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Red Wine Longan Sourdough - part 2 of French sourdough breads in Japan? ... and "variety breads"?

Shiao-Ping's picture

Red Wine Longan Sourdough - part 2 of French sourdough breads in Japan? ... and "variety breads"?

In my last post, French sourdough breads in Japan? ... and "variety breads"?, I mentioned the Taiwanese chef who won the second place in the 2008  the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris.  The chef who was responsible for the baguette/specialty breads section was Pao-Chun Wu from Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan.  The bread that won him the championship in the Asia qualifying tounament a year before the 2008 Olympics of bread-baking (to use SusanFNP's words at her Wild Yeast blog, as well as the 2008 "Olympics," is a creation incorporating a Taiwanese local dried fruit, longan, which was soaked in red wine and then made into a Pain de Menage style of bread.  (For a picture of this bread please refer to my comment in my last post.)

Longan (see pictures below) is a Southeast Chinese fruit, known for its rich syrupy aroma.  Throughout Chinese history, it is said that the North has ginseng and the South has longan.  The small town, near Kaohsiung, where chef Wu sources the dried longan for his championship boule, has been producing it for hundreds of years.  As soon as longan is harvested, it is roasted in a wood fired oven for six days and nights, during which time the town people take turns to mind the fire at night.    


Longan literally means "dragon's eyes" in Mandarin    

As I have no way of sourcing this dried longan or having access to chef Wu's recipe, I decided to make do with what I have.  I do have a reference point as I had the pleasure of tasting it five months ago when I was back in Taiwan visiting my parents for Chinese New Year.    

I bought a bag of the dried fruit from China town in Brisbane, soaked the fruit in red wine (with a touch of Grand Marnier) and refreshed my starter at the same time last night.  I am finding my starter has been performing much better since I changed its hydration to 75% from 100%.  This  morning I mixed my dough as normal, autolysed, salted it, then mixed again, then added the dried longan and mixed it again.  I then divided it into two portions; the larger portion I added extra toasted walnuts to make it into a boule; the smaller portion I made into two skinny breads.  First fermentation was 3 hours in the balmy wintry outdoor temp of 25C (77F) and proofing was 2 1/2 hours.  It was baked in a very hot oven at 240C (460F) with steam.


Red Wine Longan & Walnut Boule (It's early winter here in Australia but my bougainvilleas are still roaring with blooms.)    


The crumb of Red Wine Longan & Walnut Boule    


Red Wine Longan Sourdough    


The crumb of Red Wine Longan Sourdough    

I am very happy with the results of these breads.  The rich aroma from the longan and red wine is a cracker combination.   There is a delicate balance between the sweet longan and the added salt.  I was a bit shy with the red wine so the crumb color isn't as deep as in my memory.  In fact, a vintage port  may even be a better pair with the longan.  Both breads are delicious.  The crumb is moist and flavorsome and the crust is crispy and aromatic.  To further improve the flavor I could try retarding the dough next time.    

The silly thing is I thought I had my glasses on when I was weighing my ingredients (I was aiming for a final dough hydration of around 69%, counting the red wine) but the final dough was 400g more than I thought!  I do not know how much more flour or water that was actually put in.  My dough felt more like 72% than 69%!  As the flour I used was high gluten at 13.6%, I knew I could push the hydration to give the crumb a better chance of opening up; but I did not want too much hydration as my technique could not handle it.  My daughter asked me to write up the recipe for next time.  Well, it'll have to be a new one then.    



Farine's picture

Shiao-Ping, you are so talented and creative. I wish I could have a taste of this gorgeous bread and can't wait for you to post the recipe, although it may be hard to find dried longan fruit. Maybe in Chinatown? Is there any substitute you might suggest? I love the color of the crumb too. It makes me want to make a bread with red wine myself.


TeaIV's picture

I must agree! your breads are amazing! I've heard of using beer in bread, but not wine. very creative, very beautiful. by the way, what does longan taste like?

