The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Walnut Levain

mdlsf's picture

Walnut Levain

Acme Bakery in Berkeley, CA, makes the best walnut bread I ever tasted. Unfortunately I now live thousands of miles away. Does ANYONE know where I can find the recipe?

qahtan's picture



1 cup Guinness or dark ale, just warm
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 1/2 cups strong white flour
1 1/2 cup strong whole wheat flour, home ground hard wheat kernels
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons yeast
1 cup toasted loosely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup toasted loosely chopped walnuts

Make a dough in food processor with all but walnuts. You may have to add a little more flour or a splash of water to get right texture. Change blade to plastic one, add 1 cup of walnuts and buzz just enough to blend in nuts. Proof, shape, rise, paint top with a little egg white and water mixed well, sprinkle with 1/4 cup walnuts. Bake  35/40 minutes at 380º.

YIELD: 1 loaf


mdlsf's picture

Thanks, but I am looking only for the Acme Bakery recipe, a levain made with an aged starter.




dulke's picture

This bread was apparently made on one episode of the Baking with Julia television series. I believe the series had a cookbook published, and perhaps that cookbook contains the recipe. I do not own it, but perhaps you do, or you can check with your local liabrary.

breadnerd's picture

I have Bakig with Julia, and it has a mixed starter walnut bread, but it's not the ACME recipe.  Glaser's "artisan baking" has a couple of acme recipes, but not a levain.

 BBA mentions the proportion of walnuts to a naturally risen bread, and Bread Alone has a "Paun au levain with walnuts" recipe that I've made and is very good.  


Good luck finding the original!

jlmink's picture

Here's the recipe I've been using:

The night before, combine:

.5oz starter
1.6oz lukewarm water
2.6oz AP flour

knead till smooth, cover & ferment 12 hours

The next morning, pop 1C + 3T walnuts into the toaster oven on medium
Then Mix the following on low with a dough hook 3 minutes:

21.2oz AP flour
1.8oz rye flour
1.8oz whole wheat flour
16oz lukewarm water

Let that rest for 30 minutes, then mix in with the dough hook on medium 4 minutes:

.6oz salt
all of the fermented levain from the night before

Then knead in the toasted and cooled walnuts by hand, put it in a bowl, spray with pam, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 hours

Turn the loaf (fold like a letter along one axis, turn 90 degrees and fold again like a letter), place seam down in a bowl, and let rise 2-3 hours

Round the loaf on a board and cover with plastic, let rest for 15 minutes

take the plastic wrap off, flour the loaf a bit, cut two slashes in the top, and proof for 3 hours. I like to fold up two lengths of parchment paper (lengthwise), and set them on the board under the loaf, to serve as trusses when I put them into the pot to bake (I bake it a la the no-knead bread, in a dutch oven, so I need a method to transport the somewhat floppy loaf to the pot without completely deflating it).

After 2.5 hours, I cut out an oval of parchment paper the size of the inside bottom of my dutch oven (5 quart, cheap at Ikea), then put the dutch oven (without the oval -- it gets brittle if in there with nothing on it) into the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees, with the lid on, for 30 mintues. After 30 minutes, I pull out the dutch oven, take the lid off, place the parchment oval inside, and then use my parchment paper trusses to lift the loaf into the pot, put the lid on, and bake at 500 for 25 minutes, take the lid off and finish the crust for about 5 minutes.


So far it is not Acme, but it's very good; the toasted walnuts are buttery, and the bread really needs nothing on it. I think Acme may use more whole wheat flour than my recipe, and no rye. My flavor, consistency, crust, etc. are good, but the inside of the loaf is white, not that grey-purple that you always get with the walnut levain at acme.

midwest baker's picture
midwest baker

The recipe for "walnut bread" on p 121 of the book "baking with Julia" is from steve sullivan. He is the founder of acme bakery. It must be the same recipe.

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

That's a good walnut bread (the one in Baking w. Julia), but I find Nancy Silverton's to be even better (in Breads from the La Brea Bakery).

