Walnut & Rye Sourdough Bread

Here is an idea. If you haven’t got any kids yet and you aren’t sure if you are ready to take care of a pet, maybe a sourdough starter is a good thing to start out with? If you nurture it right it can help you create infinite amount of breads, it can live forever (we’ve heard rumors of living sourdoughs that date back to early 1800’s), and you only need to feed it once a week. Doesn’t it sound like the perfect companion?

If you don’t know what a sourdough starter (also known as Levain) is you can read all about it here. But shortly explained it is a mixture that contains a living Lactobacillus culture, which you use instead of yeast in baking. It is especially effective when you bake with rye. You can grow it yourself or get a small part of someone else’s.

The sourdough gives the bread a special tangy taste that we really love in our family, but depending on what ingredients and flours you mix it with you can achieve all kind of different flavors. In this recipe we have added some dried figs to give a sweet balance to the tanginess.

Sourdough is in almost every aspect healthier than cultural yeast, but it is not merely as used since it is a lot more time consuming to bake with. We urge you however give it a try, you won’t regret it. And once you have your sourdough started, what’s the point of going back to yeast? Also, the starter makes a great going away gift.

We would love to tell you the story about how we grew our sourdough starter ourselves several years ago. And how we have been feeding it regularly and singing songs for it ever since. But that would be a Big Fat Lie. We have tried growing sourdough starters many times, but we have managed to kill every one of them somewhere in the middle of the process. Starting a sourdough apparently isn’t one of our greater talents. So instead we actually bought a starter (we know, it’s cheating) that we now have been feeding for a few weeks. And we can finally  report that it is thriving in our company. Just see (above) how happy and bubbly it looks.

We won’t tell you how to grow your own starter since we are such losers on the subject. Instead we will just give you some links to some different starter recipes, try this, this or this. Or you can ask your friends, relatives or colleagues if anyone has a sourdough starter tucked away somewhere that they are willing to share. You can also buy a starter online here or here or in certain bakeries.

Walnut & Rye Sourdough Bread (adapted from the book Surdegsbröd by Martin Johansson)
2 breads

This bread has go a thick crust and a great taste, with lots of walnuts inside. We added figs to the original recipe to give a sweet hint to the tanginess from the sourdough.

Day 1, evening
80 g (1/3 cup) rye sourdough starter (read above how to get/make/buy one)
240 g (1 cup) lukewarm water
150 g (1 cup) rye flour

Mix sourdough starter, water and flour in a large bowl. Cover it with plastic and set aside on a warm place over night, around 73F – 75F (22°C – 24°C) degrees.

Day 2, morning
Sourdough from yesterday
480 g (2 cups) cold water
340 g (2 1/2 cups) fine rye flour
500 g (4 cups) wholegrain wheat flour
20 g (1 tbsp) sea salt
250 g (2 cups) whole unshelled walnuts
150 g dried figs, roughly chopped 

Add all ingredients, except salt, walnuts and figs in a large bowl or a stand mixer. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes or use the stand mixer (with dough hook) on lowest speed. Add salt, walnuts and figs and knead it for about 5 minutes. Place it in the bowl, cover and let rise/proof for about an hour.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and divide it into two pieces. Kneed them into two round doughs that you leave to rise for about 3 hours. Use round rising baskets/bannetons if you have. Dust the baskets generously with flour before placing the dough inside them. If you don’t have a rising basket, place the breads on parchment paper and cover with a clean towel. Preheat the oven to 525F (275°C), place a baking sheet or a baking stone in the middle and a baking sheet on the lowest possible.

Slash the top of the bread a few times with a sharp knife. Take the hot baking sheet from the oven, dust it with flour, and carefully transfer the risen dough to it by tipping it out of the rising basket, upside down, on to the sheet (or place the parchment paper on it). Place it in the oven and put a few ice cubes on the lower sheet, close the oven and lower immediately the temperature to 490F (250°C). After 15 minutes lower the heat to 400F (200°C), open and close every 5 minutes to get the steam out. Bake for 20 minutes more, or until golden and sounds hollow when you tap its base. Leave to cool on a rack.


  • Hi I know this is an old post, but I have a doubt. When you say that you "Slash the top of the bread a few times with a sharp knife...and carefully transfer the risen dough to it by tipping it out of the rising basket, upside down..." what do you mean exactly? Why would you bake it up side down but slash the top, that would be at the bottom? Pls help me out here, Im in the middle of the process now! Thanks and lovely blog!!! Warm regards from Andalucia!!!
    • Hi Clara, you are of course right. The top should be slashed, not the bottom. Easiest way to do that is to slash it after you have flipped it into the pot. Hope the bread turns out well for you! /David
  • You've re-inspired me to start up my starter again and get baking! Beautiful.
  • I just LOVE your blog...the food and the photos are just beautiful and so inspirational. I have 3 children but I'm wondering if there is still room in the bed for a sour dough starter like yours....would love to give it a go. Kristin from mamacino x
  • dalina
    You are so inspiring! I am on day 3 with my very selfmade sourdough starter and it works, it bubbles!!! Greetings from Switzerland
  • You have reminded me that I should start baking more bread this year! Love it although, like you, I don't know if I could manage making my own starter. This looks delicious...I love walnuts :) Happy New Year to you! (btw, can't wait for the iphone app!)
  • Lil Rinaldi
    Wow, this is right up my alley! Came across this blog by way of a post I saw on FB from Food in Jars. I happen to be working on a rye sourdough starter that has a few more days to ferment. I used pineapple juice as the liquid to start it off. Got that idea from this website:http://www.northwestsourdough.com/. So far it has been working but must wait a few more days before I actually bake with it. Thanks for the post!
  • I have the exact opposite problem as you: My sourdough starter is always rockin' but I can't make good bread out of it for anything! This morning, I started this recipe and I'll finish it tonight. I'm hoping you've given me the key! Thanks for the ever-gorgeous site, recipes, and inspiration!
  • That is just beautiful!! I have been wanting to try my hand at rye bread for a long time...looks like it might just be time :)
  • p.s. The photos are lovely, oh that crackly nubby edged crust!
  • I've been on a sourdough spelt kick for some time and have been thinking about making a rye bread. This recipe is the one. Rye plus walnuts! I know what you mean about killing your fair share of starters, been there myself, and have had my current starter going for a good many months even with a child and a pet, which is to say, it can be done.
  • Wow - I'm am impressed with how spectacular your sourdough looks! While I consider myself to be quite a decent baker (modest much?!) bread is something that I have failed at repeatedly over the years. Just don't seem to have the magic touch. But well done on yours!
  • Joyce
    I am looking forward to trying your delicious looking recipe. Did you purposely omit saving part of the dough (without the additives) for a future starter? I do not have a problem with my starters dying, but with getting a high enough bread after letting it rise. Perhaps using all whoe wheat flour is my problem. So I usually make griddle tortillas instead and it is a much faster process. After keeping my starter successfully in the frige (often for several weeks without feeding it), I decided to freeze it in small freezer bags and it still seems to work out fine. In fact it remains moist and ready to use, rather than crumbly and dry, as was my previous experience. Afterletting my dough rise after the adding of flour for the second time, I add only enough flour to make a sticky dough, then let it sit for about an hour. The dough is then ready to dip by the spoonful into a little flour, roll it into a little ball and pat it into a circle on a hot griddle. When the dough changes color, it is ready to be turned and cooked slightly on the other side. I too add nuts, seeds, dried tomatoes, thyme, lemon or orange rind and olives. Re-heat these Sourdough Toaster Tortillas in your toaster, then sprinkle with your favorite cheese and some fresh oregano and put under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese melts. This is only one possibility as they are delicious with almond butter and jam and any of your favorite sandwich ingredients. They also freeze very well.
