One of my go-to books for Italian breads is Carol Field’s The Italian Baker. I have had her book for probably 30 years and it’s still one of the best books out there for making rustic Italian breads. The recipes are all easily adaptable and if you make bread on any sort of regular basis, you can easily play with them and get outstanding results every time.
Today, I took her Walnut Bread and turned it into a Pistachio Bread.
I love baking bread on hot, humid days. The weather is perfect for proofing bread outdoors – Mother Nature’s Perfect Proofing Box. Since I’ve been day-dreaming about Sicily, I thought a loaf of bread with pistachios was in order. Sicily has some excellent pistachios – grown mostly in the volcanic soil around Mount Etna. They don’t export many, but I can pretend my California nuts are their Sicilian cousins…
The recipe is pretty straightforward. There are no starters – biga – in this bread, so you can get it done start-to-finish in just a couple of hours.
A couple of things to note… When chopping the nuts, I used a food processor and made them fairly fine, but made sure there were still some chunks. Also, after the first rise, you take the dough out of the bowl and form it into a ring without punching it down or kneading it. The dough is also just a tad sticky. Resist the urge to add more flour.
The end result is outstanding!
This is the dough right out of the mixer, ready for the first rise. Note the chunks of pistachio.
It’s then formed into a ring on a cornmeal-sprinkled bread peel and left to rise, again, until doubled.
And here it is right out of the oven.
Half of this is going into the freezer.
It’s actually quite a quick recipe. Most of the time is waiting for it to rise – and on nice, hot, humid days, it does it quite quickly.
adapted from Carol Field’s The Italian Baker
- 2 cups roasted, unsalted pistachios
- 2 1/2 tsp or 1 package active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup cane syrup or honey
- 1 1/3 cups warm water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
Chop them to coarse crumb in a food processor.Stir the yeast and cane syrup or honey into water in a large mixing bowl; let stand until foamy.
Combine the flour, salt and pistachios and stir into the yeast mixture. Mix until the dough looks brownish and coarse. Knead for 8-10 minutes. The dough should be soft, moist and fairly dense, but easy to work, although not elastic.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover tightly and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. WITHOUT PUNCHING IT DOWN OR KNEADING IT, shape it gently into a log and join the end to make a ring.
Place on a cornmeal-dusted bread peel. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Pre-heat the oven with baking stone to 400° F. Slide bread onto stone and bake for 10 minutes; reduce the heat to 350° F and bake 40 minutes longer.
If you don’t have a peel and baking stone, you can place the loaf on a cornmeal-dusted sheet pan, let it rise, and then place the pan in the oven to bake.
But I really do recommend getting a peel and stone. They’re not that expensive and they really do make for a better loaf of bread!