I have to say that I'm a sucker for a nice piece of walnut bread topped with a slice of goat cheese and a dribble of honey. Although I have tried a few other formula's for this bread, I always seem to come back to this one from p. 111 of Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf. For those of you that aren't familiar with this book, I highly recommend it. Dan's photography and written word are beautiful. The formula's are clear and concise and the information on how to create a natural leaven is straightforward and supported by step-by-step pictures of the process. Many of you might also find his mixing technique quite interesting. It was The Handmade Loaf which initiated me on the sourdough journey I'm still on today. Thank you Dan for the inspiration.
In my humble opinion, what sets this walnut bread apart from the rest is the addition of a walnut paste made with walnuts, honey, water and a bit of butter. It infuses the bread with a rich walnut flavor. I basically follow the formula as written, except that I've increased the hydration a tad and I leave out the fresh yeast. I also substitute my white levain at 60% hydration which I use for all my naturally-leavened breads.
As with the other sourdough breads I make, I always follow the same hand-mixing procedure. An hour before my levain is ready, I mix the flours and liquid and autolyse for an hour. I then weigh out the corresponding amount of levain on top of the previosuly mixed dough, setting aside the remaining levain to feed while my bread is bulk fermenting. I lift the mixed dough and levain out of the bowl and place it on my working surface. At this point I fold the dough over on itself a couple of times to inclose the levain. After patting out the dough a bit I sprinkle the salt on it. Thanks to the 1-hour autolyse the dough has already begun to develop and all it needs is around 2-4 minutes of streching and folding for it to reach a moderate gluten development. I then bulk ferment for around 2 1/2 hours (depending on the temperature in my flat) with two folds at 50-minute intervals. Finally I divide, rest and shape dough and immediately put it in the refrigerator for a retarded final proofing. Given my schedule, I always do the mixing and bulk fermenting in the afternoon so I can do the final retarded proofing at night. The following morning, once my oven is pre-heated, I take the bread out of the fridge and stick it directly into the oven.
Here's a shot of the the bread cooling:
...and the crumb: