Saturday, December 26, 2015

Cheery Cherry Poppy Seed Muffins



...perfect for a leisurely winter morning

I love the peaceful quiet of a morning when I'm the first one awake and out of bed. There's a typical pattern to this solitary start: 

  • gaze south down the lake to see if The Mountain is visible, 
  • head downstairs to check out the action at the feeders and enjoy the comings and goings of the early arrivals - busy hummingbirds and songbirds, flickers and downy woodpeckers and two annoying, pesky bandit squirrels,
  • load the coffeepot for RL and settle in to savor my own cup of Irish Breakfast tea,
  • read or knit or just quietly enjoy the colors of a sunrise as it develops over Mercer Island.
This morning was perfect for all of that, but I fired up the oven instead. My stomach was growly and a baking project sounded appealing, something sweet but not too time-consuming or overly complicated. It was early, after all.



What do you bake when you crave a sweet bite in the morning but don't want to mess with the lengthy process of a yeasted dough? An quick bread or coffeecake would do, but this morning Cheery Cherry Poppy Seed Muffins sounded more appealing. These fruit-filled beauties are delicious with the added bonus of speed - they take less than an hour from start to finish.




We have enjoyed various versions of this Tyler Florence recipe; swapping dried cranberries for dried cherries, adding nuts, changing up the choice of citrus, substituting rosemary or lavender for the poppy seeds, etc. Today's version was a winner, a two-thumbs-up hit due to the addition of the frozen cherries. The whole cherries (defrosted frozen sour cherries) gave the muffins a surprising flavor boost and textural pop. 

Better than an alarm clock, the aroma of baking muffins wafted upstairs and roused RL. Fresh coffee and warm muffins created a perfect start to the day. Sweet and moist, the muffins were scrumptious without butter or jam. This recipe is a winner for family breakfasts, impromptu guests, or as part of a brunch menu. Yum!  




Cheery Cherry Poppy Seed Muffins
adapted from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen

makes 12 regular or 9 Texas-sized muffins

2 cups AP flour
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup melted butter
1 Tablespoon poppy Seeds
Finely grated citrus zest (1 orange or 2 lemons, etc.)

1 cup dried cherries (tossed with a bit of flour)
1 cup frozen sour cherries, (defrosted, drained well & tossed with a bit of sugar and flour)optional 
Sugar to sprinkle on top

Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Spray or grease muffin tins (9 Texas-size or 12 regular size cups).
  2. Use a large bowl and mix the dry ingredients until evenly combined.
  3. In a second bowl whisk the milk and eggs together; add the melted butter, poppy seeds and citrus zest.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold together until just combined. 
  5. Add the dried cherries (tossed with flour to avoid sinking to the bottom) and fold to distribute evenly throughout the batter.
  6. Ladle the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling only two-thirds full. Top each muffin with defrosted frozen cherries and press gently into the batter. Dust the surface with a sprinkle of sugar.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or just until a wooden tester comes out clean when inserted uno the center. Be careful not to overtake!
  8. Cool for 10-15 minutes in the muffin tins set on a baking rack. Enjoy warm or store cooled muffins in a covered container for a day or two, but fresh, warm muffins are always best, just sayin'.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Best? Banana Bread



The Best? really? Well, the food department at Epicurious thinks so. The cooks began with a handful of tried-and-true recipes; they tested, tasted, adjusted, retested, ... and kept at it until this revision emerged as the test kitchen favorite, their so-called "frankenrecipe". What?? Weird label, but intriguing nonetheless. I'll admit, I was curious to see what the fuss was all about. Banana bread has been around for eons, what could possibly set this recipe apart?


The Epi kitchen noted four changes that seemingly made all the difference between good banana breads and "The Best".
  1. Sour cream replaced one recipe's mascarpone for a hint of tangy flavor and extra moistness. (Mascarpone is too pricey an ingredient to casually toss into any ordinary quick bread, so I like this sour cream swap out.)
  2. Dark brown sugar, rather than the usual white granulated variety, brought extra richness to the mix.
  3. Four ripe, really ripe bananas guaranteed maximum banana flavor.
  4. Walnuts added some essential nutty crunch to each bite. The tasters were evenly split over adding chocolate bits, but nuts alone made the final cut.

