Whole Wheat & Walnuts

I have a new breakfast bread – whole wheat sourdough studded with walnuts. Autumn is certainly a time for nuts in the market and whole wheat is a hearty cool weather bread.

It’s been a while since I posted on sourdough. I expect this is because I’ve been in a rut making the same white loaf or baguette week after week. It’s easy to get this way, repetitively churning out what is required for the household like a bread-making automaton.

For a while, I had been living vicariously by reading Facebook posts from the Sourdough Baking Australia & New Zealand group and from various posts about bread on blogs I follow. However, while reading, a niggling thought kept telling me that I SHOULD be doing some more interesting sourdough baking of my own. My procrastinating self replied: only once the heat of the summer left us.

We’re cooler now and baking has become a pleasure rather than a chore in a hot kitchen. Gone, too, is that automaton creature. Back in September, we brought rye and barley flours back from Kastoria in Western Macedonia and I’ve just started using these to make the kinds of breads I used to make back in the UK. I expect this kick to the system has jolted me out of that rut and into sourdough experimentation mode once again. This whole wheat bread with walnuts is one of the results.

Whole Wheat Sourdough with Walnuts
I make my bread dough by feel, generally using more starter than the 3 (flour) – 2 (liquid) – 1 (starter) method. However, if you are an experienced bread baker, simply adjust the ingredients to fit your method, but keep the ratio of white to whole wheat flours 1:1.

Makes 1 loaf.

  • 300g sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 220g white flour
  • 220g stone ground whole wheat flour
  • 20g honey
  • 8g coarse sea salt
  • 125g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 250g water

Make sure that your starter has been refreshed before measuring it out. Place it in a large mixing bowl with all of the other ingredients. Mix until well incorporated. The texture will be soft and slightly sticky, but the dough will pull away from the wall of the bowl. Since different flours have different absorbency properties, you may need add a little more flour or, conversely, a little more water to get the right texture.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and fold and stretch, turning the dough 90 degrees before folding and stretching again. Repeat this process until you see that the gluten strands are beginning to become elastic and the dough is no longer very sticky. It will not take long. Do not over work the dough so that it is tough. Form into a ball.

Clean out your bowl, lightly grease it with a bit of oil, and place the dough in, turning it over so that the dough surface is coated. Cover with clingfilm, or a shower cap (if you have one), and sit it in a warm place until it doubles in volume. Timing on this will vary from place to place, depending on humidity and heat, but it may take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours.

Carefully remove the risen dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Dust with more flour and gently form into a loaf shape. Slash several lines in the dough with a bread lame or with a sharp knife. The cuts allow for control of the expansion of the dough while baking.

There are numerous ways to bake sourdough, but the following is my tried and true method:

Place in a cast iron pot (mine is oval) and cover. Put the pot in a cold oven. Turn on the temperature to 230 degrees C (approx. 450 degrees F) and bake for 25 minutes. This provides a steamy micro climate in the pot. After 25 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake for another 20 minutes. My oven is a fan assisted catering oven and it tends to be very hot, rising to the set temperature quickly. So, you may need to adjust times and temperatures for other types of ovens – or even start with a pre-heated oven.

Remove the bread from the pot by tipping it out. I have found that the flour adhering to the dough when it was shaped prevents the dough from sticking to the pot. Let the loaf cool on a rack. Wrap and refrigerate. The loaf will remain fresh for several days and becomes easy to cut into thin slices for toasting once chilled. Or, the loaf can be frozen for future use.

This whole wheat sourdough with walnuts toasts well and goes brilliantly with a generous slathering of butter and honey. It is also good fresh with cheese and some of that Greek charcuterie I recently posted about.

14 comments

  1. Looks delicious! It’s also walnut season in Northern California. Great idea to use them in bread. We are enjoying cooler weather as well, after a horribly hot summer. Sunday we made a hearty batch of Fasolakia and like you, hope to get out of our summer cooking rut. Tomorrow I’m planning to make my mother’s Irish Stew, perfect for fall weather. A nice hearty whole wheat sourdough bread would be a wonderful accompaniment.
    Cheers,
    Donna

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    • We are just back from a visit to the UK where it was much cooler, so it feels warmer here. However, the weather is changing – more rain, more cloudy skies, sweater weather. Am making soups and the walnut bread goes well with these as well.

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