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Oct 10, 2017

Walnut Levain Bread

This Walnut Levain Bread is such a pleasure to make, and even more fun to eat. The crust is chewy, and the crumb is soft and airy, plus it's loaded with toasted walnuts.

This Walnut Levain Bread is such a pleasure to make, and even more fun to eat. The crust is chewy, and the crumb is soft and airy, and loaded with toasted walnuts.

This Walnut Levain Bread makes the absolute best toast. I also love it broiled with melty cheese or spread with goat cheese and fig jam.

This recipe yields two large loaves, each about 1 1/2 pounds. You can successfully cut the recipe in half and only make one loaf, but I like to freeze the second loaf for later.

This Walnut Levain Bread is such a pleasure to make, and even more fun to eat. The crust is chewy, and the crumb is soft and airy, and loaded with toasted walnuts.

This bread doesn't require any scoring, as it is baked with the seam side up. It expands naturally in the oven, making up its mind as to where to open up. Each loaf seemed to have a mind of its own.

The bread is a made from a hybrid, or mixed method dough. It includes both a levain, or sourdough starter, as well as a small amount of instant yeast (only 1/4 teaspoon per loaf).

Note: You can feed your starter on a Saturday morning, mix the dough in the afternoon, and shape the loaves around 8 pm and then proof them in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, you can bake the loaves straight from the refrigerator.

This Walnut Levain Bread is such a pleasure to make, and even more fun to eat. The crust is chewy, and the crumb is soft and airy, and loaded with toasted walnuts.

This is a 78 percent hydration dough, and calls for the "stretch-and-fold" method of developing the gluten. What that means is that, rather than kneading the dough, you instead grab the edge of the dough, stretch it out, and fold it over itself on all four "sides" every 30 minutes. It's so easy once you get used to working with really wet dough.

To make these loaves, I used the following equipment:
  1. Two cast iron combo cooker Dutch ovens. You don't need two, but these aren't very expensive, and you'll use them again and again. You can also use any Dutch oven, or even a baking stone with a stainless steel bowl inverted over the loaf. 
  2. I use this 12 quart food storage container for proofing the dough. You could also use a large bowl, but I like the measurements on the sides of the container to tell me when the dough has more than doubled. 
  3. You will also need two 9 inch baskets or bowls, each lined with dish towels for final proofing. These help the shaped dough maintain its shape. 
  4. To make life easier, I use good quality parchment paper for transferring the dough to the hot Dutch oven, a flexible plastic dough scraper, and a bench knife for dividing the dough. 
  5. Finally, I can't emphasize enough how helpful it is to use a kitchen scale. I use this one, because you can pull out the display when weighing ingredients into the container. 
I really hope you will try this bread. The process of mixing dough by hand, using time and temperature to develop flavor, and cutting that first slice to see that glorious crumb will give you such pleasure. For me, it's therapy. 

This Walnut Levain Bread is such a pleasure to make, and even more fun to eat. The crust is chewy, and the crumb is soft and airy, and loaded with toasted walnuts.

This month, the #BreadBakers baking group is baking breads with levain/sourdough starters, bigas, poolishes, soakers, tangzhong, or even old dough. 

After the recipe, be sure to visit all of the links to collect some amazing bread recipes from all of our talented bakers. 

Walnut Levain Bread Recipe

Walnut Levain Bread Recipe


For the Levain

  • 100 grams active sourdough starter (mine is 100 percent hydration)
  • 400 grams unbleached all purpose flour
  • 100 grams whole wheat flour
  • 400 grams warm water (about 90 degrees F)

For the Final Dough

  • 740 grams bread flour
  • 60 grams whole wheat flour
  • 620 grams warm water (about 90 degrees F)
  • 22 grams fine sea salt
  • 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) instant yeast
  • 225 grams walnut pieces
  • 360 grams levain
  • 50/50 mixture of wheat and rice flour for dusting


