Autumn feels good. We are starting to see frost patterns on our deck and I don’t have to take my jacket off when we go hiking because it remains nice and cool. Denver Erin and I spotted a majestic bull elk and a handful of elk cows and young bulls on our way to a trailhead one morning. Hiking through dark pine forests dotted with brilliant sunlit golden aspens on a chilly morning and hearing the not-so-distant piercing call of bull elk bugling from every direction is pretty freaking awesome. There are fewer people on the trails now and the woods carry that slightly fermented odor of decomposing leaves. Most leaf peepers stay in their cars or wander no more than 100 feet past the trailhead and I’m fine with that. Yuki is putting in her hiking miles and earning her Colorado mountain dog status.
on our way to some alpine lakes
pausing for a view over the valley
yuki and neva love their hikes
some nice orange aspens to match neva’s harness
It’s finally bread season around here. I haven’t lived with air conditioning since I left for college almost 30 years ago. As someone who is particularly mindful of the heat (I hate it), I’m quite dialed in to the moods of the weather. The oven and my sourdough starter have been more or less neglected since June until this week. As I type, I have a batch of sourdough autolysing in the kitchen to make sourdough baguettes and a bâtard! I’ve also been looking forward to making this cranberry walnut pepita sourdough bread again. It all begins with some sourdough starter. For those who are new to the sourdough game, ripe sourdough starter means your starter has been fed and allowed time (for me, it’s 8 hours on the counter) to produce some lovely gas bubbles. Use this starter to make the levain. My typical schedule is to mix the levain the night before and let it sit overnight, then start on the dough the next morning. The levain should be bubbly.
the levain: water, bread flour, whole wheat flour, ripe sourdough starter
mix it all together so there is no dry flour
the levain the next morning
In the original recipe, Maurizio used a little rye flour in the dough. I did, too. I think in the future, I’ll probably stick to a combination of just bread flour and whole wheat flour, but it’s in the recipe below with the option of substituting whole wheat for the rye (it’s a small amount). I also halved the recipe to make one 1-pound loaf instead of two loaves and added pepitas (pumpkin seeds).
levain, water, pepitas, dried cranberries, walnuts, whole wheat flour, bread flour, rye flour, salt
Stir the levain into most of the water (some has to be reserved for dissolving the salt later). If the levain is nice and bubbly, it should float (because bubbles). Once the levain has mostly dissolved, mix in the flours. You can use a sturdy mixing spatula, spoon, or the handy dandy dough whisk, but be sure that you don’t have any dry pockets of flour. Cover your dough vessel with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. I use plastic wrap because our humidity is quite low. Let that autolyse (absorb the liquid) for 40 minutes.
dissolve the levain in the water
stir in the flours
mix well then autolyse
After the dough has rested, dissolve the salt in the remaining water. It doesn’t have to be completely dissolved, but the more you dissolve, the easier it distributes throughout the dough. Pour the salt water over the dough and begin pinching and squeezing it into the dough until the whole mess feels rather sticky and uniform. For first timers, this might seem like it will never incorporate, but it does if you stick with it for a couple of minutes. Cover the dough and rest it for 30 minutes.
add the salt water
pinch and squeeze the water into the dough
Once the dough has rested, it’s time to start the turns. One turn is basically four folds of the dough. The first fold involves grabbing the edge of the dough opposite you, pulling it up and over and down to the edge of the dough closest to you. Then you rotate your bowl 90 degrees and do it again until you have folded the dough four times and are back to your starting position. On your first turn, the dough is going to be messy and shaggy. That’s okay. It will tidy up and smooth out with each subsequent turn. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.
pull the edge farthest from you
tuck it down into the edge closest to you
When you complete your second turn of the dough, add the nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. The instructions say to fold them into the dough, but the best way I could manage this was doing another turn. It’s important to be gentle with your handling of the dough. You don’t want to tear it. Don’t fret if the mix-ins clump in one area, because they will get distributed evenly with your later turns.
add the pepitas, walnuts, and dried cranberries
gently fold them into the dough
as the dough turns
After the turns and resting are done, flour the dough and turn it out onto a well-floured surface. To shape for a boule, use a bench scraper to sweep the base of the dough in a counterclockwise direction. This tightens up the surface while forming a neat rounded shape. Let this rest covered for 20 minutes, then flip the dough over and gather the edges to the center, pinching them together. Plop your dough, smooth-side down into a floured banneton or a bowl that has been lined with a well-floured tea towel or kitchen towel. Seal or wrap your banneton or bowl in plastic and refrigerate overnight for a slow cold proof. To shape a bâtard, check out Maurizio’s technique for shaping on Instagram.
