Better Than Panera: Whole-Wheat Blueberry-Walnut Bread
Panera has nice breads, but they're incredibly expensive. Plus, you have to stop at Panera or a grocery store and pick them up. And the loaves may have been sitting around on the shelves for quite a while. Why not make your own bread--fresh, soft, squishy, and as wholesome as you like? No added preservatives or other weird things? Making a loaf of whole-wheat blueberry-walnut bread doesn't take much active time, although the bread will need to rise and bake. The bread is naturally sweetened with dried blueberries, not a lot of added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Crunchy walnuts add texture and interest and toast nicely as the bread bakes. I like to bake the loaf in a casserole dish for a longer, shorter loaf. I also sprinkle cardamom-sugar on top of the loaf before baking it, but it's not critical (okay, it is added sugar, but not much!). Try the bread. It will be better--and less expensive--than Panera's offerings.
Whole-Wheat Blueberry-Walnut Bread -- Makes 1 Loaf
1/2 cup of dried blueberries, plus water to cover
1 cup of water
1 1/2 cups of white whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons of canola oil, plus 1-2 teaspoons
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/4 ounce of active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon of sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon of cardamom (optional)
In a microwave safe cup or bowl, microwave the blueberries and water until very hot (about a minute) and set the blueberries aside to plump up in the water. Microwave the cup of water for a minute or until hot. In a large bowl, combine the hot water and 1 cup of the whole-wheat flour and whisk them well for a couple of minutes. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the oil and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Whisk in the yeast until it dissolves. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for 20-40 minutes until the flour mixture has bubbles and/or has expanded by about half in volume. While you wait, drain the blueberries well (a strainer set over a bowl works nicely). After the flour mixture has bubbled/risen, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of white whole-wheat flour, about a cup of flour, and the salt. In the bowl, knead in the remaining flour gradually. The kneading process should take 5-7 minutes--until the dough becomes soft and pliable. Knead in the drained blueberries and walnuts. Drizzle a teaspoon or two of oil over the dough and turn it in the bowl, so that the dough is greased on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for an hour or two until about doubled. Punch the dough down, shape it into a loaf, and place it in a pan or dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Let the dough rise again in a warm place until about doubled--about an hour. Near the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together 1 tablespoon of sugar and the cardamom. Spray the top of the loaf with nonstick cooking spray and then sprinkle on the sugar mixture. Bake the bread for 30-45 minutes (depending on the pan you use) or until golden brown on top. Let the bread cool completely before slicing it.