The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Olive Levain and Hamelman's Dry Prune and Hazelnut Bread

Andreea C's picture
Andreea C

Olive Levain and Hamelman's Dry Prune and Hazelnut Bread

Since my baking got serious lately, meaning that I bake minimum once a week, most of the times two or three times, I thought it might be useful and nice to open a blog here and share with you my successes and especially my problems regarding bread. 

Two months ago I've managed to grow a sourdough culture and since then I just cannot stop baking anymore. I was baking bread (with commercial yeast ) before too, since many years, but I was always improvising with it, I was never counting quantities and the bread was never allowed to rise for more than one hour. They were good these breads, but nothing special compared to the breads I am baking now.

Then one year ago, I discovered Peter Reinhart and I started baking breads that require a long time from mixing the preferment and till the actual baking. I began finding out about shaping and cold fermentation and I also began working with wetter doughs, sticky doughs, which were so unusual for me at the beginning. Since then I tried more times to grow a sourdough culture, but till this May I didn't manage. Maybe the cold, wet weather in Berlin, where I live at the moment, was a hindrance. This last time, I had also discovered Codruta's Romanian blog, so I decided to follow her (very thorough) explanations for building a culture, and thus I was finally succesful.

Anyway, here I am now, madly in love with sourdough breads, wanting to try everything, to learn everything, impatient to become very good at baking bread.

Yesterday I baked two breads. The first one was an olive levain, using Codruta's recipe, who adapted Pip's one. I didn't change or adapt anything, because I wasn't at all used to making breads which have things (other than seeds) inside, so I didn't know what to expect. I just added dried oregano instead of the mix of dried herbs and I increased the quantity of olives from 250 g to 275 g. The bread came out very good, it's smell while in the oven was absolutely intoxicating and I am pretty sure I am gonna want to make this bread over and over again from now on.

The only thing I could object to it was the fact that here and there it was bitter, and that was because the olives were probably not quite right. I am not used to Kalamata olives, I almost never ate them raw, so I don't know exactly know how bitter they should be. I will keep trying brands of Kalamata olives and I hope that I will manage to soon find the ones that are perfect for me. Anyway, all in all, even this occasional bitterness doesn't make this less than a great bread to me.

The other bread that I tried was Hamelman Dried Prune and Hazelnut Bread (P. 185). Since I love dried prunes, I decided to give it a try. I followed the recipe, the only thing that I changed was eliminating the commercial yeast from the formula. Consequently I fermented it longer. (2 hours bulk fermentation at around 25 degrees; 20 minutes shape/preshape; 8 hours in the fridge at around 10-12 degrees; and another 45 minutes at room temperature before baking). 

I cut each prune in 5-6 smaller pieces, nonetheless I encountered the same problem as Codruta, the fruits were not evenly distributed, there were many slices without any prune at all in them. I think that with this quantity of prunes there is no way that they appear in every slice. I am gonna try next time to increase  the quantity of prunes and decrease the hazelnuts one and see if it gets better. 

Also many hazelnuts fell out from the bread while I was slicing it. I don't know if I did something wrong, if the nuts were not the proper ones or if it's normal that this happens. 

I liked this bread too, I ate a couple of slices just like that, trying to get acquainted with this new combination flavors. When you bite from the parts that have also the chunks of prunes inside, you might get tricked and expect it to be a sweet rich bread, but then you go biting again and you realize that this is really a bread, not a sweet. The next thing that came into my mind was the image of some nice cheese accompanying it and a glass of good dry red wine next to it. 

I wish you all a lot of joy with your baking!





dabrownman's picture

Thanks for sharing your recent bakes.  You should be proud of such fine loaves.  Enjoy.

ananda's picture

Hello Andreea,

Welcome to the Fresh Loaf.

What lovely breads to show for your first post.