These four elements are not earth-shaking revelations, but together they did produce a tasty loaf. Moist but not soggy in the middle, each bite or slice held together nicely on the fork or in the fingers. The essential banananess was taste forward, in a good way, and brown sugar provided hints of molasses without overpowering the flavor. 

Was this loaf "The Best"? Who cares? My five kitchen tasters agreed that it was damned delicious and the entire loaf disappeared in less than 24 hours. I'll use this recipe again; it was worth messing around with three separate mixing bowls. 





The Best? Banana Bread
recipe from epicurious.com

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature (plus more for pan)

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for pan)

4 medium very ripe bananas (about 13 oz), peeled and mashed

1/4 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup dark brown sugar, (packed)

2 large eggs (room temperature)


1/2 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts

Special equipment:
A 9x5" loaf pan

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x5" loaf pan with butter and dust with flour, tapping out any excess. (The paper wrapper from the cube of butter works well for this.)

Combine banana, sour cream, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed in yet another large bowl until light and fluffy, it will take several minutes. 


Add eggs, one at a time, and beat on medium speed until fully combined, about a minute each. Add the banana mixture and beat until just combined, about 30 seconds.

 Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, beating on low after each addition, scraping down the sides of bowl if necessary, until fully incorporated. Use a spatula to fold in the walnuts. 

Transfer the mixed batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake, rotating halfway through, until the batter is set, the top is a dark golden brown and starting to crack, the sides start to pull away from pan, about 
60–65 minutes. Use a tester inserted into center of bread to check for doneness; bake until it comes out clean. (My oven must run cool, it took 72 minutes.) 

Remove to a wire rack and cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edge of the pan to loosen, then tap pan gently on its side until the loaf releases. Let cool completely on a plate or cutting board before slicing.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In My Kitchen: Nov/Dec 2015


A wish for the season: Let there be peace on earth



The brightly decorated Argosy Christmas Ship led a flotilla of lighted vessels for Seattle's annual Christmas Ship Parade, a northwest tradition for over 60 years. The ships stop at a different cruising destination every evening on Lake Washington or Lake Union, and later in the month move outside through the locks to stop at communities on the saltwater of Puget Sound. Luminarias line the shore and crowds gather around bonfires to listen to the various choirs on board singing Christmas carols. We can view the festivities from our dock, front yard... or (as we did this year) move the party inside the kitchen to keep warm and dry. Laci brought hot chocolate and scrumptious pumpkin cheesecake tarts and Hilary contributed a plate of beautifully decorated Christmas cookies. The amplified music was loud enough to rattle the windows and vibrate my bones! Fa la la la la...
November and December brought a host of welcome visitors to the kitchen. Lively conversations, occasional tall tales and a ton of laughter kept the season active and upbeat. Buckets of late-season dahlias gathered from Pat's garden added riotous color to the room, as did the neon-bright vibrance of a mixed bouquet that Hilary found at Seattle's Pike Place Market.




Vicki's elegant double-spray phalaeonopsis and a dozen long-stemmed red roses from RL provided slightly more restrained notes of blossom joy to the kitchen display. 




Flowers provided feasts for the eyes, but there was plenty of food action as well, just not much of my cooking. I love to feed people (drop by anytime and we'll enjoy a cuppa or some spirits plus a homemade treat), but lately I've been the guest as friends and family bring the treats along with them. Several breakfasts, lunches and an amazing Thanksgiving celebration all arrived as ready-to-go parties. We're so fortunate to have friends and family that are such awesome cooks! Hmmmmm, there might be pre-Christmas pounds piling up already.

