Walnut & Raisin Sourdough Bread


This loaf came about after wanting to make my own version of a walnut & raisin loaf and looking in bread books most recipes disappointed because they simply add chopped nuts to an otherwise ordinary loaf.  Where I was inspired was in Dan Lepard’s recipe in The Handmade Loaf book.  Dan makes a paste with the nuts and then adds it to the dough.   Brilliant idea.  The dough itself is flavoured, it has depth.  This loaf has tricked a very experienced baker into thinking it had some rye because white (rollermill) flour doesn’t normally produce this depth.  When I sold bread this recipe was one of the most popular.


Walnut Paste

The walnut paste is only as good as the walnuts.  I can not stress enough or even beg you to throw away your nuts if they’ve been kept a long time.  Before they go rancid they go stale and though you can still eat stale nuts don’t use them in a lovely loaf like this, find another use for them.  It struck a cord with me years ago listening to a nut seller complaining how customers don’t ever question how fresh their nuts are.  Buying them in the supermarkets or health food store wrapped in little packets with no dates of when they were picked doesn’t help us to think about how fresh they are.

The first time I made it I was so pleased with the results it spurred me on to try a Hazelnut version here.

The crumb of this loaf has a lovely purple hue, how vibrant it is is dependent on the colour of the walnuts.

Heaven on a Plate – Surely one of the reasons the human race is so clever is because they invented Bread & Cheese?


Equally satisfying is toasting it…butter melting into all the little holes.

Walnut Paste – Mix all of the paste ingredients together in a mini chopper until it is a smooth paste.


Making the Dough

Below is how I make the dough for all my breads including sourdoughs.  It’s a combination of using Dan’s folding method only I make it even lazier and do the folds in a very large wide bowl, don’t use a straight-sided bowl as you’ll need the room to stretch the dough.  For sourdoughs I do 3 folds within 1 hour for Summer months (22˚C and above), for the Winter I make the 3 folds within 2hrs (anything below 20˚C).

Once the walnut paste is made and cooled, mix all the ingredients together.

Folding the dough

Mix until there is no flour patches left and the dough is sticky and leave to rest.

The resting time between folds again depends on how busy I am but can be half an hour or an hour, I don’t keep a watch on the time just see the dough has moved/increase since the last time.

You’ll find the first folding the stickiest of all but it’s not a problem.  Do the folds quickly with one hand and the other hand turning the bowl.  I probably go around the bowl 3 to 4 four times.

As you pick up and fold the dough stretch it upwards.

Stretch it over the top

And press it down on itself again and the stickiness of the dough will help to stay in order for you to pick the next bit of dough and repeat.

Go all the way around the dough until you are happy it has had a good stretch.

After Stretching

It’s important you turn the dough over, pick it up and turn it upside down so that next time you do the fold you are working from the other side for evenness distribution of the nuts and raisins.

The Last Fold

By the time you do the 3rd fold you’ll notice the dough changing to a tighter stretchier less stickier dough and as you fold it you may hear a squeeke sound.   Decide whether to do rest and do a 4th fold or rest and shape.  I make my decision on my schedule or weather.

Final Rest

Shape and leave for final rest.  I don’t use proving baskets so once shaped I put on the baking trays waiting for baking.

How long I leave it on the last proving is also dependent on my schedule and sometimes on the flour.   If it’s a bad flour that has a tendency to spread considerably and not much oven spring I’ll give it a shorter time.  I’m a home baker that will fit my sourdough around me and for that reason don’t care if I under-proved it and then get more of an oven spring.

Baking & Crusts

If you want to get good crusts on your bread your oven has to be allowed to get hot enough and I sometimes think people don’t do that.  Use steam.

The big difference between a yeast loaf and sourdough I’ve found with the crusts is that a sourdough always needs longer than it looks.

It took me ages to get it right but now I know with my oven which is a very good hot oven in comparison to the previous cheap one I had that for a 500g flour loaf it will take an hour.

After 45mins the sourdough looks ready but if taken out then after about 15 mins of cooling the lovely hard crust will soften.  To keep the crust hard and crusty I have to dry it out properly and for my oven it’s an hour baking, for smaller loaves 250-300g flour it’s 40-45mins.

In the last 5 mins of baking if I remember I will remove the loaf from the tray and place it directly on the shelf of the oven.  I have been known to put loaves back in the oven if I got it wrong and end up with soft crust, this is only because I like a hard crust.  The other thing I’ve noticed with under-drying your sourdough is the tendency to have a heavy bottom on the crumb.


Pre-heat oven to 200C fan / 220C / 430F

See above in my oven, on the bottom  it has an oven tray that comes with it, it’s solid sturdy metal, I’m guessing one of the purposes of it is to catch the grease from cooking making the oven easier to clean.  I use it to create steam for the bread.   Heat up the oven with the tray in place, though the oven light tells me it’s ready for baking after about 15mins I give it another 5mins.  Use a roasting tin if you don’t have an oven tray.

After 20mins heating up I add 2 pints/ 1 litre roughly of cold water to that now very very hot tray, making a loud metal noise as the cold water hits scorching metal.  Close the door and leave it again for 15-20 mins.  It’s now ready for baking.

Word of warming when you open the door stand back…a huge amount of steam will come out on to your face if you’re not careful.  Bake for about 40-45mins.  If it appears the crust is darkening too much for you halfway way through turn the heat down by 10C.


Walnut & Raisin Sourdough Bread
  • 300g bread flour
  • 120g levain (100% hydration) for those who don’t do hydration 50/50 water/flour
  • 180g water (if using a thirsty flour like the Waitrose Canadian you may want touch more)
  • 6g salt
  • 50g Walnut Paste
  • 50g walnuts toasted lightly and roughly chopped- toast til you start to smell aroma but don’t let them darken just a light beige colour
  • 50g raisins – I like soak raisins first in hot water, when ready drain it and discard the water (cooling it down first obviously)
Walnut Paste
  • 30g walnuts toasted
  • 30g water
  • 20g (1 tablespoon) runny honey
  • I start by toasting all of the walnuts, dividing the ones for the paste and making that first in order to be cool enough by the time I come to mix the dough.!
  1. For the paste – Mix all the paste ingredients together in a mini-chopper until you have a fine paste…there will be about a tablespoon too much but hard to make smaller amounts.
  2. See details above on how to fold the dough.