The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

An Exploration of Heresy - To be a Fruity, yet-ever-so-foolish, Loaf Maker

BanetheChirpractor's picture

An Exploration of Heresy - To be a Fruity, yet-ever-so-foolish, Loaf Maker

To err in light of bread is not too err at all...

A terse, yet alarmingly pedantic, narrative:

After a brief to a local Le Pain Quotidien, my mother -the conductor of this crazy carbohydrate train- produced and prompted me to taste what I could only describe as the instigator of a newfound obsession: the walnut-raisin sourdough loaf.

For an uninitiated individual, the rapid descent into a vast spectrum of flavors unbeknownst to me was little less than a momentary venture into culinary euphoria; to suddenly be cast into an infinite expanse of gastronomic territories uncharted by my naivety almost too much to handle, too great a burden to bear. The crisp shatter of what I could only presume to be a perfect crust, immediately trailed by a chewy interior marred not by the repugnant sensation I associated with the (not-so-wonderful) Wonder Bread; a symphony of sensations that caused me to ponder my purpose for my 19 years on this planet.

I had developed a shallow interest in baking during my first year in college, but only then did I realize that the use of an oven reached far beyond simple scones or common cookies. What I sought - and currently seek - is a mastery of undertones and overtones, a blend of subtle undertones that enunciate the intricacies of flavor with uncharacteristic brash avowal.

Approximately one year has passed since that introduction to naturally-leavened breads. My fascination with sourdough has surpassed even that of my mother, who, in all her being, never could have foreseen that her culinary comrade would develop such a vested interest in a foodstuff that our household was initially void of. My ventures shifted from mindlessly meandering about to studying baking techniques and venturing to every bakery I could to garner inspiration from every facet imaginable. A short journey to Seattle devolved from seeing the Space Needle to waking up at 5:00 am to walk four and a half miles to reach the opening doors of Columbia City Bakery... two days in a row. A similar story occurred in San Diego, involving a 6-mile morning round trip at 6:30 am to purchase walnut scallion loaves, still warm from the oven, from Bread and Cie on University Avenue. I myself am, at times, intimidated by this ravenous desire to sample scrumptious breads wherever I go, and now, with a functioning whole wheat starter at 100% hydration and an insatiable appetite for a malformed, bronzed-to-burnt, perfect loaf, I present my Frankenstein's monster: A Blueberry Blackberry Sourdough Boule.

My fourth attempt at sourdough, the first being an unpalatable whole-wheat slab made with what I now realize was a sorely underfed starter, the second a most peculiarly moist apricot walnut loaf that resembled a damp sponge in both appearance and aromatic allure, and the third being a flawed reproduction of Robertson's classic Tartine loaf, this loaf is the first that I feel truly resembles the first loaf I tried in the gastronomic sense: a fine, crispy crust with a lightly chewy crumb, and an earthy aroma derivative from a blend of whole wheat, semolina, spelt, and bread flour. The smattering of fresh berries, which I find are quite an infrequent addition to sourdough breads, hearkens back to the blueberry muffins I used to eat at during family outings to a local Souplantation, though their intense sweetness no longer suit my tamer tongue. It was this memory, and memories of my mother raving over these muffins so many years ago, that make it feel suiting that my first successful loaf would be  some distant offspring of a treat the one who introduced me to sourdough once loved so dearly.

Apologies for the extensive tangent. Perhaps my excitement over my first acceptable sourdough is radiating a tad too strongly and irradiating my writing habits.

The crumb on this bread is fairly underwhelming; as my first loaf with actual rise, however, I am excited to see where I can proceed from here with further experimentation with long autolyzes and gluten development.

One note I should make, however, is that the heat radiating from the dutch oven I used was only paralleled by what I can assume to be its burning hatred for my unprofessional practices. The reason I have no full-loaf photos is because the entirety of the bottom of one of the loaves adhered to the dutch oven, and it took a fair bit of coaxing (tough love from a now deceased and dearly missed wooden spoon) to remove. I can only assume it was the fruit juices that burnt into the oven as it was baking that cause this to occur. This, however, did not hinder me from scraping out the bottom half of the loaf and consuming the crispiest crust I have ever encountered.

