Walnut and Cranberry Sourdough Bread

Gave up on the sourdough bread craze? Well, this recipe will bring you back!


Like many people, I too became obsessed with making sourdough bread back in March and April of 2020. Pandemic bakes, am I right? At one point, I was baking so many loaves I had to start giving them away as my family couldn't get through them quick enough. My first few loaves were pretty sad- fairly flat, not much rise, and flavor that was just *meh*. Word to the wise-- don't try to mill your own flour with a coffee grinder. You're not going to get artisanal flour- you'll just be very frustrated and left needing to by a new coffee grinder (oops.)

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Eventually, I began to create the kind of loaves I would see online-good rise, nice crumb, and a complex sour-but-not-too-sour-flavor. At some point, I began to try different recipes as I was wasting so much flour making a leaven from my starter (as detailed in the Tartine book amongst others) and was disappointed with the texture of some of the recipes I followed online. One day, it occurred to me to try and combine the best elements of recipes I've experimented with (plus some methods I learned along the way).

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This recipe relies on a cold and long fermentation for the bread--in other words, rather than letting it rise over a few hours in a warm environment, the dough rises slowly over several hours. I find this yields a unique flavor and a far more reliably tall loaf than with a quick and warm fermentation. Plus, it allows you to go about your day while the dough does its thing. In terms of timing, I recommend starting your dough at 11:00-12:00pm. The dough will complete it's bulk fermentation over an 8-9 hour window, meaning the final shaping should happen around 8:00-9:00pm. I recommend letting your dough complete its final rise in the fridge overnight, anywhere from 8-12 hours. Therefore, your bread should be ready to bake anywhere between 6:00-9:00am. Bonus: who doesn't want to wake up to the smell of fresh bread?

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Before we can discuss the recipe, however, we need to talk starter- rather than using brewers yeast or other leavens to create rise in your bread, sourdough starter involves mixing flour and water and letting it sit out to ferment, thus forming wild yeasts and lactobacilli . When the wild yeast is "fed" with flour and water, the yeasts emit gasses that results in bubbles, creating the very rise seen in bread. To create your starter, mix about 1/4 of a cup of all-purpose flour with about 1/8 cup of room temperature water in a mason jar and cover with a kitchen towel. Let it sit in a cool dark place for 24 hours. By then, the starter should begin to smell slightly sour. Discard about 60% of the starter and add an additional 1/4 cup of flour and another 1/8 cup of water, mixing to combine and covering with a kitchen towel. Repeat this step about 5-7 more times (around a week to 10 days). Your starter is ready to use when it smells of overripe fruit, the surface is visibly bubbly and it has doubled in size after a few hours of feeding it, and when a small teaspoon of the starter floats when put int0 water.


Some of my recommended materials include:

1) Homemade starter

2) Kitchen scale (cheap ones can be found on amazon or at some grocery stores)

3) Bench scraper (helps with the shaping of the dough)

4) Kitchen towels (used for covering the dough)

5) King Arthur's Flour

6) Lamé or sharp knife (used for scoring the bread, aka cutting slits to release steam)

7) Plastic bowl/cylinder (helpful during the bulk fermentation/rise of the bread as it helps you track the dough's progress)

8) Kitchen thermometer (to help measure the temperature of the water when making your dough)


Onto the recipe!


Walnut and Cranberry Sourdough Bread


Ingredients:

-100 g ripe starter

-450 g all-purpose flour

-50 g whole wheat flour

-12 g salt

-350 + 25 grams 65° water

-1/2 cup roasted walnuts, chopped roughly

-1/2 cup dried cranberries


Method:


1) Add 350 g of the water to a large bowl. Add the starter into the water and mix with your hands to dissolve.


2) Add the flour and once again mix until a shaggy dough forms. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30-45 minutes (known as the “autolyse” period) in a cool dark place- somewhere around 67°F.


3) After the allotted time add the salt and the additional 25g of water and squeeze the dough with your hands to disperse both ingredients. Transfer the dough into a clean bowl (ideally a medium-sized plastic cylinder if you have one), and once again set in a cool and dark place and cover with a kitchen towel for the duration of the bulk fermentation.


4) After 30 minutes, return to the dough and give it 5-4 “folds” by lifting and stretching the outside of the dough and folding it back onto itself. Dip your hand in water after each fold to minimize sticking. At this point the dough might feel a bit sticky and tough, but this is normal.


5) Cover and let the dough sit for an additional 30 minutes, then add the walnuts and the cranberries and again “fold” the dough about 5-8 times to incorporate both ingredients (a bit of muscle power is required here).


6) Repeat step 4 an additional 2-3 times. Towards the end of your folds, the dough should start to feel stretchy, soft and elastic. Let the dough rise for an additional 6 hours (and for a total of about 8-9 hours) or until the bread has nearly doubled in size and appears glossy on the surface.


7) Lightly flour your work surface and scoop your dough onto it. Using your hand and a bench scraper, form the dough into a sphere by rotating it clockwise on your work surface—the bottom of the dough will begin to stick to your counter in a process known as “building tension” and will develop a taut surface. Let the dough rest for about 20 minutes and once more cover with a kitchen towel.


8) Return to your dough and *gently* stretch the corners into a slight rectangle shape. Holding the bottom two corners, stretch the dough towards you and then fold the bottom into the middle of the dough.


9) Similarly stretch the right side of the dough and fold over to the left side in a swaddling like motion. Now grabbing the left side of the dough, stretch and fold over to the right side, pressing the right side down as needed. The dough should resemble a log-like shape at this point.


10) Stretch and pull the top of the dough over to the bottom of the dough, then as best as you can stretch and fold the bottom of the dough back over to the top and roll the dough so that its seam side is down on the countertop.


11) Dust a kitchen towel liberally with flour and use it to line your final rising bowl or banneton. With the bench scraper in your non-dominate hand, rotate the dough on your countertop for about a minute until you can begin to feel some tension form and the dough resembles a fairly round and robust sphere. Scrape and lift the dough from the countertop and place into your bowl seam side up. Place the dough in the fridge and let rise for a final 8-12 hours.


12) Preheat the oven to 500°F. Place a Dutch oven in your oven to warm for about 15-20 minutes. Remove your dough from the fridge as well as the Dutch oven from the oven. With extreme caution, gently flip the dough into the Dutch oven so that its seam side is now facing down.


13) Score the bread by cutting a straight line into the surface that’s about a cm or two deep. Put the top back on the Dutch oven and place in the middle or lower rack of your oven.


14) Immediately reduce the heat of your oven back to 450°F and let the bread cook with the top of the Dutch oven on for about 20-25 minutes. Remove the top and let bake for a remaining 20-25 minutes until the bread is a deep golden-brown color and it sounds hollow when you tap the top.


15) Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let cool on a wire rack or cutting board for about 20-30 minutes. Cut, serve with fresh butter or labneh, and enjoy!

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