He would arrive at our door in his well-worn, brown plaid hat, with packages wrapped in white tissue paper and tied with green ribbon tucked under his arm. We knew without being told what was hidden behind that tissue… our favorite gift, Granddad’s nut bread. Much better than the tidy envelopes with checks folded in each one that he would pass out after dinner, Granddad’s nut bread was a gift bursting with so much love it was palpable. The only year that he did not bake was the one when Gram passed right before Christmas. That was the first year I made it…somehow it didn’t taste as good…nothing tasted as good that year. After her passing, he didn’t see the need for the tissue…plastic bags were easy and practical.
As soon as he would walk in the door we would eagerly open one of the packages and place thick slices of nut bread onto a plate to be passed at dinner. What we really looked forward to, though, was having it for breakfast–and we still do! It’s so rich and good that it does not really need the fresh butter that we sometimes slather on top. Its dense and distinctive flavor comes from a generous helping of black walnuts. Now, if you’ve never tasted black walnuts, you’re in for a treat. They are much more earthy and intense than regular English walnuts. They give this bread an Old World European flavor that you might find at a bakery in a tiny hamlet in the Black Woods.
Years ago, we asked him to write the recipe down for us so that we would be able to continue the family tradition of making the nut bread at Christmas. True to his personality, he typed several pages of notes, detailing the history of the bread and how he liked to prepare it. The recipe originally came from his maiden Aunt Anna, from LaCrosse, Wisconsin. He pointed out that you want to use large pieces of only the freshest nuts and, as he said, “the more the merrier!” He told us how to find a supplier for the nuts, even telling us where to look in the Yellow Pages. (He didn’t start to “Google” till years later.)
Jack passed in 2012….. This is the first year that I have been able to bring myself to make his bread and I have decided to share a bit of our heritage with you. I hope that you and your family and friends enjoy it as much as we do.
Wishing all of you a joyous holiday and wonderful New Year!
Old Fashioned Black Walnut Bread Recipe
Yield: 12 slices
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, ten minutes
Old fashioned goodness, with a rich, nutty taste.
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup black walnuts
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Adjust baking rack so that it is in the center of your oven.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour a loaf pan.
In a large bowl whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together till they are well blended. Stir in the nuts, making sure that they are evenly distributed.
In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg.
Slowly, (a bit at a time) add the liquid to the dry ingredients till well mixed.
Pour into pan and put place on the rack in the middle of the oven.
Bake for 1 hour. Test to see if a toothpick comes out clean after an hour, if not, bake a few minutes longer, but do not over bake.
Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. As soon as possible, remove from pan and let cool. Place in a plastic bag and store for a day before serving. Bread will keep for a week in the refrigerator.