This walnut levain bread is a bit of a showing-off bread. Its rich in flavour due to the long slow fermentation and plentiful walnuts. The internal structure created by the levain leavening is soft and holey whilst the crust is crunchy and chewy. You could serve this bread for breakfast with butter and jam, for lunch alongside soup or use it to make your favourite cheese sandwich. Furthermore, this walnut bread looks really gourmet yet rustic so serve it on your dinner table to impress all your guests. Its one of my favourites. In this walnut levain bread recipe the dough is proved overnight in the refrigerator and baked the next morning. I personally find this baking schedule very convenient and furthermore baking a fresh loaf of bread first thing in the morning is a great start to the day.
Sample schedule; 8.00, prepare the levain. 14.30, autolyse. 15.00 mix final dough. 18.00 divide into loaves. Next morning 7.00, bake.
Recipe for walnut levain bread
Ingredients and method for 2 loaves
100g active levain (ideally 24 hours after a previous feeding of your levain)
400g wheat 550 flour
100g wholewheat flour
400g water at 30-32 degrees
Mix all the ingredients for the levain by hand until incorporated, cover and leave to ferment at room temperature for 6-8 hours.
740g white wheat flour (550)
100g Wholewheat flour
620g water (at 32-35 degrees)
Mix the flours with the warm water and leave to fully hydrate for 20-30 minutes.
360g prepared Levain (above)
22g sea salt
2g instant dried yeast
200g walnuts, roughly chopped
Add the levain, salt and yeast to the pre-dough. Knead with the dough hook of an electric mixer or by hand for 10 minutes. Roughly chop the walnuts, leaving plenty of larger pieces. After the dough has been kneaded and looks nice and elastic add the the walnuts and fully incorporate either with the mixer or by hand. Let the dough rest of 15 minutes and then turn it out onto a floured surface and flatten/stretch the dough out. Fold the dough over onto itself 2 or 3 times until you have a compact dough again. Rest another 10 minutes and repeat the stretch folding 2 more times with 10 minute rests inbetween. After the 3 rounds of stretching and folding the gluten will be fully developed and now the dough is ready for a long slow fermentation (during which flavours will intensify). Place your dough into a large bowl and cover. Leave at room temperature for 2.5-3 hours, or until at least 2.5 times its original volume.
After the fermentation your dough is ready to be divided. Flour your proofing baskets. Gently turn out the dough onto a floured surface and with light hands work into a round (you are not kneading the dough here, be gentle). Using a dough scraper or large knife, divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and form each into a tight ball. Place finished walnut bread dough, seam up, into your floured proving baskets. Cover loosely (for example with a plastic bag) and place in the fridge for overnight proving.
The next morning pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees and place baking tray of water on the oven floor to create steam. There is no need to allow your dough to come to room temperature, you can simply bake the walnut bread straight from the fridge. In fact, the chilled dough has somewhat more resilience which makes scoring it very easy with no risk of collapse. So, gently place your risen loaves onto baking sheets, with a sharp serrated knife, cut a cross approximately 0.5cm deep into the surface of the loaves and immediately place in your pre-heated oven. Bake for 10 minutes at full heat and then reduce the oven temperature to 220 for a further 50 minutes.