Saturday, September 25, 2021

75% Fruit and Nut Sourdough Bread


Think of a bread so indulgent, so opulent, that it can replace an entire meal.

A cup of Assam and a slice of bread.
A glass of Pinot Noir and a slice of bread.
A flute of bubbly and a slice of bread.

For me, this bread meets the bar. It’s rustic and chewy, and rich with dried bing cherries, raisins, and walnuts; so rich, that it might burst, yet despite the weight of all the goodness it carries (75% in baker’s percentages), the crumb is still open and airy. When you bite into it, the first taste is of the tannins in the walnut skin and their warm earthiness; the unmistakable tang of the sourdough comes next, mixed with the caramel notes from the crunchy crust; and as you pause to take it all in, the explosion of dark sweetness hits you.

This is a bread I savor curled up in a sofa with a good book, and after a long walk on a crisp fall day.

A sip of cider and a slice of bread.

Sourdough bakers who are on a lookout for a new challenge or opportunity to hone their skill are so going to enjoy making this bread. It pushes you to think, to be better, to understand the process, and manipulate parameters knowing exactly why, how, and when. Out of all sourdough breads on my repertoire, this one is probably the most rewarding. Not only because of the wonderful taste, but because of the sense of accomplishment that overtakes me every time that glorious loaf comes out of the oven, and I know that I did it right. 

I bet you know the feeling.

Super Rich Dark Cherry, Raisin, and Walnut Sourdough Bread

If you add up baker’s percentages for nuts, cherries, and walnuts, we are looking at hefty 75% in inclusions. With such a heavy load to carry, this bread has to be “engineered” carefully. Here are several important things to keep in mind:

- You will want to start with strong flour, and this is an opportunity to exercise your highest gluten flour. I like to use King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour (12.7%), King Arthur High Gluten Flour (14.2%), Central Milling Organic High Mountain (13.5%), and Central Milling Electra (13%). The instructions in this post are for King Arthur bread flour, since it's the most widely available in the supermarkets. If you are using other flours from my list, you will have to increase hydration by two or so percent.

- Think carefully about hydration. Strong flour calls for higher hydration. Also, nuts tend to soak up some water, and you will need to compensate. Fruits (unless pre-soaked) will take in some water too. I try to buy fresh and plump cherries and raisins, to avoid presoaking the fruits, because I do not like the texture of presoaked fruits in sourdough bread. If you must presoak, do it one day before making the bread and let the fruits dry in the fridge, to avoid excessive release of water into the dough.

- To build super-strong gluten network you will have to work on the dough more than usual. Otherwise, the bread will collapse and be dense like a brick. Work on the bread from very beginning, as you mix in the levain, as you add salt, and be prepared to add extra round of stretches and folds if needed.

- Figuring out the bulk time for this bread is tricky, for a couple of reasons. The sugars in the fruits will slow the fermentation activity (sugar is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs moisture, leaving less water for the culture to do its job). As a result, you will need to add some time to the bulk fermentation. I usually add 45 to 60 minutes to my standard baking schedule. Calling the end of bulk is another challenge. The queues bakers rely on -- such as volume rise, bubbles, and the jigliness of the dough -- will get muddled due to the amount of inclusions. Once you incorporate fruits and nuts, the volume will increase quite a bit, making it difficult to ballpark actual rise; bubbling may not be as obvious, and the dough will jiggle less. Do not expect the same behavior as you would from a sourdough with no or little inclusions.


Total formula:

244 g (75%) King Arthur organic bread flour
 65 g (20%) Central Milling organic Type 85 malted flour
 16 g (5%)  Barry Farm Foods whole rye flour
280 g (86%) water
 85 g (26%) levain at 100% hydration
  7 g (2%)  kosher salt
 91 g (28%) dried dark cherries (bing cherries)
 59 g (18%) Thompson raisins
 94 g (29%) raw walnuts, cut in quarters

Final hydration: 87.6%

Kitchen temperature: 78°F - 80°F

Dough temperature: 78°F

My location: New York City (low elevation)


My baking schedule:

 7:30 am prepare levain
11:00 am autolyse
12:15 pm add levain
12:50 pm add salt
 1:30 pm 1st letter fold
 2:00 pm 2nd letter fold
 2:30 pm 3rd letter fold
 3:00 pm 4th letter fold
 3:45 pm laminate and add cherries, raisins, and walnuts
 6:15 pm shape
 6:45 pm cold fermentation

-- next day –

 9:30 am bake

#1 Prepare levain (7.30 am)
In a small bowl, mix 20 g ripe starter, 35 g white bread flour, 5 g whole rye flour, and 40 g water. (I usually feed my starter, Elizabeth Bennet, twice a day, at 8 am and 8pm, for three days in a row before making  bread.) Transfer the levain to a clean glass container and cover it loosely with a lid or plastic wrap. Wait until the levain has almost tripled in volume. In my kitchen it takes about 4 to 6 hours at 76°F - 78°F..