For the fruit and nut breads, I would recommend you toast the nuts, then chop them, maybe just in half for hazelnuts?   You are right that prunes and hazelnuts are difficult to incorporate into the dough.   Have you considered using this method that I posted on a while ago?   See: It's the second video, about half way down the post.

All good wishes


Andreea C's picture
Andreea C

dabrownman and Andy, thanks for your encouraging words, for making me feel welcome here! 

Also, thanks for the tip Andy, I will definetly use your method next time I try a bread with nuts. I have roasted my hazelnuts, I might try to cut them also though. I will be soon back with an update and share how this method "of incorporating" worked for me. 

All the best to you! 



Janetcook's picture

Welcome Andreea,

I enjoyed reading your post.  We have followed very similar paths.  I started out with Whole Grain Breads too and was soon making sour dough breads just like you have done.   Now I bake daily - almost always with sourdough - and I give a lot of my breads to friends and neighbors when my family can't keep up with what I bake.  :-)

Interesting that you posted the 2 breads you did.  I just baked the Hazelnut Prune loaf and my observation was the same as yours ....just not enough fruit though I did chop up the prunes.  Next time will decrease the nuts to maybe 6% and increase the prunes to  20%.  It was a very nice dough to work with.

I have also just recently baked the Olive Herb bread using Codruta and Pip's formulas.  I ended up putting in less olives because the jar I used was expensive!  People still loved it.  

I look forward to reading more about your baking adventures here.

Take Care,


isand66's picture

Very nice looking loaves.

Welcome aboard TFL and we look forward to reading about your further adventures.


carblicious's picture

Beautiful loaves of bread.

FlourChild's picture

Those are lovely breads!  So helpful to see your notes on the prune-hazelnut bread.  

I also share your love of sourdough, and I think I created my starter about the same time you did. I've made Hamelman's olive levain with a reduced weight of oil-cured olives (because oil weighs less than water) and also found that the olives were occasionally a bit bitter.  This went away on day 2 as the flavors mellowed.  

Andreea C's picture
Andreea C

Thank you all for your very kind welcoming words! It's so nice to be appreciated by people who also bake, it's really so encouraging. Except for Codruta, all the people who tasted and saw my breads till now said that they were great, but the moment that I began explaining and getting enthusiastic about the different characteristics of each of the loaves, I kind of lose them. It's like they are so used to eat inferior breads from the supermarket, that their taste buds cannot catch the differences between various kinds of good (sourdough) breads. It probably will take a while to "educate" my family and friends to be more sensitive to the different tastes. I am definitely not give that up. Till then it's really comforting, to have found this space on TFL, where I can share my love for bread with people who speak the same "bread language".

Janet, tasting the prune bread two days after I made it, I got convinced to bake it again really soon. I find it a really interesting a bread: the nuts, the prunes and the delicate butter flavour combine so nicely to create a really refined flavour. At least this is how I perceive it.

I am gonna change the proportion of nuts to fruits in a similar manner as you suggest. I believe there is no need for so many nuts. They tend to overwhelm the bread with their flavour, in spite of the other great aroma in the bread, which is that of the prunes. I am also gonna definitely try Andy's method for mixing in the fruits and nuts and post here an update. 

Regarding the olive levain, I already bought a new kind of olives, less bitter and I am looking forward to see how they will work next time I bake this bread. Fortunately, I can find in Berlin not so expensive Kalamata olives in the many Turkish shops. They are around 7-10 euros a kilo. In the organic shops and in the more fanzy supermarkets, they can cost up to the double of that. 

FlourChild, I also have the feeling that the bitterness of the olives is not so intense a couple of days since the baking, but I don't know for sure if it's because it faded away, or because I got used with the taste. It seems I cannot stop taking another slice of this bread everytime I have some bussiness in the kitchen. It might be a very dangerous bread for the figure, this olive levain. :) I am gonna try to freeze most of it next time I bake it, and defrost only a bit of it at a time. 

I wish you all fine days and a lot of joy with your baking!