David Wilson's picture
David Wilson

Beautiful bread! It looks mouth-watering. I would love to see the recipe.

xaipete's picture

What an interesting idea to use longan in bread, Shiao-Ping. Thanks for posting your bread and giving us information on and pictures of the delicious looking berry.


siuflower's picture

I had a package of dried logan fruit for a few years still in the original package stored in my refrigerator.I found the dried logan fruit is too sweet for me  to eat by itself. After reading your blog and I went quickly to check the fruit. Well it looks the same as I got it and no mold. I hope you will share the recipe so that I can use the dried logan fruit instead of keep it forever in my refrigerator.  If I like the recipe, next month when I visit my family in Hong Kong I will buy more dried logan fruit. Thank you for sharing your baking experience with us what a wonderful story.



SylviaH's picture

Loaves, explaination of the logan fruit and photo's all are Beautiful! ...If I ever taste a logan fruit now I will know what to expect!


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Shiao-Ping.

Thank you for sharing your story of this bread and in such a beautiful manner. The photos are very nice, and the bread is lovely.


althetrainer's picture

They look delicious!  I like fresh Logan but never knew what to do with the dried stuff.  Now you gave me an idea to put them in breads.  what a creative idea!  Thank you very much!

Shiao-Ping's picture

Thank you all for reading my post.  There are so many fabulous home bakers here at TFL, I did not think how I made my bread (I mean the technique side of it) would add anything to the already abundant knowledge bank, and therefore I did not presume to offer my recipe.  It's quite simply really as there are plenty of sourdough recipes incorporating fruits and nuts in the net.  In particular, I referenced SusanFNP's most recent post ofFig and Fennel Bread with Rye Sourdough a few days ago and Sprouted Wheat Sourdough With Fruits and Nuts a year ago, as well as MC's beautiful Prunes & Hazelnuts Bread, to name a few.  I will give my recipe below.  

But, first, where to get these dried longans? Try any Asian grocery stores in your city.  Sometimes you may even find the fresh ones.  The fresh fruit is no more than 1 inch in diameter with a big black seed in the middle (the dragon has big eyes!) about 1/2 - 2/3 the size of lychee, another quintessential Chinese fruit.  The white flesh is aromatically sweet and juicy (whereas lychee can have a sour tang to its light sweetness).   

The dried version of the fruit is almost black in color.  As moisture is taken out, the fruit may be too sweet to be eaten on its own.   The aroma is a bit like what you would get from a rich, black, bush honey.  It is traditionally an add-in in a Chinese-style  sweet glutenous rice congee which is served hot with a dash of fortified rice wine in winter.   As the alcohol hits the piping hot congee, an instant fragrance is released.  You take your first mouthful with this aroma lingering about you.   

The dried longans from Mainland China tend to be poorer in quality than those from Taiwan.  They are not worth the try.  The Taiwanese dried longans were sold out in my local Chinatown store; those I've got for the breads are from Thailand.  These longans normally come tightly packed in a block.  You will need to break them apart.  I ate a few of my Thai longans and they tasted sandy, so I ran boiling water through them to try to sanitise them.  You cannot soak them in hot water or the flavor may be gone. Good organic raisins would be a reasonable substitute if you can't get them, but not sultanas or currents because raisins are just a bit more complex in flavor.  

The combination of red wine with fruits and/or nuts in sourdough breads is not uncommon.  Two weeks ago I used a whole bottle of red wine poaching pears for a dinner dessert.  The left-over red wine reduction found its way into a sourdough I was making a few days later.  Another similar idea would be orange juice reduction.  If you reduce orange juice by 2/3 (ie, only 1/3 left), the result is a syrupy consistency.  You add this together with orange zest into a bread dough you are mixing, the combination will give your bread a light but assertive citrus fragrance.  

The starter I used for the breads is a grape starter from Australian muscat grapes.  It is very active and the bread made from it has a very distinct sour taste.  I am finding 75% hydration works very well for me.  I used to keep my starter at 100% hydration which, coupled with lower gluten flour (eg 11.5%), could not give me the volume that I look for in a bread, no matter how many times I stretched & folded my dough trying to strengthen it.   

Following is how I made my Red Wind Longan sourdough.  This is just a general outline; you will need to adjust hydration for your own flour and humidity in your house.  


