Apple-Walnut Sourdough

Sweet and Sour Apple Bread

Did you know March 11 is Johnny Appleseed Day? When I was small, every school child in the United States was taught about John Chapman, the nurseryman who traveled the early 19th-century American frontier planting apple trees and distributing seeds to the settlers and Native Americans. We learned that “Johhny Appleseed” was a conservationist, humanitarian, herbal healer, and philanthropist.

What they didn’t tell us in grade school was that the apples that grew on those seed-grown trees were much too sour for snacking or baking a pie, too sour for anything except turning into hard cider. As Michael Pollan put it, Johnny Appleseed was popular and legendary with American frontier settlers because he was “the guy bringing the booze.”

So for Johnny Appleseed Day, I had it in mind to bake an apple sourdough that included hard cider. I did use hard cider the first time I made it, but I like this version with sweet cider a bit better. The dough is still plenty sour from the high proportion of sourdough starter. The sweetness of the chunky walnuts and cider-soaked dried apples is a welcome contrast.

The instructions are written for the bread as I made it; however, in the future I would probably proof the boules right-side-up on a couche rather than upside-down in a floured basket. I used (dark) buckwheat flour for dusting the basket, to contrast with the white flour I used for the stenciling, but I think I’d prefer to have the unstenciled area completely flour-free, to showcase the rich chocolate brown crust color that results from the buckwheat flour in the dough.

Sliced sweet and sour apple bread

Apple-Walnut Sourdough

Yield: 1700 g (two large loaves)

Time:

  • Elaborate sourdough starter: varies according to your starter and feeding schedule
  • Soak apples, and toast and cool nuts: 1 hour
  • Mix final dough: 15 minutes
  • First fermentation: 2 hours, with folds at 40 and 80 minutes
  • Divide, preshape, shape: 20 minutes
  • Proof: 2.5 hours
  • Bake: 50 minutes

Desired dough temperature: 77F

Ingredients:

  • 400 g flour
  • 80 g buckwheat flour
  • 80 g whole rye flour
  • 280 g water
  • 16 g salt
  • 480 g mature 100%-hydration sourdough starter
  • 100 g dried apples, very coarsely chopped
  • 240 g (1 cup) sweet apple cider
  • 200 g walnuts, very coarsely chopped

Method:

  1. Soak the apples in the cider for one hour, then drain them. (Drink or save the drained-off cider for another use.)
  2. While the apples soak, toast and cool the walnuts.
  3. Place flours, starter, salt, and water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, about 4 minutes. The dough should have a medium consistency, and it will be very sticky.
  4. Continue mixing in low or medium speed until the gluten is moderately developed. This may take about 5 minutes, but will depend on your mixer.
  5. Add the apples and nuts, and mix in low speed until they are evenly distributed through the dough.
  6. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Ferment at room temperature for 2 hours, with folds at 40 and 80 minutes.
  7. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter. Divide the dough in half and shape each piece into a light ball. Cover and let them rest for 20 minutes.
  8. Shape each piece of dough into a tight ball. Place each one seam-side-up in a linen-lined basket dusted with buckwheat flour. Cover and proof for 2.5 hours.
  9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 475. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
  10. Cut an apple stencil from a piece of paper.
  11. Apple stencil

  12. Before baking, lay the stencil on the top of each loaf. Using a strainer for even dusting, dust flour over the top of the loaf, then carefully remove the stencil.
  13. Flour-stenciled loaf

  14. Make several slashes in the bread to compliment the stenciling.
  15. Slashed stenciled loaf

  16. Once the loaves are in the oven, reduce the heat to 450F. Bake for 15 minutes with steam, and another 25 minutes without steam, until the crust is a deep chocolate brown. The oven may be turned off for the last 5 minutes of this time. Then leave the loaves in the oven for another 10 minutes, with the door ajar, to help the loaves dry out.
  17. Cool on a wire rack.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    Hi Susan!

    This bread looks gorgeous!
    I was reading your posts about using a baking stone, I’d no idea, but I’ve found a web site in Europe that does them, so will definitely get one. You also wrote about introducing steam at the beginning of baking. Do you use an electrical oven? In recent years I’ve been using a gas oven and the heat is much moister in those and so sponge cakes turn out better, or so I’ve heard, whereas the electrical one is better for cookies and such which require a dryer heat during baking. It would be interesting to make a comparison and an electrical oven is on my wish list. I’ll definitely try introducing additional steam.

    Caramella

  2. says

    I’m amazed by bakers who produce such perfect, beautiful bread. I bake yeast breads often mostly using a sponge and I just know I need to “upgrade” to a true starter. I had a biga for about 9 months but was never certain if I was “caring” for it properly and didn’t like the looks of it one day so down the garbage disposal it went. Sad after nurturing it for so long :(

    I still use measuring cups and recognize I need to get a scale!

    Adorable little dog :)

  3. says

    In the past, I haven’t been too happy with the flavor of buckwheat in pancakes. Is the buckwheat flavor strong in this bread? If it’s not too bad, I may try this one out. The sliced bread looks really yummy.

  4. says

    Oh my goodness, you just made me so happy that I finally have a sourdough starter! I think it still needs to develop for a week or two, but I am bookmarking this recipe now! I bet a slice or two of this bread would make such a good breakfast on the go!

  5. says

    Caramella, I do have an electric oven. Mine holds the steam in very well; however, I sometimes bake in a different electric oven that is not as tight. Steam is good at the beginning of the bake but after that the loaves need to dry out to produce a crisp crust. This is why I remove the steam source after several minutes and leave the loaves in the oven with the door open at the end.