  • Hi, I am happy to see that you are experimenting with sourdough starters! They can be a lot of fun to make and in the end yield a very tasty bread. I thought you and your readers might enjoy my post on sourdough starters and the links I have within the post on starting your own starter from scratch, which I have found to be invaluable when it comes to making your own sourdough bread. I hope your stater will continue to thrive and make many tasty loaves! Laura V. http://theartfulgardener.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/for-starters/
  • Gorgeous bread! My dad has offered me a bit of his sourdough starter but at the moment I'm totally into perfecting my skills at baking "knäckebröd" (crisp bread). You can pretty much say it's my new obsession. :)
  • Johanna
    Hmmm... that looks so yummy!!!!! I made my own sour dough starter from scratch a year ago, the first try didn't work out because it got moldy, but the second turned out just fine! First I followed a "recipe" that called for a warm surrounding while the starter was "growing" and I guess mine was too warm, so having it sit in my rather cool kitchen the second time was a better call. It was really easy, or maybe I just got lucky? :) I never tried adding dried fruits to my breads, but it sounds&looks great.. I guess I have a baking appointment for tonight ;)
  • This was a great read. Looks beautiful. I've never heard of getting starters. I guess I don't know too many people who make bread like this anymore. Would like to try yours. Thank you.
  • The fact I love most about homemade bread is the possibility of adding lots and plenty of spices to it.Especially the traditional ones like Fennel, Anise, Caraway and Coriander. Those also help with digesting the bread well. LOVE your blog!Greetings from Germany
    • True! We kept it simple since it was our first sourdough recipe on this blog. But you can of course experiment with a variety of spices in this recipe as well. Happy baking! /David
  • Stopping by to say Hello and that i love your blog. Great photos, stories and everything.
  • So funny and soo much heart! I love your posts/you/your recipes and send you much bliss!
  • Sini
    There really is nothing as good as an honest sourdough bread. I've never made a sourdough bread myself 'cause I've been a bit afraid of all that "making and taking care of your own starter" -thing. But hey, it's a new year with new challenges! Maybe I simply should give it a go. Thank you for this great post!
  • "losers on the subject"...lol. Beautiful bread, beautiful photos, and a beautiful story behind it all. Thank you. :)
  • Mmmm this sounds so good! I can't wait to try :)
  • I've never been game enough to make sour dough. Maybe this is just the inspiration I need and it's the beginning of a new year and I'm motivated to try new things in 2012. I'll let you know if it is a disaster or not :)
    • Hi Jess! Good luck with your sourdough 2012 project. I'm sure it will be a success. Keep us updated! /David
  • Those are gorgeous loaves! I hadn't the slightest idea how to make sourdough bread. Now I know!
  • I've read articles and oogled photos of yeast starters. I just haven't done it myself. I am going to keep my ears open for the possibility of getting a starter already...'started'. Beautiful loaves of bread you 2.
  • christine
    You two continue to impress me. I love the way you write. Even your "failures" make me interested in trying what you have tried and your stories are adorable.
  • This looks delicious! I once made my own sourdough starter and it was going great and I baked a couple of loaves and then it died :( It was quite sad, but I'm willing to try again :) I'm super inspired to go get one going right away after seeing your beautiful bread!
  • THIS looks incredible. I want to nurture it and give it a pacifier. And then eat it. All of it.
    • Hi Bev, we never tried giving our sourdough a pacifier. Maybe that is the secret trick ;)
  • AGS
    I love this idea, looks pretty straightforward and I will definitely try it. I use sourdough with really great results from some Russian bakery dating back to 1980, from artisan baker and teacher Andrew Whitely. I also have a question,do you by any chance make your own nut milks and other green smoothies? I made broccoli and very green one already. Your blog is a great inspiration.
    • Hi AGS, we actually both have a recipe for nut milk and a spinach juice recipe exclusively in our iPad app 'Green Kitchen', which also soon will be released for iphone. Check it out! https://gkitchenstories.com/ipad
  • Emily
    What a wonderful bread! I love sourdough but have never made it myself. I actually think my grandmother has a starter and I am going to visit her asap to get a sample. Thanks for the inspiration!

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