Various sourdough bread shapes. (Photo: Getty Images)

Sourdough walnut herb bread

Sourdough bread all fancied up and savory. It's irresistible, especially when eaten with good butter.

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This bread is the result of fooling around in the kitchen on a day I wanted a really interesting sourdough bread. I let my imagination go toward an herby, onion flavor. Then I decided that meaty walnuts scattered throughout would make it perfect. And while nothing’s perfect, the bread had the flavor I was looking for, a tender crumb, and good, salty crust. It’s all very delicious. The flavors develop as the bread cools, and it’s better to eat it cold … but who can wait?

Sourdough walnut herb bread

Print
Prep11 hrs
Cook Time25 mins
Yield2 round loaves

Ingredients

For the sponge (8 hours rising time)

  • 1 cup refreshed starter
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cups flour

For the dough: (3 hours rising time)

  • All of the sponge
  • ½ – 1 cup additional flour
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • ½ tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp crumbled oregano
  • 1 large, finely chopped scallion (about 3 tablespoons. You can substitute 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion or 1 large clove minced garlic)
  • A few grinds of black pepper (if shaking pepper out of a jar, use 1/4 teaspoon)

To glaze the loaves

  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of cold water
  • 1 tbsp coarse salt

Instructions

  • Place 1 full cup refreshed, lively starter in a large mixing bowl (and refresh the original starter so you have some for next time).
  • Make a sponge of the cupful of starter, 2 cups of water and 3 cups of flour. Nothing else. Cover it with plastic and let it rise until it's very light and bubbly: around 8 hours. Basically what you’re doing is creating a big batch of new starter. It isn’t dough yet.
  • Stir the sponge down and beat in 1/2 cup additional flour. Add the oil, salt, sugar, thyme, oregano, scallion and pepper. You might need another 1/2 cup of flour, sprinkling along until the dough is just firm enough to manipulate. Knead until the dough springs back, 5-10 minutes. Shape the dough into 2 loaves and place in a parchment-lined baking pan.
  • Cover the loaves with a kitchen towel and put them to rise in a warm place. Rising time varies with the season and the temperature of the room, but it will take 2-3 hours until the dough is light. When you see blisters under the surface skin of the dough, it's time to preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).
  • Brush the loaves with the egg and water mixture. Sprinkle coarse salt all over them. Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick poked into one comes out dry.

Notes

Refresh your starter before making the dough. In other words, remove about half of the starter in your jar, and refresh it. Let it grow light and frothy. How long this takes varies on the kitchen temperature, but count on at least 60-90 minutes.
If your starter has been ignored in the fridge for a long time, it’s good to refresh it twice. That is, refresh it, and once it shows plenty of activity, throw out half again and start over. I hate dumping all that water and flour down the sink, but the result is a healthy, active starter with an aroma that’s only a little sour. Of course you have to figure in the extra time when you refresh twice. Better to refresh your starter routinely so you don’t have to do this.
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