Another note: The bitter tones of burnt bread compliment blueberries surprisingly well.

Though I wrote down my process, I can't say with certainty that it was recorded with the greatest integrity.

My measurements, however, are as follows:

150g 100% Hydration Whole Wheat Leaven

630g Water, warm

600g Whole Wheat Flour (King Arthur)

35g Semolina (Bob's Red Mill)

35g Spelt Flour (Bob's Red Mill)

80g Bread Flour (Lehi's)

15g Salt

50g Blackberries

75g Blueberries

Thank you all for the wonderful information frequently shared amongst the annals of the forums. As a long time lurker and a first time poster, I can say with certainty that the advice proved invaluable in this endeavor.

Best regards,



clazar123's picture

Bread fever! It is a variant of gold fever but much worse. Your particular variant also includes whole grain and fruit! And infected by your own mother! This affliction is so contagious I was infected by my grandmothers memory! Turns out she was a carrier. She hid her infection well but why else would she make 10+ loaves per week during the depression? Just for food for the 8 kids?

Your particular variant is susceptible to extending to aromatics such as coriander, chives, chive flowers and even to nuts! Oh, boy-wait till it includes pannetone!

Welcome to the community of raving breadophiles. You are in great company!

BanetheChirpractor's picture

Thank you for your kind words! The most recent diagnosis has proven that the affliction is chronic... and growing.

Your grandmother sounds like an incredible baker. My genuine kudos to not only her skills but her persistence in supporting those around her in one of the most fundamental ways during such difficult times. Good bread, as I've discovered, is truly an extension of the heart by formation of the hands.

In concerns to your non-stick method, I was considering flouring the bottom of my dutch oven, but I was concerned about burning the flour. The oil method you described sounds like the optimal solution, perhaps dusted with some unprocessed wheat bran for additional textural variety and aroma.



clazar123's picture

The loaf is beautiful with a beautiful crumb. Too bad about sticking but I'm glad you persisted and got what you could-it looks delicious!


It looks like the pan used was the extra large dutch oven and it would make a HUGE loaf if you tried to "fill" it with more dough. Keep an eye out for a smaller DO at thrift stores.  Shaping and slashing may also be in your future. Both can help achieve greater height.

Non-stick Formula

Some people buy it in a can, I make my own. I mix vegetable oil in a small jar with a little liquid lecithin. They don't mix well but it works well enough enough. I use a brush to brush it on any pan. I've never had anything  stick again. Of course, a dusting of cornmeal or crushed grains of any kind can help after the brushing. I have found that rolled oats works well but burns easily on high temp bakes.

The world of autolyze, retards and soakers await you! WW benefits greatly from allowing the branny bits time to absorb the water so it doesn't rob the crumb after the bake and cause it to crumble. WW can even be pillowy. Always mix with enough hydration, time and kneading to get a good windowpane. when we knead (by hand or mechanically) we are not really developing the gluten as much as developing the gelatinous starch that forms the  bubble walls in the crumb.

When you get into autolyze and retards and windowpane, try dropping the bread flour or vital wheat gluten from any recies. Your bread will be less chewy. VWG is used to make a bread "loftier" but there is a point of diminishing return in regards to the chewiness of the bread.

Have delicious fun!

nmygarden's picture

So glad to have you with us! Your blog is as delicious as the bread you made. We look forward to hearing more from you!


MonkeyDaddy's picture

no being your profession, you have a promising career as an author.  Your writing is phenomenal and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post.  Looking forward to more!


isand66's picture

This bread baking thing is an addictive thing.

You may want to stick to one formula and method and bake it several times until you master it.  

To prevent the stuck bottom I suggest making a sling out of parchment paper and put the bread in the paper and then in the pot.

Happy Baking.