RL continues his hunt for The Best pickled herring and kimchi available locally. I politely decline his invitations to join the ongoing taste tests, considering myself a hero good sport for allowing these aromatic items to hang out in the fridge! My one and only attempt at pickling herring (link) squelched my enthusiasm, but I am willing to give homemade kimchi a try... maybe next year. This duo was a recent purchase, judged tasty enough to eat but still not the ultimate he's searching for.



Hilary created intriguing "zoodles" with her new kitchen gadget, a spiralizer. Topped with the latest batch of Minnuto spicy red sauce, these zucchini and yellow squash noodles were a low-carb dinner hit and a surprisingly good swap-out for pasta. 



Oven-roasted vegetables are seasonal favorites - ok, at least one of us loves them. We're increasingly fond of roasted cauliflower, fennel and broccoli as stand-alone items, then as flavor-packed components in mixed-ingredient dishes. Tasty and healthy, what's not to like about veggies? (Are you reading this, RL?)
  

Leftovers often accumulate when there are only two of us dining. Leftover Thanksgiving turkey is prized for cold sandwiches and Kentucky Hot Browns, leftover roasted veggies are terrific on sandwiches, in frittatas and salads, but this week's leftover item of choice was wild rice. It made a perfect base for this colorful, sweet yet savory, crunchy and tangy, Nutty Wild Rice Salad. We rediscovered this forgotten favorite from the Silver Palate cookbook and both wondered why it had been ignored for so long. Tasty enough at lunch, with some added shredded chicken it's a satisfying dinner salad, and later on a remaining cup worked well as filling for a few lettuce wraps. 



This post is linked to Celia's IMK monthly get-together at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Celia has hosted this gathering for five years, building an amazing community of food bloggers who invite you inside their lives and kitchens for a virtual visit each month. Thank you Celia, for your efforts and energy in organizing the party!


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pasta with Mushrooms, Kale and Walnuts



Dinner. Now, please. Something, anything quick. Okay, maybe not anything. Flavor matters.

We had an early evening, low-energy emergency in the kitchen and there was no plan. Aaaargh! A crisis loomed until I opened the fridge and spotted some crimini mushrooms and dinosaur kale. It had been weeks since my surgery, when RL took over cook and butler duties, and I was SO anxious to return to the kitchen.This simple pasta bowl solved the problem and was surprisingly tasty for an unplanned, no-recipe dish I could handle while moving around on crutches.  

This so-simple-you-don't-need-a-recipe combination might have been inspired by something I found on pinterest, or maybe a Facebook page, but I couldn't locate it again. Too many pins and posts, too little organization, but no problem. The improv worked out just fine; quick, easy and flavorful, PLUS I got to play briefly in the kitchen.
  
Pasta with 'Shrooms, Kale and Walnuts

Ingredients:
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
A generous 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, cut or torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
1 teaspoon dried Italian herb mix (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary)
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Short, ridged tube pasta
1/2 cup ricotta, divided
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
Fresh Parmesan, grated or shredded
Honey, for drizzling (optional)

Directions:

Warm a serving platter or bowl in the oven.

Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat; working in batches as necessary, cook mushrooms, onions, Italian herb mix, garlic, salt, and pepper until mushrooms are golden and give up their juices, about 12-15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until just al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. 

Add to the skillet the drained pasta, half of the pasta water, half the ricotta, kale shreds, salt, and pepper and toss to combine. Add more cooking water as needed.

Transfer to the heated serving platter and garnish with remaining ricotta, walnut pieces and Parmesan. Drizzle with honey, if you like.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Red Posole (Pozole Rojo)



Even before opening my eyes I knew, it was going to be one of those days weatherwise. The wind howled outside, rattling the glass and shaking the screens on the sliding glass doors. Rain pelted the windows with a rhythmic rat-a-tat-tat fury. Finally awake and out of bed, I marveled at the three-foot surf racing across the lake to pound against our rock breakwater and roll up onto the small gravel beach. This was a perfect excuse to stay warm and dry inside and make one of our favorite comfort-food soups, pork posole (pozole). 

