Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Date and Nut Sourdough Loaves

After baking a couple of naturally leavened fruit loaves recently, I had been tossing around ideas for different fruit combinations which proved to be quite a task for a person who rejects sultanas, raisins and currants in all their cooked forms!

Dates had been calling to me though and while I think pecans would go wonderfully in this bread, walnuts were used instead as that is what we had at the time and I wanted to use them up.

Date and Nut Loaves
makes 2 hefty loaves

500g leaven/starter
700g bread flour
300g wholemeal flour (I used Atta, just for play)
1 tbs golden syrup
1/4 cup soft brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp finely ground sea salt
550g water - dechlorinated
1 cup dates, chopped (2 cups if you're hankering for a date fix)
1 cup nuts, your preference - I used a mixture of walnuts and flaked almonds (2 cups if you want to go nuts! Pun intended)
3 tsp mixed spice

I've been mixing the dough in my old mixmaster which performs the task beautifully - so long as the dough hooks are attached, very important - this is not beater territory! First the starter is added, then the water which is swished around to ensure the starter is well diluted. Then the remaining ingredients are added, minus the salt which is added up to an hour or so after the dough has first been mixed. This delayed addition of the salt helps the dough get a kick start on growing, as salt acts as a yeast inhibitor.

Ingredients are tossed in to the mixmaster bowl. This quantity is about the maximum my humble bowl here will accommodate.

Mixing on low speed, no need to go nuts! (ah, this time pun not intended!)
Once the dough has sat for a spell and the salt has been added, pull it out onto a floured surface and knead briefly, then wash out the bowl, dry and oil it then place the dough back in. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (or a damp tea towel) and leave to sit at room temperature. Time isn't crucial - remember this is a very forgiving dough!

Back to the plastic wrap, I like to use this as it stops any draughts entering the bowl and forming a crust on the dough - I have a couple out on the bench and just keep re-using them over and over until their appearance gets beyond my liking.

Whenever I am walking past the dough, through the kitchen or I remember, it is pulled out and 'folded' gently, from anything to 20 minute to 1 hour intervals. To fold, pat it out gently into a rough rectangle then fold the two outer thirds in on themselves towards the center. A scraper or egg flip can come in handy if the dough is sticking to the bench (try not to add too much flour, just a sprinkle - enough to stop it sticking).

Folding the dough - pat it out gently into a thick, large rectangle...

..then fold the two outer thirds into the center. Repeat another1-2 times until the dough won't fold anymore.
This gentle folding over a generous time frame distributes the air pockets evenly throughout the dough and assists the gluten development.

Having a glass bowl is particularly handy for observing this take place;
After several hours of occasional gentle folds - this dough has formed air pockets to my liking! Do you get excited about air pockets?
Once the dough is at this stage, I shape it and place on trays or in tins. Free form loaves were calling to me with this batch, which were propped up with clean tea-towels (impromptu couches) to stop the dough from flopping about all over the place.

Two to three hours later the loaves can be baked, depending on how fast/slow they are rising (room temperature - hot/cold?).  Preheat the oven to 220c, score the loaves, spray mist lightly with water and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce oven to 200c, rotate loaves if needed and bake for another 20-30 minutes until cooked to your liking.

No photos of shaping as I had to feed the goats, and scoring was done in a mad panic while preparing dinner! Ahh, bottlenecks in the oven - this needs better planning!
Date and Nut loaves
The finished loaves are surprisingly 'hot cross bun-ish' with a date twist. The addition of nuts I also find very appealing.  Eat fresh as is, or toasted...

With butter.

Plenty of butter.

Did I mention the butter?

Let's not skimp on the butter...


  1. Oh for a slice right now toasted and loaded with butter to go with my cup of tea. Mmmmmm

  2. That looks delicious! I just entered the world of by-hand bread making using the No Knead Method and am having LOTS of fun. =) Someday I'll try sourdough.

  3. NEVER skimp on the butter. Butter is good...especially on a fine looking datey goodness loaf like that one.

  4. Eating such a beauty without butter would be sacrilege. I am really impressed by your loaves and how you got them so airy and well-risen. I've never tried making sourdough bread and am a little hesitant to try it because I don't really know how. But maybe I just should anyway :)

    I am sure they taste great! Thanks for allowing me to feast my eyes :)

    This Good Life

  5. Your loaves just get better and better Christine. I am such a lush for fruit bread with lots of spice. I might have to haul the 'yeastie beasties' out of the fridge to try this one. I also answered the camera question on my last post.

  6. Lovely loaves and lovely leafy slashing!

    I keep telling Pete that the best way to deal with the oven bottleneck would be to buy me a second oven.. ;-)

  7. There's hardly anything better than bread hot out of the oven slathered with butter:) Your bread looks wonderful.

  8. Thanks for stopping by and sharing the butter, ladies. :)

    TGL - sourdough is a really easy bread to make, so long as a few guidelines are followed. I found so much conflicting advice online and by far the best resource in my opinion when starting out with sourdough is The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard. Fabulous info in there and the best way to learn how to do it is to jump right in and start baking!

    Thanks, Wendy. As usual, adjust spice and fruit (even leaven) to your own preferences. This was was really good still slightly warm from the oven. :)

    Celia, this was my first attempt at leafy slashing - it's such a guessing game as to how deep to go..ahh! Second oven, hmmm? I could easily go along with this! (we had one in a previous house and it was fab - old but fab, dinner would be up top and dessert or others would be below, it was small but did the job. Of course I didn't appreciate it at the time!).

  9. yummmmmmmm! you definitely make me want to get baking. Chocolate pudding for dinner here tonight, good cold weather comfort food

  10. Great post Christine. As you know I'm just starting out on my sourdough journey and really appreciate proven recipes and instructions that make it look all so easy!

    Your bread looks fantastic!!

  11. Chocolate pudding sounds good, Kirsty! Self-saucing? It's a favourite!

    I'll be over the moon if you manage to glean some useful info here, Lisa. Sourdough is so satisfying to make. :)

    *offers napkin* Thanks, Bobbi ;)

  12. This bread is probably the best tasting and textured sourdough loaf I've made so far. Toasted and buttered, it makes a perfect December breakfast =)


Hi there, it's so nice of you to stop by! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I love hearing what you are up to. Chris x