She dedicates the book to Steve Sullivan, so I'm sure he had a hand in the recipe.

It's the first bread I made that made me weak in the knees.

The walnut oil (l'huile de noix) is essential.

amolitor's picture

This has already been addressed a few remarks above. It's not the same recipe. It's quite similar, but the Walnut Levain from Acme has a mildly sour bite to it. It's definitely made with a real Levain.


wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

No, actually, it wasn't addressed above.

Nancy's use a starter sponge and is mildly sour in flavor. It's a 3-day process and worth every hour of waiting.

In fact, she's quick to warn that "you have to watch it carefully as it proofs to make sure you put it in the oven as soon as it's ready. If you wait too long, you'll end up with an extremely sour flavor that camouflages the taste of the walnuts." (p. 75)

amolitor's picture

My reply was not to you. It was to the same post you were replying to. The post that asserted that the receipe in Baking with Julia was the right one.

That's the point that has been addressed above.


RonRay's picture

Using Google, I see that the 2 DVD set of "Baking With Julia" references "Decorative Loaves of Bread by Steve Sullivan (master bread baker of Acme Bakery in Berkeley)" as being on Disc 1. That is as close as I could find to a possible aid in your search.

Forget it, I see i was passed while typing... :-)


amolitor's picture

I've got a pretty decent simulacrum of this loaf, now.

I follow the recipe in Baking With Julia EXCEPT that when I make the first starter, I also use a mixture of 1/3 cup rye, 1/3 cup WW, 1/3 cup KA bread flour with a couple tablespoons of liquid starter. This ferments through both of the firm starters, and gets popped into the fridge with the second starter for a couple of hours.

I'm using KA bread flour throughout, doing most of my dough development in the bowl as Joe Ortiz suggests in his book (basically, stir a fair bit while it's still stirrable, then knead very little). The final dough is modestly slack, it'll sag if you grab it at one end and lift it off the board, but it won't flow.

The color of the crumb is all from the walnut skins. I think a slighty more slack dough, or a longer proofing time will help even it out. This loaf is a little underbaked, I feel, as well.







wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

That's a beautiful bread and you got it in the oven just in time.

See that purple tint in the crumb? About 15-20 minutes more and the whole crumb would have been that color or darker and a really sour flavour.

Nice job!

amolitor's picture

Yeah, that purple tint is what I want to have evenly throughout!

What's your take on its source, and why do you say 15-20 minutes more will make that happen? (I assume you mean 15-20 minutes more time in the oven?)

I have my own ideas, but I'd love to hear your thoughts, unpredjudiced by mine ;)


wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

From Nancy Silverton, whose recipe is similar to yours:

This dough can't sit out proofing as long as other sourdough breads because it will fall apart. This means you have to watch carefully as it proofs to make sure you put it in the oven as soon as it's ready. If you wait too long, you'll end up with an extremely sour flavor that camouflages the taste of the walnuts, and a chemical reaction from the walnuts that gives the crumb an unattractive purplish color. My solution was to make the bread using what's known as the sponge method, which allows it to benefit from overnight fermentation before a full dough is made–and before the walnuts are added. 

amolitor's picture

Ahh! Interesting!

I actually WANT the purplish color, since Acme's has it! I wonder if the extremely sour flavor, and the purple color are actually connected, or if they just happen at about the same time?

If so, then this is a problem Acme solves, somehow, since they have this lovely purple bread that's mildly sour and deliciously walnutty! Maybe you have to be really exact about timing or something.

Anyways, the flavor of mine is definitely in the ballpark. I would not expect an exact match, since I'm using a a sourdough "poolish" for flavor, and leavening with baker's yeast (essentially).

Thanks for the pointer!


wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

Highly recommend trying Nancy Silverton's. It the first bread that I made where I actually had to sit down to eat it. I was almost bowled over with how delicious it was. It's not, however, sour or purple. ;D