Feta cheese, carrot and walnut bread…a steaming affair!

by Sunita on March 25, 2009

One look outside and it feels as if it’s spring…step outside the house, and the blustery winds make you shiver. Yes, you can see spring in our neck of the woods, but can hardly feel it! Very unusual for our parts! But, at least the sun is shining now and then.

On the kitchen front, I hadn’t baked a yeasted bread for some time now. But, yesterday, I got my hands dirty and baked this delightful feta cheese, carrot and walnut bread.

I am actually quite excited about it. I was left pondering as to how much there is still to learn. I have heard about using steam in the oven for a delightful crust. For the last few times, I remember it only after the bread is out of the oven. But, not this time. I was determined to give it a try, and I was so I pleased I did…the steam from a pan of hot water can do wonders for your bread and give you a crust you can be proud of.

All I did was to place a pan of boiling water at the bottom of the oven and baked the bread in the middle rack. Once the outer layer sets, the gases in the loaf can no longer expand to increase the size of the loaf.Applying the steam to the dough keeps  the outer layer of the dough flexible and moist and helps to achieve the greatest loaf volume. The steam delays the setting of the bread’s crust, and as such, it allows more time to bake and brown. Moreover, the steam in the dough gelatinizes starch on the outside layer, and this produces a crisp crust.  But, in the last few minutes of baking, when the crust is browning, a dry oven is required . This is when the steam can be removed from the oven, and this will help the gelatinous layer to dry out and form a thick and crisp crust.

I removed the pan of water, very carefully, five minutes before the bread was taken out. Now let’s see how I actually went about making the bread…

What’s needed-

1 and 1/2 C mixed grain malthouse bread flour (is a mixture of brown wheat flour, malted wheat flakes, rye flour, malt flour)
1 and1/4 C whole wheat flour (atta)
1 small carrot, grated
100 gms of Greek feta cheese, cut into small pieces
2 T of walnuts
1/2 c of chopped babycorn ( can substitute this with more walnuts)
1 tblap of finely chopped rosemary
2 tsp fast action dried yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 and 1/4 C warm water

How to-

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the flours, yeast, salt and rosemary. Add the carrots, cheese, baby corn and walnuts and mix well. add the olive oil and rub into the mixture with your fingertips.
  2. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and tip in the water. Mix well.
  3. Transfer to a lightly floured board and with lightly floured hands, knead  for about 8-10 minutes to form a supple dough. To avoid being too sticky, sprinkle a little flour ( very little) on the dough while kneading.
  4. Place the dough in a clean and lightly oiled bowl. Brush the top of the dough with a little olive oil. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and leave to rise, preferably in a warm place for about an hour.
  5. Knock down the dough with your knuckles and with lightly floured hands, knead for another 6-8 minutes.
  6. Cut the dough into two pieces. Shape each piece into an oval or round loaf (boule). I did one of each.
  7. Lightly flour a baking tray and place the shaped loaves in them, making sure there is enough space for them to rise and not touch one another. Make cuts across the top with sharp knife or blade. Cover the tray with an oiled plastic wrap and leave to rise for about 40-45 minutes. You can use two trays for this. If you have just the one, and that is not big enough, then work with one piece of dough at a time and keep the other covered in the bowl.
  8. Pre heat the oven at 220 deg C. Boil enough water to fill 1/2 of a pan ( I used an 8inch square baking pan).
  9. Sprinkle a little flour over the loaves. Place the pan with the shaped and risen dough in the centre of the pre heated oven. Fill the other pan with the boiling water and place it at the bottom of the oven (please be careful ). Quickly shut the door of the oven to prevent the steam from escaping.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes and reduce the heat to 200 deg. Spray a little water on the walls of the oven, avoiding the light and the bread. Bake for another 15 minutes and , again, very carefully, remove the pan of hot water. Cover the loaves with foil to prevent over browning.Bake for the last five minutes. If you are baking both the loaves at the same time, rotate the tray in between.
  11. Transfer the loaves to a rack to cool completely before slicing

I am so glad I tried this new technique. The crust was an absolute delight and the crumb was soft and flavourful too. The baby corn was a last minute addition, but do not fret too much over it. As I said earlier, just add the same quantity of the walnuts in addition to the 2 tblspns. We wolfed down one of the loaves last night with some soup. You can also butter them up or make a sandwich too!

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 CurryLeaf March 25, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Wow,Love it Sunita,Thanks for the explanation on the steam and what it does to baking.’Pan de Agua’ or water bread uses the same techinqu.But I did not know what exactly happens -thanks for explaining beautifully.The rolls are healthy and perfectly turned out.