The recipe may look lengthy, but it is a shortcut version with remarkably little hands-on time for the cook. While the meat simmers low and slow in the oven the kitchen smells heavenly, perfumed with Southwest aromas. The aroma alone recalls fond memories of flavorful bowls of posole in New Mexico during SW road trips. More "authentic traditional" posole recipes call for (1) reconstituting and cooking hominy - field corn boiled with slaked lime and dried  - and (2) building an ancho chile puree from dried peppers  that have been toasted, deseeded, soaked and pureed. Not necessary, in my opinion, this quicker version is plenty tasty without requiring a full day of cooking.   

Posole, likened to a soupy stew, is often a celebratory dish in northern New Mexico, offered red, green or Christmas-style during the holidays.
 New Mexico is the only state with an official question—"Red or green?"—referring to the choice of red or green chile. Combining both red and green chile is often referred to as "Christmas". Wikipedia
We don't need a holiday or special occasion to enjoy posole at home. Red/rojo or green/verde, served with an array of garnishes, this soup can make any meal seem like a celebration. Not fond of pork? Try this delicious Green Posole with Chicken recipe instead. Or get creative and develop your own version.



Red Posole (Pozole Rojo)
adapted from a recipe in Cook's Illustrated, Soups and Stews, 2001
6 servings (depending on bowl size and appetites)

1 (3-pound) bone-in pork shoulder roast (or the equivalent in thick cut steaks or meaty neck bones)
Salt and coarse-ground black pepper
2-3 Tablespoons Canola oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 poblano chiles, deseeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes (low-sodium)
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1+ Tablespoons Chipotle Tabasco or homemade ancho chile slurry
2 15-ounce cans white or yellow hominy, drained and rinsed

Garnish options:
1 lime, cut into wedges
3 radishes, sliced thin
2 green onions, green and white portions, sliced thin
1 avocado, diced
fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
6 jalapeƱo and sweet mini peppers seeded, sliced thin into rounds
Romaine or iceberg lettuce or cabbage shreds
Pepper jack cheese, shredded
Lime-flavored tortilla chips or fresh tortillas, warmed
Hot sauce or homemade ancho chile slurry

Directions:
  1. Place an oven rack in the lower-middle position; heat oven to 300 degrees F. Trim any thick skin and excess chunks of fat from the meat; cut the pork into large pieces of varying sizes along the lines of the muscles. Cut away the bones if using shoulder roast or steaks, but reserve and set aside. Generously season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the onions and poblanos until softened, but not browned, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onion/poblano mix and set aside in a bowl.
  3. Add a single layer of meat and bones to the pot and cook until the pork is no longer pink on the outside surfaces but not crisp and browned. Use a slotted spoon to remove to a bowl and repeat with the remaining meat in several batches as needed.
  4. Return the meat and bones to the pan; add tomatoes and their juices, oregano, cilantro, chicken broth, green Tabasco and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and skim off any ugly gray scum (while it doesn’t affect the taste much, it looks unsavory). Add the softened onion/poblano mix to the pot; cover and cook in the preheated 300 degree F oven until the meat is tender, typically 90-120 minutes.
  5. When the meat is cooked tender enough to shred with two forks, remove the pot from the oven and remove the meat and bones from the pot. Add the drained and rinsed hominy to the broth; cover and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook until hominy heats through and the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.  
  6. While the hominy cooks, use two forks or your fingers to shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Discard the bones and any large strands or chunks of fat. Return the shredded meat to the pot and simmer until heated, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings (usually salt and hot sauce in my kitchen).
  7. Spoon off any excess fat that arises to the top if you are serving the posole immediately. Or refrigerate and remove congealed fat before reheating at a later time.
  8. Ladle the soup into individual warmed bowls and serve immediately with a variety of garnishes.




