150g bubbly. active starter
350g water, preferably filtered
500g bread flour (not all purpose)
9g fine sea salt
65 g chopped walnuts
65 g raisins
fine ground cornmeal, for dusting
*You will need a 6 quart Dutch oven for baking
** The starter I used for this recipe starter is 50/50 bread flour + whole wheat (100% hydration)
**** This recipe was tested with King Arthur, Gold Medal + Pillsbury bread flour
- To make the dough: In a large bowl, combine the starter, water, and bread flour. Squish everything together with your hands until all of the flour is absorbed. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest (autolyse) for 1 hour.
- Soak the filling: Add the chopped walnuts and raisins to a bowl and cover with ½ cup of water. Leave to soak while the dough is resting. Drain before using. Roughly chop the raisins.
- To the dough: Add the salt + ½ tsp. of water (to help it dissolve). Add the walnuts and raisins. Lift and fold the dough over itself several times, and squish with your hands to incorporate. The dough will tear slightly as you fold, and the salt will not fully dissolve. Don’t worry- this is normal. Work the dough as best you can until it comes back together into a rough ball. At this point, you shouldn’t feel any grains of salt beneath your hands.
- Bulk fermentation: Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Leave it in a warm, sunny spot to rise. Your dough is ready when it no longer looks dense, and has increased in volume about 1½- 2x its original size. This can take anywhere from 3-12 hours depending on the temperature of your ingredients, the potency of your starter, and surrounding environment. In the winter, I make my dough in the afternoon and leave it to rise overnight at room temperature (65 F) for about 12-18 hours. In the warmer months, I bulk ferment in the fridge to control the rise rate and to prevent over proofing. *See note below.
- Stretch & fold: To strengthen your dough, do a series of stretch and folds every 30 minutes for 2 hours during bulk fermentation. Simply gather a portion of the dough, stretch it upwards and then fold it over itself. Rotate the bowl ¼ turn, and repeat until you have come full circle. You will have completed 4 folds. Try to keep the nuts and raisins tucked into the dough and not on the outside to prevent burning.
- Cut the dough: To cut and shape the dough, divide your work surface in half; lightly flour one side (for cutting) and leave the other half clean (for shaping). Remove the dough from the bowl, and place onto the floured section so that it does not stick. You do not need to ‘punch down’ the dough; it will gently deflate as you fold and shape it. Cut the dough in half to make 2 loaves, or leave it whole for a single loaf.
- Shape the dough: Use a bench scraper to move your dough to the non-floured section (if there is any flour present, it will be difficult to shape- brush away any excess). Gather the dough, one side at a time, and fold it into the center. Flip the dough over and place it seam side down. Using your hands, gently cup the sides of the dough and rotate it, using quarter turns in a circular motion. You can also pull it towards you to even out the shape. Repeat this process until you are happy with its appearance.
- Second rise: Place the dough into a cloth lined 8-inch basket, bowl or floured/lined proofing basket. It will need to rise again, this time for a shorter period, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. It is ready when the dough is slightly puffy.
- Prepare the baking vessel: Preheat your oven to 450F. Generously coat the bottom of a Dutch oven(s) with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Sprinkle a good amount of cornmeal on top of the dough as well (this will be the bottom once it’s flipped over). Carefully invert the dough into the pot, cornmeal side down.
- Slash the dough: Right before your bread goes into the oven, make a shallow slash about 2 inches long in the center of the dough. Use a bread lame, sharp pairing or serrated knife.
- Bake the bread: Place your bread into the oven (lid on) and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, and continue to bake (uncovered) for an additional 40 minutes or until deep, golden brown. During the last 10 minutes of baking, crack open the oven door. This allows the moisture to escape, leaving your bread with a crisp crust. You can also take the internal temperature of your bread to double check that it is done. For sourdough, it should read about 205 F.
- Cool: Remove the bread from the oven, and cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing. The longer you wait, the easier it will be to cut. Don’t slice into it too soon or else the texture will be gummy!
Because sourdough does not contain commercial yeast, it takes considerably longer to rise. In the summer months, it can take anywhere between 3-4 hours @ 85 F whereas in the winter, about 8-12 hours @ 65 F. It is very important to watch your dough and not the clock. It’s ready, when it’s ready.
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