Cranberry Walnut Sourdough

This adventure started from a recipe on The Perfect Loaf, so you should definitely check that out! I made some small changes based on humidity in NJ and my own preferences and skills (or lack thereof). I have added many pictures here, because I find that helpful to check in as I’m making mine!

Ingredients Levain

  1. 30g ripe starter
  2. 60g whole wheat flour
  3. 60g bread flour 
  4. 120g cool H2O 

Ingredients Dough

  1. 250g levain
  2. 800g bread flour
  3. 200g whole wheat flour
  4. 20g salt
  5. 800g water (around 85*f)
  6. 200g shelled and toasted walnuts
  7. 100g dried cranberries


Day 1

11:00 p.m. – Prepare the levain and leave on the counter (unless your house is quite chilly). You want to leave it where it will be at its peak of rise about 11 hours later.

Day 2

10:00 a.m. – Mix the levain & 750g water, then add flour, mix in well but not aggressively and set aside to autolyse for about 30 minutes. It’s going to look kind of lumpy and wet and not like dough. It’s ok!

10:10 a.m. – Toast walnuts and then set aside to cool.

10:40 a.m. – Add salt and the additional 50g water, using the water to help melt the salt. It might be a bit hard to get it mixed in. Don’t worry too much about it, as it will happen more during bulk fermentation and you don’t want to over mix.

11:00 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. – Bulk fermentation/proofing.

At 11:30, do a stretch and fold.

At 12:00, do another stretch and fold to mix in the cranberries and walnuts.

At 12:30, and 1:00 you will do the last two stretch and folds. By this time, you’ll see that the dough has been rising and that after you stretch and fold, it will keep some of its shape.

After the last stretch and fold, allow the dough to just continue to rise for another hour or so. By this time, it should have risen 20-30%.

2:20 p.m. – Divide the dough into two even pieces and preshape as a boule or batard. There are many videos online that will tell you about how to do shaping, both initial and final.

2:30 p.m. – Set aside on the counter, either uncovered or covered lightly with a tea towel to rest (even bread dough needs a nap).

2:45 p.m. – Do your final shaping and place in a well floured banneton or floured-towel-lined bowl. There are plenty of opinions about whether to flour the banneton or use a towel. The towel is easier and keeps the banneton looking pretty. But the floured banneton will give the bread that lovely spiral shape in the flour. It is really personal preference. I do suggest that you use rice flour, as it doesn’t leave any real taste on the bread.

3:00 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. (or later) – Place your proofing vessels in the fridge. I proofed in a plastic bag with little air inside. I’ve heard others proof with just a towel over the top. I watched a video today that made a compelling argument for proofing with only the towel. My jury is still out on this!

Day 3

8:30 a.m. (or later) – Preheat oven to 500* for 1 hour with your open dutch oven inside. You can add a baking stone on a shelf under your dutch oven shelf to help retain heat.

9:20 – Remove one loaf from fridge and tip it over onto a peel or a parchment covered flat surface. Score the bread. You may find this a bit harder due to the nuts and cranberries – I did! Then place in your dutch oven or other cooker with the lid on for 20 minutes. 

9:45 – Lower temp to 450* and leave lid on 10 more minutes. 

9:55 – Take lid off and reduce to 430* and continue to bake for ~35 minutes. Watch for your desired level of doneness. The internal temperature should be around 210*.

10:30 – Remove the first loaf, and put it on a cooling rack. Begin the preheating process for loaf two.

Allow the bread to cool at least 2 hours before cutting.

Leading, Following, Baking

NB: There is a recipe at the bottom, but I don’t feel as confident about it as usual, so the post isn’t really “about” that.

I’ve been cooking family meals for decades. I started when I was just into double digits and haven’t stopped other than during my first two years of college when I lived on campus in a dorm. I don’t mean to be immodest, but I am a good cook.

I tend to cook by feel, smell, and taste memory. If I taste something a couple of times, I can generally get a pretty good idea of what goes in it, and make a reasonable version of it. Once in a while, a dish goes sideways. I can usually rescue it, but now and then I make something that is, objectively, not good. It’s pretty rare though.

Baking is different. When I cook non-baked food, I’m the leader. I scope it out. I make choices. I improvise. But, with baking, it’s not that easy. I’m not knowledgeable enough about the chemistry of baked goods to just fake it. I’ve gotten better just during this last year, but I still need to follow a recipe if I really want things to come out. And, if they start to go wrong, I don’t always know how to fix them.

