The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Walnut Sourdough

Shiao-Ping's picture

Walnut Sourdough

The best Walnut Sourdough that I've ever had was from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.  Imagine a rustic Country Sourdough studded with whole walnuts and no compromise on the open crumb.  To me a simple sourdough like walnut sourdough is not something that can be easily made well; in fact, I've found any sourdough with add-ins hard to make really well.  Once I find a method that works for me, I am normally eager to try the new method on doughs with add-ins.  This was what happened when I found James MacGuire's hand-mixing technique.  He permanently expelled my fear of hand mixing.  I had used his method on walnuts and mixed dried fruits and quite liked the result at the time but was wondering subsequently if it was possible to achieve a more open crumb.   I know the emphasis on an open crumb may sound pretentious at times but I am just a housewife with free time and mental space.  If there is something I still find room for improvement and I am still interested enough, I'll keep trying.

With this post I have used the method I've recently learned from The Bread Builders about Chad Robertson's sourdough timeline and applied it by hand on my own formula.  One of these days I will write to him to seek for confirmation but for now I will amuse myself with one more bake along the same line as my previous 4 posts. 





My Formula 

  • 716 g starter @ 75% hydration
  • 71 g stone ground organic medium rye flour (10% of final dough flour)
  • 645 g organic unbleached flour (90% of final dough flour)
  • 593 g water
  • 450 g walnuts (40% of total flours, including that from starter), toasted
  • 22 g salt
  • Extra medium rye flour for dusting

 Total dough weight 2.5 kg and total dough hydration 80%




  1. First break up the starter in water in a big bowl by hand
  2. Stir in all the ingredients except walnuts (record the time when this is done)
  3. Autolyse 45 minutes (longer than I normally would, to make sure the flour has a good chance to bind with the water before the disruptive walnuts come in)
  4. Spread half of walnuts on a work bench, dump the sticky dough on top of it, then spread the other half of walnuts over the dough
  5. Start mixing in the walnuts by a series of folding motions with a dough scraper from the side to the centre, then
  6. Place the sticky dough back to the big bowl, and start the first set of stretch and folds by hand or with the plastic scraper
  7. Do another 3 sets of stretch and folds in the next 3 hours or so (note: total bulk fermentation is 4 hours counting from the time ingredients except walnuts are mixed until division/pre-shaping; the ideal dough temperature for me is 18 - 21C / 65 - 70F, if your dough temperature is higher due to warmer weather, shorten fermentation time accordingly)
  8. Divide into three pieces of 830 g each and pre-shape each to a log
  9. Rest for 15 minutes and in the mean time dust linen with medium rye flour
  10. Shape into batards
  11. Proof for 45 minutes (as my room temperature had risen and the dough temperature registered 25 C / 77 F, I put the dough into the refrigerator to start retarding)
  12. Retard for 17 hours (or 8 hours minimum)
  13. Bake the next day with steam at 230 C for 20 minutes and another 20 minutes at 220 C.






With the high hydration and rye flour, the dough fermented quite well earlier on.  There was very noticeable fermentation activity even before the second set of stretch and folds.  With my room temperature rising, the dough was at a risk of being over-fermented.  On hindsight, the bulk fermentation could have been shorter.

Also, I went crazy with walnuts.  Even though it is nice to have such a "deluxe" quantity, there is really more chewing than necessary when you bite into a slice.

The 80% hydration is about right because of the added nuts.  A couple percentages more hydration would be fine too.

Other than the above, this walnut sourdough is quite alright, no where compared to Tartine's though.  What's in your memory is always the best.


The following is updated on 21st Septermber: I found these pictures of very rustic sourdoughs from Tartine Bakery in my files, including their Walnut Sourdough, and would like to share them:


      I believe the one in the front to the right is the Walnut Sourdough


                                   Walnut Sourdough

Their sourdoughs appear to be very high hydration to me.




stefchik's picture

Already printed the recipe but it will have to wait until we come back from our holidays, shame really it looks so appetizing,


Best to you,



Shiao-Ping's picture

many, many tiny little lumps in my starter! 

I made another batch since this post and it wasn't as good (but I cut down the walnuts to 30% of total flours, which was good).  I was wondering why, then I remember seeing tiny little lumps in the dough (I mean the dough wasn't as smooth and silky as it should when I was folding it).  It turned out that these little lumps were the part of flour that wasn't properly hydrated and, as a result, the bread turned out to be dense.

So, when you get a chance to make yours, make sure from the beginning when you refresh your starter, down to when you mix up your dough, all of the flour is properly hydrated and no lumps present, however small.

Have a great holiday.


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Shiao-Ping.

Your walnut levain looks delicious. It has enough bread to hold the nuts together. ;-)

You made a comment suggesting that a dough with nuts calls for higher hydration. I can't recall hearing this before, and I've never adjusted the hydration when I've added nuts to a sourdough. Can you please clarify this?