2 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:00 am

You’re most welcome :-)


3 Asha March 25, 2009 at 12:31 pm

YUM!! Feta, my fave cheese as you know, Carrots and Walnuts give it a whole new dimension! :)


4 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:01 am

Maybe we should form the feta fan club ;-) …the bread did come out quite well :-)


5 Happy Cook March 25, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Wow beautiful bread sunita.
I am sure bookmaking this to make, will make in the april when Shyama is having two weeks holiday, then i often have guest, so i can do one evening cheese evening and serve this delicious bread.
Till now i too have not used the steaming method.


6 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:01 am

Do try it HC. R and A are having their break from the 3rd :-)


7 SJ March 25, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Just prefect!


8 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:02 am

Thanks SJ :-)


9 Maya March 25, 2009 at 2:35 pm


Thank you for the extensive post! Will regular wholegrain bread flour work in this recipe?


10 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:20 am

You’re welcome Maya. You can try, although there may be difference of textures…ahouldn’t do too badly .


11 Alka March 25, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Looks wonderful,though i am yet to dirty my hands with baking,but i already had started collecting some great recipes,so that once i get my oven,i can start at the word go,with such recipes helping me out
So it goes without saying that this bread is bookmarked
Until i bake it, let me drool over here ;-)


12 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:21 am

Thask Alka…give it a try…once you start making your own bread, you won’t look at store bought ones :-)


13 bee March 25, 2009 at 5:03 pm

dear sunita,
i too had the steaming dilemma. i want the stean just for the first ten minutes, but it’s dangerous to take the pan of water out at that stage. do this. on the upper rack, place an empty metal pan ot better still something flat like a baking sheet. make sure it’s plain metal, not nonstick.

let it preheat with the oven. when you place the dough inside to bake, spritz the hot pan a few times with water. it generates enough steam for the first few minutes and you don’t have to open the oven door midway. you can even try putting an icecube on it instead of spritzing water.


14 Poornima March 25, 2009 at 5:32 pm

The bread looks awesome and love the flavors in it.


15 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:21 am

Thanks Poornima :-)


16 SuperChef March 25, 2009 at 9:30 pm

wow!! feta, carrots n walnuts!! what a combo!! awesome looking bread!


17 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:21 am

Thank you :-)


18 snooky doodle March 25, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Sunita, this bread is awesome. Yum I ll try the steam next time I make bread :)


19 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:22 am

Thanks…do give it a try :-)


20 Pavithra Kodical March 25, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Love this combo…never tried using feta cheese..Bookmarked. I agree with you regarding steaming.I saw once online and was happy about the outcome :)


21 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:22 am

You should give it a try…we love feta :-)


22 Rupa Sengupta March 26, 2009 at 12:32 am

wow sounds so yummy ! I have never dared to make bread till now, but now I am so motivated to do so !
Is is OK to use any breadflour if not for malthouse ? I am not sure I can get that here.


23 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:24 am

thanks Rupa…as i said to Maya, do give it a try…there wil of course, be differences in textures and taste, but it should do well :-)


24 Soma March 26, 2009 at 12:48 am

Looks Great! Last weekend I used steam to make a no knead bread for the first time!


25 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:24 am

Thanks Soma :-) …adding the steam does have it’s merits :-)


26 A&N March 26, 2009 at 1:04 am

Thanks so much for the steaming tips, Sunita! I did not know why we kept water in the oven. I blindly did it :)

You love Feta, don’t you? :)


27 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:25 am

You’re most welcome..and yes, we do love our feta cheese :-)


28 Bharti March 26, 2009 at 1:48 am

Beautiful bread! The combination of carrots, nuts and feta sound very interesting.


29 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:25 am

Thanks Bharti :-)


30 Nirmala March 26, 2009 at 3:20 am

Carrots and Walnuts are a lovely combo and feta shud be increasing the flavor as such. The loaf looks excellent. Looks like an atisan loaf Sunita!


31 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:27 am

Thank you Nirmala :-)


32 Miri March 26, 2009 at 5:29 am

Thanks for those tips Sunita – the bread looks nice, crusty and “holey” – the flavours seem to be an interesting combination too!



33 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:28 am

You most welcome Miri :-)


34 Madhumathi March 26, 2009 at 8:15 am

Thats a perfect healthy bread :)


35 Sunita March 26, 2009 at 10:29 am

Thanks Madhu…we did like it


36 Hélène March 26, 2009 at 9:48 pm

This is one of the best looking bread I’ve seen in a while.
I gave you an award on my blog.


37 Le @HC March 26, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Bread looks artistic.. No eggs in it is a great news for me. Thanks.


38 sia March 27, 2009 at 12:02 pm

no wonder u r having some hot and steaming affair Suni ;) the bread looks wonderful!

wishing u and ur loved ones a very happy Ugadi :)


39 sandeepa March 27, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Looks lovely Sunita, nice crust


40 A&N March 28, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Hey Sunita, did you not participate in the Daring bakers this time, or is something wrong with the site?


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