Walnuts have been on my mind ever since I roasted them with rosemary after finding a recipe in the Cooking Up a Storm cookbook this summer. Savory and spicy, with a hint of sweetness, they made the beach house smell like we were having a holiday feast. I had always thought I preferred pecans or almonds, but recent research on the benefits of eating walnuts offers new reasons to love these wrinkly tree seeds.
Walnuts have a greater amount and higher quality of antioxidants than other kinds of nuts, including peanuts, almonds, pecans and pistachios, according to an analysis by University of Scranton (Penn.) professor Joe Vinson that was presented at an American Chemical Society conference in the spring. Research indicates that antioxidants can protect cells against damage from unstable molecules (known as free radicals) that can cause cancer. To maximize the benefits, eat the walnuts raw.
The polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats in walnuts help keep your arteries flexible, allowing them to expand so more blood can to flow to the body, Vinson says. And according to a Penn State University study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts can help lower a person's blood pressure and counter the body's reaction to stress. Nuts are also filling, which is good for people who are trying to watch their weight.
Though California dominates the U.S. walnut market, there are some Virginia-grown walnuts to be found. The Farm to Family Market (2817 Mechanicsville Turnpike, 767-8570) sells "beautiful Virginia black walnuts" from the Shenandoah Valley, co-owner Suzi Miles-Lilly says. "They are very delicious with the perfect hint of sweetness."
Contributed by Gerald Fortin, pastry chef and owner of Lucille's Bakery (719 N. Meadow St., 687-6513). He uses English walnuts for this recipe, which makes three loaves.
- 2 cups of cake flour
- 1 cup of bread flour
- 3 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 cups of powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 cups of sun-dried cranberries (like Craisins)
- 1 cup of walnut pieces
- 1 cup of vanilla yogurt (or another flavor, such as orange or apricot)
- 6 whole eggs
- 1 cup of canola oil
- Zest from 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon of orange extract
- 3 to 4 drops of yellow or orange food coloring (optional)
- 3 aluminum pans, 8 by 4 inches
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then fold the wet ingredients into the dry mix until the batter is smooth. Coat the aluminum pans with nonstick spray, and fill them each half full with the batter. Bake the loaves until they are brown on top and a cake tester comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes. After 3 to 4 minutes, remove the loaves from the pans and allow them to cool to room temperature. To store the bread, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate or freeze until needed. (Note: The bread cuts well when it is still frozen.)