#2 Autolyse (11:15 am)
Reserve 15 g of water. In a mixing bowl, combine the flours and the remaining 265 g of water. For this bread I am using a strong white flour (King Arthur) as a base, and Central Milling Type 85 and Barry Farm Foods whole rye for flavor. Mix until no dry bits remain. Cover the bowl and leave for 75 minutes.

#3 Add levain (12:15 pm)
Add the of levain to the autolyse. Using your fingers, pinch in the levain at first, then keep gently stretching and folding the dough over itself for about 5 minutes. From time to time the dough will begin to resist; when it happens pinch it again to relax it, and then continue stretching and folding. This will help build strong dough from the beginning. Gather the dough into a ball, cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

#4 Add salt (12:50 pm)
Sprinkle the salt over the dough and add the remaining water. Pinch in the salt, then apply gentle stretches and folds for about 5 minutes. If the dough resists, pinch it again, and then continue stretching and folding. Gather the dough into a square packet and transfer to a bulk fermentation container. Cover and leave for 30 minutes. I like to use square container with flat bottom for bulk fermentation. It’s easier to organize the dough, and produces more regular crumb compared to the dough that has rested in a bowl.

#5 1st letter fold (1:30 pm)
With wet hands, release the dough from the bottom of the bulk container on all sides. Lightly wet the countertop and with your hand remove any excess water. Release the dough onto the countertop and perform a letter fold. When stretching the dough, go as far as the dough allows you to without too much resistance, but slightly less than what you would do in a very strong lamination. I prefer the letter fold on the counter to stretching and folding because I can control the amount of stretching better. It also allows me to organize the dough neatly. When done, arrange the dough in a square packet at the center of the container, cover, and leave for 30 minutes.

#6 2nd letter fold (2:00 pm)
Perform another letter fold. Cover and leave for 30 minutes.

#7 3rd letter fold (2:30 pm)
Perform another letter fold. Cover and leave for 30 minutes.

#8 4th letter fold (3:00 pm)

Perform another letter fold. Cover and leave for 30 minutes.

#9 Laminate and add cherries, raisins, and walnuts (3:45 pm)
By now the dough should have developed a lot of strength and is ready to take in the heavy additions. While the dough is resting, prepare the fruits and nuts. Make sure that cherries and raisins are fully separated; they tend to stick to one another in supermarket packaging and you want avoid having lumps of fruit in the bread. Cut the walnuts into quarters. Lightly wet the work surface. With wet hands, release the dough from the bottom of the bulk container on all sides and place it onto the work surface. By pulling the dough from the middle and not the sides, stretch it into a large square as much as the dough allows you without tearing it. Reserve two handfuls of fruit-nut mixture (about 20% of the entire mixture). Spread one third of the remaining fruits and nuts over the middle third of the dough, fold over one side, apply the second third of inclusions on top of the folded area, fold over and apply the remaining inclusions. You will end up with a stripe of dough. Now spread half of the reserved mixture over the middle third of the stripe, fold over one side, apply the remaining inclusions on top of the folded area, and complete the fold, resulting in a neat square packet. This way of applying inclusions helps maintain even distribution of ingredients in the final loaf. Place the dough into the container, cover and leave until the end of the bulk.

#10 Shape (6:15 pm)
Lightly flour the work surface and the top of the dough. With wet hands gently release the dough onto the work surface, so that the dusted top is now facing the surface. Shape the dough into a batard and place it into the banneton. Leave the dough in the banneton for 30 minutes.

#11 Cold fermentation (6:45 pm)
Put the banneton into a plastic bag or cover it with plastic wrap, and transfer to the fridge. I keep my fridge at 35°F, to inhibit any further rise of the dough. The total bulk time for this bread is 6 hours and 30 minutes at 78F.

#12 Bake (9:30 am)

One hour before baking, place your baking vessel in the oven (I use Emile Henry cloche) and preheat the oven to 500°F. When ready to bake, remove the banneton from the fridge. Lightly spray the bread with water – this helps develop nice crust and makes scoring easier. Wet the bread lame too, score the bread, and transfer it to the baking surface. Spray a little bit of water around the bread and cover. Bake for 25 minutes, covered. Remove the lid, reduce oven temperature to 435°F and continue to bake for another 20 to 25 minutes longer. Keep an eye on the crust during the last 10 minutes of the bake, if it is getting too dark or fruits on the surface begin to burn, cover the bread lightly with foil. Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least three hours before slicing.