  1. First thing in the morning, mix the levain ingedients by hand until just incorporated, cover, and let rest for 6 to 8 hours.
  2. Roast the nuts on a sheet pan in a 400 degree F oven for about 6 to 10 minutes. Watch them closely, because if they burn, they will be very bitter tasting. You could also toast them on the stove top in a skillet. When they are fragrant, they are ready. Cool completely.
  3. In a very large bowl or a 12 quart Cambro bucket, mix the white and whole wheat flours.
  4. Add the water and mix by hand until just incorporated. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the salt and yeast. Add 360 grams of the levain.
  6. Dip your hands in water and mix the dough by alternatively pinching it with your fingers and folding it. This should not take very long. Let it rest for about 10 minutes, and then fold the walnuts into the dough. 
  7. Cover the container and let it rise for about 4 to 5 hours, until it has more than doubled, stretching and folding the dough four times every half hour during the first 2 hours of rising.
  8. Gently remove the dough from the bucket/bowl, onto a lightly floured counter, and divide it in half with a bench knife or dough scraper.
  9. Generously rub two dish towel/flour sack lined 9 inch bowls/bannetons with the wheat/rice flour mixture.
  10. Shape the dough halves into boules, place them, seam side down on the work surface, cover with tea towels, and let rest for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, tighten up the surface of the loaves by "dragging" the loaves across the work surface with your hands and dough scraper from all sides. Place the loaves, seam side down, into the bowls/baskets. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate immediately.
  11. 12 to 14 hours later (the next morning), preheat your oven to 475 degrees F, and place two heat proof Dutch ovens in your oven. If you only have one pan, leave the other loaf in the refrigerator while the first one bakes.
  12. When you are ready to bake, cut parchment into two 9 inch by 15 inch pieces.
  13. Remove the Dutch ovens from the oven and remove the tops. One loaf at a time, remove the plastic wrap, place the parchment over the dough and place a plate over it. Flip the dough over, remove the basket, and lift and place the loaf in the Dutch oven by using the parchment as a sling (leave the paper under the dough). Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the hot oven. Repeat with the second loaf. If you are using the Lodge combo cooker, use the lid on the bottom and the larger pan on top. This makes it much easier to maneuver with the parchment paper.
  14. Bake covered for 30 minutes, and then remove the Dutch ovens from the hot oven, uncover, and place the loaves on a baking sheet. Be careful not to burn yourself! Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes more, until the interior of the bread reaches 205 to 210 degrees F and the bread is a deep brown. You don't have to move your loaves to baking sheets, but I like to do it to prevent burning on the bottom.
  15. Cool loaves completely on a wire rack before slicing.
Yield: 2 loaves
Recipe adapted from Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast 

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to

Here are everyone's recipes!
This Walnut Levain Bread is such a pleasure to make, and even more fun to eat. The crust is chewy, and the crumb is soft and airy, and loaded with toasted walnuts.

Would you like to comment?

  1. Hello Karen, walnut studded crumb is absolutely awesome. The recipe seems simple and doable. I am new to sourdough baking and your recipe is definitely worth trying.

    1. Thanks so much Namita. I do love this method, and it's one I've used over and over. It takes a little practice, but the results are worth it.

  2. As usual, you've made another gorgeous bread, Karen. That crust looks phenomenal and the walnuts in the crumb must add the perfect flavor and crunch. Thanks for planning such a fun theme today.

  3. Hi Karen,love the Walnut sourdough bread absolutely beautiful,love the whole crumbs, you did very good job I'm tempted to make one again I haven't been making bread for a while, went on a diet succeeded and now I'm tempted to make homemade bread again.😯 p.s.I hope that you and family has had a wonderful Thanksgiving😉

    1. Thanks Rosa! My Thanksgiving isn't until November, but happy Thanksgiving to you!!

  4. This event was a huge challenge for me Karen and I didn't even attempt to make a sourdough starter LOL. Thanks so much for taking me outside my comfort zone.

  5. Beautiful loaf! walnuts go so well with sourdough bread, and the fig jam... wow! What a dream....

    I see a sourdough in my weekend, but haven't decided on a recipe yet - so many paths open, decisions... decisions....

    1. It's so hard to choose isn't it? This one was pretty special. So many breads......

  6. I would KILL to get the crumb in my bread you got! Once I finish exams I might give yours a go!

    1. Thanks so much Sarah. We all hold our breaths when we slice the loaf open, don't we?

  7. Beautiful bread Karen, love the crustiness and nuttiness of the bread. Thank you for hosting this month's event.

  8. Karen thank you so much for choosing this theme. If it weren't for the theme I probably would have kept on pushing the idea of making a sourdough starter into the corner. Still got to learn a lot but slowly experimenting with the discard and starter. You've bake a beauty. Love sourdough with walnuts.

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the process, and thanks so much!

  9. Wow, look at that crumb. Karen, your walnut bread looks amazing.
    Thank you for hosting this month with this fabulous theme.

  10. Walnut Levain is a favorite warm slice, slathered with butter and sprinkled with coarse salt. Your 'no scoring' hint is a welcome surprise I can't wait to try.

  11. Your loaves always have such amazing crumbs! Wow!


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