Shiao-Ping's picture

I did this with 80% hydration after I tried this famula the first time at 74% hydration and was not happy with the result.   74% was 6% higher than my very first Chad Robertson imitation (which was 68%) and it tasted dry to me!  That is the reason why that in this bake I did 80% (another 6% more!). 

I think it needed higher hydration because I roasted my walnuts (a bit more toasted than just lightly) for that richer nutty aroma.  Most recipes would have you lightly roasted your walnuts, and maybe it won't require extra hydraton.  But really, extra water doesn't hurt. 

If you seriously calculate the exact hydration of the total formula (not just the final dough formula) of your sourdough with nuts, I wonder if you would find it is actually higher than normal.

And, anothher point about the walnuts, I think 40% of total flours (not final dough flours) is really a bit too much. There comes to a point where "deluxe" is no longer balance. 

SylviaH's picture

Shiao-Ping, your  Walnut Levain bread is Beautiful as is your whole blog!...It is your book as you once stated!  I need a new supply of ink....your whole blog is a real keeper!


Shiao-Ping's picture

I am very honored you use up ink on my posts.


GabrielLeung1's picture

Would you say the extended autolyse was enough to compensate for the size of the walnuts you added in?

Shiao-Ping's picture

the old judge ordering the lawyers to stop talking "Jibberish" (? spelling)?  Sometimes I felt I was talking Jibberish (especically recently after the lady who has the super "Frankendough" clarified a possible misconception of mine here).


To tell you the truth, I did not know whether or not 45 minutes autolyse was enough at the time; I did it, instead of say 60 minutes, because I was afraid that it might be too long before the dough gets any "kneading" (ie, stretch & folds) and becomes too extensible (the dough had little strength up to that point). 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I read her post about 5 times.  After I had read yours about the same.  It shook me up too.  Interesting about the amounts of gasses being released so soon.   Cool (or is it hot?) is how the process can be manipulated by us.  Sort of a "creator" type experience going on (or is it mad scientist?)

As far as autolyse goes, I never worry too much with sourdough, unless it is above 85°F I figure nothing is really going on in the first hour other than gluten formation.  I only worry with straight doughs sitting a long time.   If I want to add more flour, it is like the dough has formed "built in resistance" to my additions, must be the work of rapid developing yeast with the gluten.   Contrarily sourdoughs seem to soften with time but firm up quickly with folds.

I enjoy looking at your loaves above and my cupboard is well stocked with flour and walnuts lately.  I also have to rework an 80% rye that I forgot to salt.  Lots of bread to bake just before the Harvest Festival.  


Shiao-Ping's picture

I can't imagine Debra Wink's remarks will "shake you up."  You are a bit like... hmmm... how do I put it... there was a TV puppet show when I was growing up in Taiwan, a bit like a Kung-Fu puppet show where there was a handsome prince who always had his handsome face covered up and his name was .... hmmm... how do I translate it ... let's say his name was "mountain hermit with a hidden sword."   That is you.  People like me post breads every other day as if there were real worthy findings whereas you hardly post but really know your stuff!

Well, thanks for your commentry anyway.  After "chewing" on Debra's words only 10 times, now I can go and "chew" on yours.

By the way, you mention rye.  There was a baker in my Artisan III class and she has a winning rye raisin bread.  MC posts her formula here: Lumi Cirstea's Raisin-Rye Formula or the link here:  It might be interesting to work walnuts into this rye raisin bread.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

But it does paint a funny picture.  You have painted a smile on my face!  Can I be a "Mini apt. hermit with a mini bread sword?"

Honestly, I had never thought of rye and raisin before.  Thanks. 

Just received 2 kilos of peeled garlic cloves.  Hmmmm.  Where did I put that mask?


Shiao-Ping's picture

I thought only Chinese use that much garlic!

I am very curious as to what you might use that much garlic for.  I think of  Della Fattoria's Myer Lemon Rosemary Sourdough.  That's where I would use garlic if ever I try to make my own version.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

First I took out a clean jar and filled it with cloves.  Then I boiled water to blanch them 6 minutes.  I'm thinking Russian Garlic Salad.  The last few minutes I threw in a little chopped celery and leaves.  Ice water shock cooled them and added fresh lemon juice, cider vinegar, salt and olive oil.  Now wait a week.  Once blanched or cooked, they taste more nutty than killer garlic.   I think I'll slow roast some in olive oil to stuff some rolls.  

I wish they weren't all shelled, they would keep longer at room temp in the skins... in some kind of nice Autumn arrangement... with gourds and stuff... to spice up the place... while I slowly use 'em up.    Maybe I'll pickle some too... with green olives and oregano.  Then again what about garlic fried rice? 

Plenty of garlic to try out Della's sourdough.  Lemon, Rosemary & Garlic!  Sounds like I need to search for a hardy dry red to match...  cheeses.  What about cheese fondue?     Or this bread served with Swiss Raclette?   That could be interesting, different for sure...  with your walnut sourdough too!  ...Better to look for a white wine or... a rosè!




Shiao-Ping's picture



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Gotta find that mask...