    Tanna, thanks! The crust color is such a wonderful dark brown I think it would look really nice to leave the unfloured areas truly unfloured.

    Big Boys & Jessica, Thank you!

    LisRene, sorry about your starter. I don’t know if you have seen my posts on how I started and maintain my starter. It’s easiest to start when the weather is warm, I think.

    Mimi, the buckwheat is only 10% of the total flour in the bread so it is not overwhelming. I would not be able to identify it as buckwheat if I didn’t already know it was there. It just adds some dimension to the flavor, and makes the color really deep brown.

    Katy, congratulations on your starter!

  6. says

    Susan
    fantastic, looks like you could sell that look to Mac!
    I am just about to do an apple bread now, as well as a couronne since I bit the bullet for some bannetons from France!

  7. says

    What an impressive site, and I am sad that I missed Johnny Appleseed day, mostly because I loved Botany of Desire, though I did make apple pies on friday, so perhaps it was so ingrained… My husband and are just starting to bake bread, so I know we will be using this blog more.

  8. says

    Good lord, that looks amazing! The color, the detail, wow… I’ve just found your blog and I’m so glad, some of your breads are fantastic.

  9. Elizabeth says

    Your blog is fantastic! I maintain a sourdough starter and have made many breads from Silverton’s bread book but I have had trouble finding recipes that require little to no modification to use my starter with. Your site has changed all that for me.
    I made a bastardized version of your apple-walnut loaf by using apple cider instead of water for the liquid in the dough and omitting the apples and walnuts because I didn’t have any.
    The point is that you inspired me and the bread was delicious! Thanks so much.

  10. Leslie says

    I am going now to the store for apple cider and dried apples. I’m going to use toasted pumpkin/sunflower seeds instead of walnuts, and my starter is a month-old white/wheat/rye mongrel–and I am, uh, VERY NOVICE–but if I produce bread that looks anything like your image above it will make my day.

  11. Leslie says

    Hi,
    I just wanted to show you what happened. This was really encouraging! I’m going to try some of your other breads. I think your tastes line up fairly well with mine. I have my eye on the cider rye for the next try…

    As you can see I screwed up the shaping and sort of overbaked them, but there wasn’t much noticeable effect in the taste or crumb. Anyway though, I learned a lot from this loaf, and it was the first time I made a really satisfying bread. I’m still way new at bread baking so I don’t have a very good average as far as good turnout goes. In fact, this morning I let a loaf overrise so it had no oven spring. I didn’t realize it until the oven was preheating and the dough was just beginning to wilt, and though I sorta hoped it might still be saved I KNEW that it had passed its rising prime. The flavor’s bland too! Perhaps I did not feed the sourdough enough acidic elements. Ahhhhhh… oh well! I can always make it into crostini or croutons or bread pudding, ha!

  12. says

    Hi Susan,
    I’ve been following your website for quite awhile but haven’t previously commented. Your recipes are fantastic and your blog has been a great help and inspiration for my own baking endeavors. I just wanted to let you know that I made your Apple Walnut Sourdough bread yesterday and blogged about it. It turned out great!
    Thanks so much!

  13. Linh says

    Hi Susan,

    Great website. Is it okay to refrigerate this dough overnight like the Norwich Sourdough? I made that yesterday and it turned out great! Wooooo

  14. says

    Linh, you can refrigerate it overnight. I would try putting it in the refrigerator after about 1 hour and 15 minutes of proofing at room temperature, and see how that works.

  15. says

    Hi Susan,
    First, let me tell you this: “love, love your work”. I’ve been searching through your website for a few months and have learned a lot from you. You are truly an inspiration to a bread lover. All the recipes are fantastic and your blog has been a great help for my own baking endeavors. I have made this bread so many times and enjoyed it over, and over, and over. It turns out great every time! We love how apples and walnuts contribute to the texture and flavor.
    I did some modification, though. Since I did not have dried apples I used fresh one Granny Smith that I chopped into small pieces (185 grams). Lower the amount of walnuts to 100 grams and instead of buckwheat flour (that I did not have) used bread flour. So it was: 450 g flour, 110 g whole rye flour. I do not have a mixer so I kneaded the dough with hands. After mixing flour, starter, water and salt I used this technique by Bertinet for gluten development (http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/video/2008/03/bertinet_sweetdough). After that I incorporated chopped apple and walnuts. My baking time was shorter than yours. Those were the changes. Other than that I pretty much followed your recipes. I baked the bread in preheated cast iron pan since I still do not have a stone.
    Here are the pictures of my bread.
    http://img59.imageshack.us/i/applewalnutsourdough001.jpg/
    http://img442.imageshack.us/i/applewalnutsourdoughbre.jpg/
    http://img442.imageshack.us/i/applewalnutsourdoughbrek.jpg/

    Thanks you a ton for all this beautiful recipes and ideas. !
    Vesna

  16. katre says

    Hi Susan!
    I made this bread, and it is amazing!! At first I was a bit worried because the amount of nuts and apples seemed too big and it was quite hard to incorporate all of them into the dough. But I really like the end result!
    The only change I made was to replace some of water with the cider I used for soaking the apples (and I used dry cider).
    I have been following your blog for quite a long time but it is the first time to try a recipe. Thank You!

  17. Shilpa says

    Made this bread for Thanksgiving, it was phenomenal! I used the soaking cider in place of some of the water, The dough was indeed very sticky, but the loaves had great oven spring and were delicious. Thank you!

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