds
2/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup sultanas
2/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup dates, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Approximately 750ml lukewarm water
Grease two 12x22cm loaf tins and line with baking paper. Set aside.
Place all ingredients apart from the water in a large bowl (you need room for the dough to rise). Whisk well to combine. If you see any clumps of apricots/dates, break them apart and ensure that each piece is well coated in flour.
Slowly drizzle in the lukewarm water, using a large, sturdy wooden spoon to incorporate the liquid into the dry mixture. Keep adding the water until the batter will drop off the spoon. You may need more than the 750ml, you may need less. It really depends on your flour. This isn’t like normal bread dough – the consistency should be more like that of a fruitcake.
Cover the bowl with a tea towel or cling film and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about an hour. What I do for a reliable heat source is to preheat the oven to 100C, turn it off, open the door and pop the bowl of dough inside.
Once the dough has doubled, knock it back by punching it down with your knuckles. Divide the dough between the two prepared loaf tins. Be warned, this can be sticky business. Leave to rise again until almost doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 180C (if you have your dough rising in it, remember to remove it before preheating!). Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the crust is firm, slightly golden in colour and the loaf sounds hollow when rapped with your knuckles.
Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Best served toasted. Try it smeared with butter and/or honey, or ricotta/cottage cheese sprinkled with a touch of cinnamon.
Bread can be stored for up to 5 days if kept tightly wrapped in the refrigerator. Cut as needed. It can also be sliced and frozen for up to 2 months.
Source: Adapted from the Vancouver Café, Albany (courtesy of Alison Teede).