The Fresh Loaf

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Brandy soaked blueberry toasted walnut spelt sourdough

Benito's picture

Brandy soaked blueberry toasted walnut spelt sourdough

I’ve been meaning to bake this combination for some time now and glad I finally did.  Toasting the walnuts is always a great way to enhance the walnut flavour but in this loaf I also added toasted walnut oil.  

For one 900 g loaf 78% hydration 

311 g white bread flour.        

67 g whole spelt     

266 g warm water          

7.5 g salt  

77 g levain  


21 g water for mixing later 

12.5 g toasted walnut oil 3% to be added after gluten moderately-fully developed.


total flour 417 g  


62 g dried blueberries 15% pre-soaked in brandy overnight. 

51 g Lightly toasted Walnuts 12% 


A refrigerated saltolyse was used given the higher summer temperatures.  The levain was built overnight and kept in the coolest room in the house on the floor.

Bulk lasted about 5 hours.  Shaping was done around 35–40% rise at a pH of 4.16.  Further bench rest was allowed until the pH reached 4.0 and the dough then had a final cold proof at 3ºC overnight and then baked as usual in a dutch oven overnight.


The crumb is a bit tight I’m sure partially because of the weight of the inclusions and perhaps also because of the microbe inhibiting effects of the brandy?  I’ve never been able to get anything like a relatively open crumb with fruit and nut breads, I think I’d have to reduce the amount of fruit and nut that I add to the bread.  However, I love the density of inclusions in these types of bread and this was a lovely eating bread.  The blueberries are delicious and still have some tenderness to them, while the toasted walnut flavour is definitely enhanced by the addition of the oil.  I think that the crust is a bit thinner and crispier which I believe is because of the walnut oil.  I’ll need to compare to future bakes to know for sure. 



gavinc's picture

I love the flavour combination, exquisite. I agree, all my fruit loaves are more dense but lovely. A beautiful bake!




Benito's picture

Thank you Gavin, the flavour does make the denser crumb totally worth it.  On the other hand, it would be interesting to bake this again with 10% each of the blueberries and walnut to see if it makes any difference at all in the crumb.  One thing I was surprised at was how the pH was much lower than expected at each degree of rise.  I’d never done a loaf using this amount of spelt where I was measuring pH so I’m not sure if it is just that spelt isn’t as good a buffer but I had to call the end of bulk much earlier than expected.


justkeepswimming's picture

As I read, I was wondering about the effect the soaked fruit would have on pH as well. I have never measured dough pH, but do find the whole topic very interesting. 


Benito's picture

Thanks Mary, I’m unsure if the brandy coming out of the fruit into the dough would have an inhibiting effect on the yeast, I would guess that it would but really don’t know for sure.


CalBeachBaker's picture

Hey Benny,

Another great bake and with two of my favorite flavors. Nice job on the scoring too. This is another one to bookmark and try.



Benito's picture

Thanks for your kind words Tony.  I think I’ll be baking this one again too, I love breads loaded with fruit and nuts.


MTloaf's picture

Are my favorite breads for the morning ritual toast. Blueberry jam is my favorite so the fresh blueberries already baked in the bread is an inspiring choice that I may have too try soon. Then I could smear Nutella on it and have the best of both worlds. I wonder how the dried blueberries would work? How was the drained off brandy as a cocktail?
It’s not easy to get an open crumb with additions for obvious reasons but using bread flour helps. I have had some interesting results retarding in bulk with fewer folds. 
Nice bake and once again full marks for creativity 


Benito's picture

Thank you Don.  You picked up an error in my recipe, the blueberries are indeed dried and then soaked in brandy to rehydrate them.  Interesting idea about using fewer folds in bulk.


JonJ's picture

Another creative Benny combination to appreciate, must have tasted amazing.

What was the final aliquot rise when the cold retard was started?

Also, interesting to see that the blueberries are quite close to the crumb and don't have cavities around them which I normally see.

Benito's picture

Thank you Jon, it is a tasty bread especially with the added toastiness from the toasted walnut oil, I highly recommend that for walnut breads.  

The aliquot jar rise was only 50% but the pH had fallen to 4.0 so I started cold retard.  This bread was unusual in that the pH was falling faster than the aliquot jar was rising.  It looks like it needed more fermentation, but at a pH of 4.0 I was concerned that it might overferment during the time it was getting down to the fridge temperature of 3ºC.

The blueberries are better distributed than those cut photos suggest as the other slices have them more evenly throughout the crumb.


jl's picture

It's also bilberry (= European blueberry) season here in Finland and I had some self-dried ones already. Only had to get some walnut oil and brandy. Figured I'd lower the hydration (I haven't baked with white flour in months) and add a bit of maple syrup since all store-bought dried berries are usually sweetened. So maybe 85% AP, 15% whole wheat with 68% hydration. Weighed out some berries to soak and decided to taste some brandy while finishing calculating the formula and roasting the walnuts. Don't remember particularly liking the brandy, but I managed to burn two batches of walnuts before producing one that was actually "lightly roasted". The formula ended up being 85% AP, 15% whole wheat, 68% water, 3% walnut oil, 4% maple syrup, 15% dried bilberries soaked in very cheap French brandy, 12% walnuts (toasted, not burned), 2% salt, 20% pre-fermented flour.

Mixed the dough the next morning. Ended up only using around half of the soaked berries, because it felt like there's too little dough. Bulked till ready and it's actually hard to judge when the dough is mature enough with all those additions. It didn't feel ready after 4h, but after 4,5h I thought it was too airy and the bread would be too sour so I divided and shaped it straight away. Both loaves were small and ugly and weighed only 430g. (I think I may have read too much Cormac McCarthy lately. His use of a single conjuction is super contagious.) The original idea was to make two 500g loaves. I'd miscalculated the amount of flour at some point, but the formula is correct. Proofed while heating the oven (~0,5h). The result (ugly side towards the camera):

The bread is a bit too sour for me. I'm not sure if it's the berries or the dough and I can't taste the maple syrup at all. Next time I'm adding more syrup and walnuts and definitely leaving the brandy out entirely. :D

Benito's picture

The crumb you got is gorgeous so well done on that.  Sorry you found the bread too sour, mine certainly wasn’t bot the extra fermentation was great for the crumb but less so for the sourness.