Sourdough Rye with Walnuts

I really like walnuts. Toasted, freshly pried from the shell, or just sinfully by the handful, I’ll take them anyway I can get them. For a while now I’ve been trying to create a walnut sourdough that appropriately showcases these spectacular nuts. The autumn weather, I feel, is appropriate for these heartier, nut-studded loaves. At times, I have felt a bit like the squirrels that I’ve seen scurrying about for the past month, hoarding their stores of acorns for the winter with ever present thoughts of cold winter days.


There were many variations on this theme before I settled on the recipe that follows. I tried whole wheat flour, just plain white flour, a combination of sourdough and yeast, various quantities of walnuts, different amounts of hydration … the list could go on. This recipe, however, finally satisfied me. I got the idea of trying rye flour from a good friend. He suggested looking at Jeffrey’s Hammelman’s recipe for a rye sourdough with walnuts. I tried his recipe, but found it overly dense and chewy. I wanted something lighter so that the walnuts would delicately float in the crumb, rather than be swallowed up and masked in a doughy mass. So I started from scratch and came up with the proportions for this recipe on my own.

It begins a rye sourdough starter, uses a combination of white & rye flours, calls for a instant yeast, and is very hydrated. It is not the easiest of doughs to work with so feel free to add more flour to make it more manageable to handle, if you feel so inclined. I think that slight variations on the hydration content will still yield a wonderful bread. It would also be interesting to try without the instant yeast. (Just lengthen the fermentation and final proof times appropriately.)

So why did I like this loaf above all the others I tried? I liked how the light crumb offset the rich, dense walnuts. The texture contrast between the two is most appealing. In addition, the high hydration not only results in a light loaf, but in a superb chewy crust. I also enjoy how the rye adds its own nuttiness and depth to the flavor that a bread made with plain white wheat flour would not. The toppings and spreads for this bread are something to be enjoyed as well. I’d suggest either a flavorful jam (blackberry comes to mind), apple butter, or generous slices of aged goat cheese or fresh chevre.

Also, make sure to check out other delightful baked creations this week the Wild Yeast Blog’s YeastSpotting.

Sourdough Rye with Walnuts

Yield: ~1800 g (two large or three medium loaves)

198 g whole-rye flour
227 g water
14 g mature 100% hydration sourdough

Dissolve the sourdough in the water. Add the whole-rye flour and stir until well combined. Let ripen for 14 to 16 hours at room temperature.

Final Dough:
580 g all purpose flour
100 g medium rye flour
425 g water
17 g salt
5 g instant yeast
200 g chopped walnuts (lightly toasted)
all of sourdough

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the sourdough in the water. Add the rest of the ingredients except the walnuts. Stir until the ingredients are well-combined and then transfer the dough to a work surface. Knead until the dough strengthens and can pass the window pane test. Add the walnuts and mix until they are uniformly integrated into the dough.

Allow the dough to ferment in a well-oiled container for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the dough to a floured work surface. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and shape into loose balls. Let rest 15 minutes. Shape into boules and place seam side up in a floured bannetton.

Allow the dough to proof at room temperature for 1 1/4 hours.

Bake with steam at 450 F for 15 minutes with steam and then another 20 to 25 minutes at 425 without steam. Turn the oven off, crack the door, and leave the loaves in for another 10 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing into.


7 Responses to “Sourdough Rye with Walnuts”

  1. Love the look of that crumb. Sounds like excellent research you’re doing to get the bread you like!

  2. Nice loaf… I’ve barely scratched the surface with Hamelman’s book. Sounds really good with blackberry jam.

  3. I love walnuts also, and in a light rye bread, well, that’s just about unbeatable. Well done!

  4. […] Sourdough Rye With Walnuts ~ Beginning With Bread […]

  5. I love sourdough, rye and walnuts as well so this must be a terrific bread for me.
    My starter is active enough, he must as his name is Elvis, so I’ll give it a try but without the yeast. I’ll let you know.

  6. Thanks for all the comments. Do take this recipe and run with it. Find whatever combination of nuts and flours works best for you!

  7. I am so happy with this bread! I get a big smile on my face with each bite. Thanks for sharing.

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