The night before bake day (after dinner)

160 g dried longans

10 g Grand Marnier (or rum or red wine)

60 g red wine  

I broke up the longans into small pieces as they were stuck together (much like how raisins are stuck together in a pack).  I poured boiling water over them and quickly tipped the hot water away.  I soaked the longans in the alcohol overnight at room temperature.  Meanwhile, I made sure my starter was very active. 



65 g starter @75% hydration

75 g water

50 g rye flour 

50 g strong white flour (my Australian organic unbleached, unbromated, unmalted flour is 13.6% protein)  

Mix the water into the starter first, then the flours.  I let it sit overnight at room temp, 13 - 20C (56 - 68F).  


On bake day

240 g starter

284 g water

30 g rye flour

70 g whole wheat flour

420g strong white flour

3 g diastatic powder

a very small pinch of vitamin C powder

10 g salt

50 g lightly toasted walnuts  

(final dough hydration 69.5% and final dough weight 1334 g)  


At around 7:30 in the morning, I put the starter and the water into my electric mixer.  I used my chopsticks to mix them really well.  Then, I added the flours and the rest of the ingredients (except salt and walnuts) and turned on my mixer at the lowest speed for 2 minutes.  Then, I let it sit for half an hour.  At the end of that, the salt was added.  I turned on my mixer at the lowest speed again and as the motor was running, I poured all of the longans together with any remaining alcohol into the mixer.  As it turned out, this was too much for my mixer to handle;  I ended up taking the whole thing out and mixed it by hand for no more than 4 - 5 minutes.   

I divided the dough into two pieces with my scissors - 834g for the boule and 500 g for two thin rods.  I put the larger dough back into the machine and added walnuts. I turned on the slowest speed again and mixed for 2 - 3 minutes.  At this point, the mixing was done.  

The two doughs were placed into two separate lightly oiled containers with covers for bulk fermentation on my balcony at around 23 - 25C (73 - 77F) for three hours from 8:30 to 11:30 am.   During this time, I did one stretch & fold at half time.  I was going to do another stretch & fold, but I decided my doughs didn't need it as they had enough strength due to the high gluten.  At the end of the first fermentation, the doughs doubled.  I think the warm temp helped.   

I then pre-shaped the larger dough into a boule, left it at my counter-top for 15 minutes, then shaped it again more tightly.  I placed it on a piece of baking paper and put the whole thing back into the container with a cover.  With the smaller dough, I cut it into two rectangular pieces with my scissors and shaped them into rods.  I put them on a floured cotton and cover with two kitchen towels. This time I left the shaped doughs inside the house to proof at cooler temp, 19C (67F), for 2 1/2 hours.   

At 1 pm, I turned on my oven to 240C (460F).  At 2 pm, I transferred the boule with the baking paper onto a peel.  Sprinkle flour on top of the boule, then scored it.  It was baked with steam.  I had to lower the temp to 210C after 15 minutes, as it was browning too quickly.  It was baked for a further 22 minutes.  When the boule came out of the oven, I turned the oven back up to 240C.  I had to wait for 15 minutes for the temp to go back up.  The two skinny breads were baked together.  As soon as they were loaded into the oven, I turned it down to 210C.  They were baked for 25 minutes.    

Well, that's it.  I hope this helps.



Farine's picture

Shiao-Ping, thank you so much for mentioning Bombance in your post. It is truly an honor, especially because reading your recipe and the method you use to maintain your starter or reuse orange juice into a bread is such a mouth-watering experience. I love the way you manage to integrate your Asian background into what used to be a Western technique (sourdough bread making) to create something that is totally your own, deeply exotic and most certainly, a bottomless source of new flavors. Next time I am in the city, I am going to get some longan and this summer will see my first Asian sourdough bread, thanks to you! I will use an Australian wine to make sure I get as close as possible to what you get. Thank you so much for opening up new channels of exploration and discovery!



Farine's picture

...that I tried the link to Bombance's page on Pain aux pruneaux et aux noisettes and it doesn't work. Try this one.

Shiao-Ping's picture

Hi MC,

Thank you for correcting the link. 


northwestsourdough's picture

Terrific post and wonderful looking bread, Shiao-Ping. You are certainly adventurous in your baking. Thankyou for sharing. Teresa