Lavender, Walnut & Honey Slipper Breads (Ciabatta)

by The Gilded Fork

This recipe makes a soft dough, which is easiest to knead with a heavy-duty electric mixer or in a food processor.

Yields 2 loaves

Ingredients

1½ cups lukewarm water (105° to 110°F)
1 package active dry yeast (2 ½ teaspoons)
2 Tbsp medium-to strong-flavored honey
1 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh lavender buds, or 1½ tsp coarsely chopped dried
1¼ tsp salt
3½ cups unbleached bread flour, plus additional as needed
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preparation

Prepare the dough:
Pour the water into the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let sit for several minutes to dissolve. Add the honey, lavender, salt, and flour and mix on low speed until all the ingredients are incorporated. Knead for about 6 minutes on medium speed. At this point the dough will be very soft and stick to the bottom of the bowl as you knead it, but it should pull away from the sides of the bowl. (If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl, add up to ¼ cup more flour, a little at a time).

To knead the dough in a food processor:Use a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Follow the same procedure as for the electric mixer but process for only 50 to 60 seconds.

Spread the walnuts on a work surface and turn the dough out on top of them. Sprinkle the dough lightly with flour and knead it briefly until the walnuts are evenly incorporated. If the dough sticks to the work surface, use a dough scraper to collect it. [Note: Do not add additional flour.]

Place the dough in a large mixing bowl and cover the plastic wrap and then a clean towel. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1½ hours.

Shape the dough:
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Dust with flour and pat the dough into a 10-inch square. Fold it in half, pat it out a little, then fold it in quarters and pat it again so that you end up with a 6-inch square of dough. Cut the dough in half with a sharp knife.

Dusting with flour as necessary, lift a piece of dough and stretch it out to a 12 x 4-inch oval. It should look like the sole of a very big shoe. Repeat with the other piece of dough.

Transfer the loaves to a parchment-lined baking sheet and dust again with flour. Cover the loaves with a clean towel and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Bake the dough:
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Bake the loaves on the center oven rack until they are dark brown and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Recipe adapted from The Herbfarm Cookbook. Copyright © 2000 Jerry Traunfield. Tested for The Gilded Fork™ by Donna Marie Zotter.

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