Saturday, November 7, 2015

Chili Verde Soup



It's always interesting to see what the husband brings home from the grocery store, even when sent with a list. I organize the desired items by department - produce, dairy, meat, frozen, bakery, etc. - but we can still end up with a few surprises. "Sprouts", for example. I had bean sprouts in mind but he came home with Brussels sprouts instead. Oops, I should have been more specific. Quick, revise the dinner menu! "Steaks" were intended to be the beef strip loins that were on sale, but he found a great pork bargain of Buy One, Get Two Free. Suddenly we had a lot of pork shoulder on hand. This impromptu soup was inspired by his recent shopping adventure. Yum, it was welcome comfort food on a stormy Seattle afternoon.


A Peppy Chili Verde Soup

1 Tablespoon canola oil
3 lbs pork shoulder steaks, cut in large chunks
salt and pepper to taste
1 large white onion, sliced into thin wedges
2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled & deseeded
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 Tablespoon smoky paprika
1 can green enchilada sauce
3 cups low sodium chicken broth (more as desired)
2 oranges, cut in half through their middle
2 cans beans (red or black) rinsed & drained
1 lime cut in wedges to serve at table 
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese
 lime tortilla chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Add oil to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven and heat to shimmering over medium-high heat. Add the pork in several batches to avoid crowding and brown on both sides. Remove to a plate or bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Add the onion, pepper slices and garlic to the pot; stir until fragrant; cover and sweat for 5 minutes over medium heat.
Uncover and return meat to the pot. Add the next 6 ingredients, oregano through oranges, to the pot and stir to combine.
Cook in preheated 325 F oven for 2 hours or until meat is tender.  Stir in the beans and return to the oven to heat through (or use the stovetop). Add more broth if you prefer a soupier soup. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Ladle into warmed bowls and serve with lime wedges, shredded cheese and lime tortilla chips (optional)
This soup definitely gains in flavor after resting and reheating.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cup of Joe in a Cookie

aka Expresso Walnut Bites



Try some morning espresso in a cookie instead of in a cup. It worked for me this morning when I had caffeine on my mind after scanning some lovely espresso foam art on Pinterest. It has been a long time between home-brewed espressos. RL uses the drip coffee side daily, but the machine's espresso function hasn't see much action lately. 


My mornings now typically begin with a cup of flavored green tea, Moroccan Mint or Jasmine topping the list of current favorites. Whatever happened to those espresso cravings of the past? Don't know, don't care, for now I'll just nibble on some nutty, buttery, espresso-flavored snowballs.


The cookies aren't fussy, but it is important to bake until the bottoms begin to brown, the cookies appear dry on the outside and they feel fairly firm to the touch. Let them cool a bit before moving to a baking rack, otherwise they will crumble. Maybe that is a bit fussy, but these expresso walnut bites are worth a little extra care.


The cookie interior is a bit light on sugar, but a powdered sugar coating makes up for that, adding an airy sweetness to each bite. Indeed, so airy that you may find yourself wearing a fine dusting of white after you nibble on a few cookies.   


Warm cookies will absorb some of the first coating of powdered sugar as they cool. Give them a second roll in powdered sugar to assure a snowball effect; there is no such thing as too much powdered sugar, right? 



Espresso Walnut Bites
inspired by a recipe at joythebaker

Yields about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
       1 cup all-purpose flour
       1 tablespoon cornstarch
       1/4 teaspoon salt
       1/4 teaspoon baking powder
       2 tablespoons instant expresso coffee (Medaglia D'Oro)
       3 tablespoons light brown sugar, firmly packed
       1 1/2 cups ground or finely chopped walnuts
       1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
       1 scant teaspoon vanilla extract
       a generous splash of almond extract
       1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, for rolling cookies after baking

