When Victor said he was going to make gnocchi for dinner this morning, my first thought – after OH BOY!! – was I should bake a loaf of bread to go along with it.

I grabbed my trusty copy of James Beard’s Beard on Bread and started looking for something fun. It’s easy to find fun recipes in that book. It’s one of the definitive books on bread baking, along with Carol Field’s The Italian Baker. Although I do a lot of bread baking by rote, I do like to keep the ideas and ingredients fresh. It’s rather amazing how the same few ingredients can be put together so many different ways and achieve such vastly-different results. I’ve learned a lot from these two.

Today’s bread was a variation on a walnut and onion bread. Somehow, I didn’t have any walnuts in the house – but I had pistachios. Not having the called-for ingredient in a recipe generally doesn’t stop me.

Pistachio Onion Bread

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm milk
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup onion, finely chopped

Sift flour, salt and sugar into a large bowl.

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm milk. Pour it into the middle of the flour together with the oil and rest of the milk.

Knead well until the dough is firm and blended into a smooth, springy ball (about 10 minutes.) Leave in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours.

Punch down, mix in walnuts and onions. Shape into 4 rounds. Leave on a greased baking sheet for about 45 minutes.

Bake at 400° for 45 minutes or until the loaves are nicely-browned and sound hollow when tapped  on the bottom.

The loaves had a really nice crunchy crust with a really delicate – almost cake-like – crumb. The oil and the milk really made for a tender loaf. I didn’t even slather it with butter – as is my wont with most bread. It didn’t need anything other than the sauce on my plate that I liberally sopped up.

It made 4 loaves. We ate one, gave one to Marie, will eat one tomorrow, and another will go into the freezer.