Walnut Loaf

This is the second Recipe posted (the first being the Rosemary Garlic Focaccio also on the separate Recipe page and goes over my basic routine/technique).

This loaf was first requested by French customers a while back and has been a hit. I noticed on the Poilane website (famous sourdough artisan bakery in Paris) that they feature a walnut loaf. I don’t know what their formula is of course, but here’s mine:

Spreadsheet Formula:

This is for 10 loaves, so just divide by 10 to get the amounts for 1.

(Note: the 465 figure on the right is the dry weight of the nuts before soaking. Once soaked, they will become 620g weight in the recipe. Ideally…)

There are really only two main areas to go over here, one being the flour mix, the other being the nuts.

Flour Blend: this recipe features a blend of Milanaise white flours and fresh-ground whole grains. The white flour is 50% All-Purpose (which is high protein/high gluten and gives a good rise ) and 50% Sifted 50 (which is softer and more ‘artisany’).  The dark flours are fresh ground in the Nutrimill in the proportions above. Now Hard Red Wheat predominates because it is a strong, bitter grain which compliments the walnuts nicely. The spelt and rye are added in there in small percentage amounts (5%) just to add nuance and character.

The nuts: when I first started making this loaf, it came out purple from the walnut juices. That was sort of interesting and I gather quite a few bakeries serve their walnut loaves this way. But in researching about nutrition in general, and coming to the conclusion to soak things as much as possible in order to reduce phytic acid, promote good enzyme activity and so forth, I started to soak and rinse the walnuts separately before mixing the dough in the evening before Bake Day. And when you do that, you don’t get purple juice any more which I now regard as a sign that I haven’t sufficiently pre-processed the walnuts.

The Procedure:

On Mix Day morning I mix together all ingredients save the starter (which goes in during the evening mix session) and the walnuts which are rinsed 5 times and then set aside to soak.

(If I need 3 kg of starter for the entire bake, I use 1 kg mother starter from the fridge, add 1 kg fresh-ground rye and 1 kg water and it is ready by around 6 pm. Then I grind another 500g of rye, add 500g water, give it two hours to get going and then after I have mixed the doughs, pop it in the fridge and about 2 days later it is ready and will stay ready for 3-10 days in the fridge.)

In the evening, usually between 5:30 & 6:30, the walnuts are rinsed again 5 times then added into the dough along with the now ready starter. Then two stretch & folds, then overnight fermentation. Sometimes in the summer this is one of the loaves that gets fridge-retarded, though I am leaning towards minimalizing mechanical ‘inputs’ process-wise. That said, cooling the dough down boosts oven spring, which is a good thing on all sorts of organoleptic levels. But THAT said, I hesitate to mess around too much with the balance of yeasts & bacteria in the dough, which lowering the temperature does of course. And so on ad infinitum. There are so many such variable considerations that perhaps my latest approach is best, namely: just tell my micro-organisms what I want and leave it up to them to figure it out no matter what I throw at them process-wise!

Bake Day: at the appropriate time (around 9 am or about 4 hours before it’s expected to go in the oven), scale, shape, then proof. Then bake.

I have a new Canon PowerShot SX20 I bought on sale and still am fumbling around with the controls. For reasons I couldn’t figure out the flash wouldn’t work so these pictures didn’t come out very well. The crust is smooth because I use canvas-covered bannettons for this loaf and the fabric makes for a smooth finish without the basket-weave patterns you get from using the straight flour-covered baskets. (The crust colour is nothing like this picture”s.)

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