The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Walnut levain

berrygirl's picture

Walnut levain


I'm new to this forum, so I hope I have posted correctly. I have learned so much from reading other posts and was so happy to see others had similar problems and successes. My current problem is with my sourdough starter and walnut loaves. This is the second time I have tried to make a walnut loaf and both times the dough failed to rise even one inch. I used Maggie Glezer's walnut levain and also Peter Reinhart's blue cheese and walnut sourdough.

I suspect that my starter isn't vigorous enought to rise the dough, but it works fine with regular doughs. The starter never triples or quadruples but it produces satisfactory results, except with the walnut loaves. I loves nuts and cheese and am desperate to make a good sourdough. Any suggestions??

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Hi Berrygirl--

Do you have any other way of assessing the ripeness of your starter?  A firm starter should have domed and receded a slight amount, and a wet one should be starting to pucker on the top--receding also, in other words.  It might also be just happenstance that you can't get these loaves to work--over the summer, I used water out of the fridge to try to keep the temperature of my SDs down, and learned that really cold water kills the yeast. 

I make PR's blue cheese and walnut frequently, but I always add 1 t of instant yeast to the formula.  I think the sourness is overpowering otherwise. 


SulaBlue's picture

Do you have a page reference to that? I see something in a commentary section of BBA about adding up to 40% of total flour weight of additives such as nuts and cheese, and blue cheese and walnut being his favorite - but no actual recipe. Are you making this with a plain white-flour sourdough, wheat, spelt?

amolitor's picture

The recipe in Baking with Julia isn't the right one, as we've established, but I feel like it's in the vicinity.

What I'm working away at not is getting closer to it. I modify the recipe by holding back 1 cup of water and 1 cup of the flour, adding a tablespoon or two of liquid sourdough starter to that, and letting that have a think overnight. For that cup of flour, I use 1/3 cup medium rye, and 2/3 cup KA organic bread flour.

I start the recipe up in the evening, so the first starter and the sponge described above sit out together overnight. Then I make up the second starter in the morning, and 4 hours later pop that starter and the sponge into the fridge for an hour or so.

When I make up dough, I mix the starter, the remaining 1/4 cup of water, the sponge, and the salt together (I do NOT add the salt late, unlike the underlying recipe). Then I use enough additional flour, and a little light kneading to bring the dough together into a fairly moist dough:

When folded into a rectangle about twice as long as it is wide, grab one end and lift the dough up. Give it a bit of a shake. The dough should stretch under its own weight half an inch to an inch, perhaps. It shouldn't flow out of your hands like a liquid, but it should stretch a little, easily.

Then follow the recipe for the rest, handling gently.

I am having a little trouble getting the proofing right, since there's two leavens in there, I am finding the dough a little puzzling. My kitchen is quite hot, as well, so the times indicated are all off. Anyways, I tend to overproof, but this may be because I am fiddling with yeast quantities as well (I hold back some yeast, since my dry yeast is very active, my kitchen is hot, and I have the additional sourdough levain in there).

Bake thoroughly. The crumb should end up a little on the dry side, I think.

The crumb works out pretty close to the Acme Walnut Levain. The sour is there, but kind of not in the right place -- the Acme bread finishes tart, whereas mine is sour from the beginning of your bite to the end. The crust still needs work, but that's probably due to my overproofing problem.

The rye flour may not be necessary, and almost certainly isn't in the Acme bread.