shaping the boule
bottoms up in the banneton
seal in plastic and refrigerate
The next morning or day, get your Dutch oven (or ovenproof pot) and oven preheated nice and hot (500°F). I find taking the dough from the refrigerator to the oven with a quick minute to score the dough gives me the best oven spring or rise. If I take the dough out and let it warm up before popping it into the hot Dutch oven, it relaxes and loses its shape and some of its oven spring. If you are expecting the dough to have doubled in size during the overnight proof, you will be disappointed. Sourdough doesn’t seem to rise the way commercial yeast doughs do, but that’s okay because the results kick ass regardless. Don’t forget to score the bread – you can be utilitarian or decorative, but make sure there are some slashes to allow the bread to expand during baking. I cut this one a little too shallow as I was still learning to bake sourdough loaves. These days I score them much deeper (at the very least through the exterior “skin”).
out of the refrigerator
place on parchment paper and score the top
set in the (very) hot dutch oven
baked and cooling
I love this bread. It’s the loaf that I used to eye at the Whole Foods bakery counter and then scoff at the price tag. Now I neither eye nor scoff because I CAN MAKE IT MYSELF. That’s a good feeling. It’s such a wholesome autumn/winter bread, but really, I’d make it all year if I didn’t have such an aversion to baking in summer. As stated above, I would omit the rye flour in the future and go with the bread flour-whole wheat flour combination. I’d also skip the pepitas and maybe fold in more cranberry and walnut (because I always take these things too far). And I’ll probably bake it in bâtards over boules in the future because I like that shape better. The bread is denser than my usual sourdough bread, but has a beautifully chewy crust and tender texture. The nutty, fruity, slightly sour flavor is something I cannot get enough of. My buddy, Mountain Erin, has been experimenting with various mix-ins all summer with her gluten-free sourdough, so now I have some more inspiration for my sourdough adventures as we drift toward ski season!
a damn fine loaf
upon closer inspection, i think we could use more cranberries and walnuts
this, right here
15g ripe sourdough starter*
30g whole wheat flour
30g bread flour
60g water (temperature about 73°F)
400g bread flour
87.5g whole wheat flour
12.5g rye flour (or just use whole wheat flour)
440g water (temperature about 86°F)
75g shelled, toasted walnuts
75g dried cranberries
30g pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted (optional)
*Your ripe starter should be fed (maybe 8 hours prior) and bubbly.
Make the levain the night before: Mix the starter, flours, and water together until there are no dry pockets. Cover and set in a warm part of your kitchen/house overnight or at least 8 hours.
Make the dough: Your levain should be happy and bubbly. In a large bowl, stir the levain into 415 grams of water until dissolved. Mix the bread flour, wheat flour, and rye flour (if not using rye, substitute with equal weight of whole wheat flour) into the diluted levain and stir until no dry flour remains. Cover and allow the mixture to autolyse for 40 minutes.
Stir the salt into the remaining 25 grams of water until the salt has dissolved. Mix the salt water into the dough by squeezing and pinching the dough until the liquid has been completely incorporated and the dough is sticky. Cover and allow the dough to sit and ferment for 30 minutes.
Turn #1: With the bowl of dough in front of you, grab the edge of the dough at the opposite end from you and pull it up and over toward the edge of the dough closest to you, tucking the pulled edge down under the edge closest to you. Turn the bowl by 90 degrees. Repeat three more times until you have pulled and folded the dough a total of four times and return to the original bowl position. This is one turn. Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
Turn #2: Same as turn #1. When you are done with the turn, gently fold the walnuts, cranberries, and pepitas into the dough (I basically did another turn). Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
Turn #3: Same as turn #1. Take care not to tear the dough. Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
Turn #4: Same as turn #1. Take care not to tear the dough. Cover and rest for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Shape the dough: Sprinkle flour on your work surface. Sprinkle flour on your dough. Turn the dough out onto the work surface. To make a boule, slide a bench scraper horizontally under the top edge of your dough and slide it horizontally in a counterclockwise direction (like turning a steering wheel to the left) for about 90 degrees. Repeat from the point where you left off until the dough is neatly rounded and tidy. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Turn the dough over and gather the edges toward the center and pinching them together. Place the dough smooth side down in a well-floured banneton or a bowl lined with a well-floured tea towel. Wrap in plastic and proof overnight in the refrigerator.
Bake the bread: Preheat Dutch oven with lid on in regular oven to 500°F. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and remove from plastic. Invert the dough onto the center of a piece of parchment paper (don’t use wax paper). Score the bread with a bread lame or a sharp knife. Quickly, but carefully, take the Dutch oven out of the oven, remove the lid, lower the dough and parchment into the Dutch oven, cover with the lid, and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, covered. Reduce the oven temperature to 450°F, and bake another 10 minutes, covered. Remove the cover and reduce the heat to 435°F. Bake another 30 minutes (but start watching for burning at 15 minutes). Remove from oven, cool on a cooling rack. Makes 1 1-pound loaf.
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