Baking requires, for me, following, rather than leading. And I don’t much like that sometimes. But, I suspect it’s good for me to be in that position – where I have no control and I don’t know the answer – in something as low-risk as baked goods.

So, I’ll keep at it! And maybe I will grow my following skills in the process. It’s sort of yoga in food form?

Today’s almost disaster involved a Sourdough Nectarine Cobbler. The original recipe came from Farmhouse on Boone. But, I made some adaptations, because I had nectarines rather than peaches, and I wanted to try out some pancake/waffle mix that reportedly could be substituted 1:1 for flour. In the end, it basically turned out, but wow what a process of annoyance and reworking! And I definitely won’t use this mix as flour again. So, I present it here in the way that I will make it if I make it again!

Sourdough Nectarine Cobbler

Dough Ingredients
2 cups flour (you may need to adjust a bit depending on type)
1/2 cup active 100% hydration sourdough starter
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup soy milk
1/4 cup brown sugar

Filling Ingredients
4-6 cups peeled and chopped nectarines
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp flour
3 tbsp vegan butter, sliced
1/3 cup brown sugar


Add flour, starter, melted coconut oil, and agave and mix. It will be quite dry. If you have to add a few drops of water to even combine it, go ahead, but don’t add much. Set this in a warm location, covered, for 8-24 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350*.

Bring out your dough mix from wherever it has been sitting. Add baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, soy milk, and brown sugar and mix.

Peel and chop your nectarines. Add to your baking pan (I used a 13×9 pan, but a 10-12 inch cast iron would also work well). Sprinkle with cinnamon, butter, brown sugar, and flour and fold in. Bake for 10 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, pat out biscuit dough to about half an inch and cut into biscuits using a cutter or mason jar lid. Try not to twist your cutter so you don’t seal the biscuits.

Remove peaches from oven and stir. Place biscuits over peaches and bake for ~ 20 minutes, until the biscuits are turning golden brown.

Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Basic Sourdough Boules

My technique is improving bit by bit! This is a fairly low hydration bread at just under 70%, so it’s moderately easy to work with the dough.

Morning – Make Levain

40g bread flour
40g whole wheat flour
81g water
8g flour

Leave the levain at room temp for about 10 hours OR just use 169g of active starter near top of cycle

Early Evening – Start Dough

Mix to autolyse:
766g bread flour
161g whole wheat flour
635g water 
169g levain (see above)

Then cover and set aside.

20-30 minutes later mix in:
19g salt
< 50g water

Don’t add more water than it can take. You aren’t looking for a tight dough at this point, but you don’t want soup.  Do a few folds but don’t knead vigorously.

Evening – Bulk Fermentation

Cover and allow to rest in a warm location for 3.5 hours. Do a stretch and fold at 30 minutes and at 1 hour. Then allow to rest for the remaining 2.5 hours.

Before Bed – Divide and Shape

Dump dough onto counter. Divide bread in half and loosely shape 2 rounds. A bench knife and wet hand will help. Try not to add flour since the bread is already at a lower hydration.

Allow to rest uncovered on the counter for 30 minutes.

Gently flour the top of the round – preferably with rice flour – and then flip over. Do an envelope fold. Flip it over and drag and seal the dough, working to create tension.

Place top-down in a well-floured (preferably with rice flour, but all purpose is ok) banneton or bowl lined with a floured cloth. You can see below that there are seams on the bottom. It doesn’t matter! There are also some bubbles from the sourdough fermentation. Some bakers pop those so it’s smoother. I didn’t.

Overnight – Proof

Cover the baskets well with room to rise and put them in the fridge until some time the next day. It can be anywhere from 12 hours to 36!

Morning – Bake

Put rack near the bottom of oven and place your Dutch oven inside, open (both lid and pan). Preheat to 450*

Take 1 basket out. Using parchment paper and a cutting board or pizza peel, flip a dough out of the basket. Score the bread and load it into the Dutch oven (or load and score if you prefer). 

Bake for 20 minutes covered. Then remove lid and bake another 30-35 (it should be nicely browned and the internal temp around ~207*.

Remove to a cooking rack and reheat the dutch oven to start the next loaf.

Ideally, allow loaves to cool for a couple of hours before slicing. It’s not easy to do, but you will be rewarded!