A loaf of quick bread, bright with lemon and smoky with black walnuts, Missouri's much treasured nutmeats, so difficult to harvest.
At Christmas, I jumped on the chance to purchase husked, shelled and picked native Missouri black walnuts. Knowing how difficult it is to extract walnut meat, I wanted to use them in a way that would highlight the special flavor of black walnuts. This recipe is the first keeper, one that pairs black walnuts with lemon.
ALANNA's TIPS Not everyone has access to black walnuts. Not to worry, English walnuts are easy to find and work just as well in this loaf cake. While toasting, black walnuts don’t become as aromatic as pecans, say, or even their English walnut cousins. So be careful they don’t burn while toasting. With a half cup of sugar, this bread works as a barely-sweet morning bread. For an afternoon treat or a sweeter bread, use 3/4 cup of sugar. For the fluffiest lemon zest ever, invest in a fine-grained microplane. The inspiring recipe called for cake flour but all-purpose worked just fine. If you’re short on walnuts or want to create a little texture contrast, add a half cup of golden raisins along with the walnuts.
BLACK WALNUT BREAD
Time to table: 3 hours
Makes 1 loaf
- 1 cup black walnuts, shelled and roughly chopped
- 2 egg whites
- Pinch of table salt
- 1/2 cup butter, warmed to room temperature
- 1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar (see TIPS)
- 2 egg yolks
- Zest and juice (about 4 tablespoons) from 2 lemons
- 1-1/2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup whole milk (skim would be fine)
Set the oven to 350F. Arrange the walnuts in a single layer in a baking dish and place in the oven to toast while the oven preheats, until the walnuts are slightly aromatic.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites and salt with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, then the lemon zest and juice.
In a separate bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Mixing just until combined, mix in 1/3 the flour mixture, half the milk, 1/3 the flour mixture, then the remaining flour and remaining milk.
With a spatula, gently fold in the beaten egg whites and toasted walnuts. Transfer to a well-greased loaf pan and bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and finish cooling.
Slice and serve.
OPTIONAL GLAZE The inspiring recipe calls for finishing the loaf with a lemony glaze after it cools. Just boil 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water and 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan for 2 minutes. Drizzle over the cake.
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