Directions:
1.   Move an oven rack to the upper middle and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper and set aside. Prepare a flat bowl of powdered sugar.
2.   Sift the dry ingredients together into a medium bowl: flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder and instant espresso powder. Add the finely chopped walnuts and mix to combine.
3.   In a second bowl use a mixer to cream together the butter and brown sugar. Stir in the vanilla and almond extract. 
4.   Add the dry ingredient mixture and use a large wooden spoon to work it into the creamed sugar and butter. Mix the dough until it is a fairly loose, coarse, crumbly meal.
5.   Roll heaping tablespoons of dough between the palms of your hands to form walnut-sized balls. Place an inch or so apart on the prepared baking sheet, the cookies will only spread a little.
6.   Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning the baking sheet front to back halfway through the baking time. Bake until the bottoms barely begin to brown, appear dry on the outside and feel fairly firm to the touch.
7.   Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly and set up a bit, 2 to 3 minutes, before placing in the bowl of powdered sugar. While still warm, roll gently in powdered sugar to generously coat on all surfaces. Place on wire baking rack to cool completely. Roll again in powdered sugar (2nd roll is optional, but why not add a little more fluffy snow to a snowball?)
8.   Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. Freeze for longer storage.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Almost No Knead Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Coconut Porter



This loaf was planned to accompany a pot of French onion soup for a Bread and Soup comfort food kind of meal, note the emphasis on the past tense. But the fresh sourdough boule, so warm and fragrant pulled straight from the oven, was totally irresistible. One little end slice cut off for a quick taste test turned into a series of "just one more bite" nibbles, and you can guess where that led. Oh yes, the intended bread and soup lunch turned into bread-with-butter snacks, then bread snacks with a dipping sauce of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and then RL tried a few bread slices with jam... and so it went, one slice after another. Forget the soup, we were full. No regrets; it was so delicious and onion soup will always taste better on the second day.


I had intended to follow the basic recipe for Sourdough No Knead Bread, until I found one lonely can of Coconut Porter hanging out in the back of the refrigerator. How long had it been there? Quick flashback to a can of Pumpkin Porter and and the 2014 pita bread recipe. "Hmmmm" I thought, "what would the Beeroness do with Coconut Porter?" 


Right, she would sip it and/or cook with it, with great enthusiasm. So I did both. It turns out that I appreciated Maui Brewing Company's can artwork more than I relished the taste of their beer. Coconut? what coconut? Coconut was a total stealth note, so well-hidden that I couldn't discern any coconut flavor at all, not even a hint. That's not a bad thing in a glass of beer, in my opinion, but I had hoped for something faintly tropical. Coconut flavor was also absent in the bread, but this sourdough walnut loaf was damned tasty comfort food without it. And that's a good thing!


Sourdough No Knead Coconut Porter Bread with Walnuts
adapted from several versions of the Lahey original (Cook's Illustrated, NYTimes, Seattle Times, etc.)

3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour, plus additional as needed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup well-fed & proofed sourdough starter 
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (7 ounces) water at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces) coconut porter (beer)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and rough chopped

Whisk flour and salt in large non-reactive bowl. Add the starter, water and beer. Use a rubber spatula or dough scraper to fold the mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature overnight, or for 12 to 18 hours.

Place a 12- to 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside a 10-inch skillet and spray with cooking spray (PAM, etc.). Set aside.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; add the walnuts and fold or knead until the nuts are evenly distributed. Shape into a ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer the dough, seam-side down, to the parchment-lined skillet and lightly spray the surface of the dough with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size. (It will not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2-3 hours in a warm kitchen.)
30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to the next-to-the-lowest position, place 4 to 6-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven with its lid on the rack, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Lightly flour top of dough; use a sharp knife to make one or two 6-inch long, 1/2-inch deep slits along the top of dough. Carefully remove the heated pot and lid from oven. Pick up the dough by lifting the parchment paper overhang and place it into the pot (let any excess parchment hang outside the pot over edge). Cover the pot and place in the oven. 
Bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to bake until the loaf is deep brown in color and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 210 degrees F, about 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove the loaf from pot; transfer to a wire baking rack, remove the parchment and cool to room temperature before slicing.


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