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Fig and Walnut Dutch Oven Sourdough with Spelt

Using a Dutch oven (a cast iron casserole dish with a lid) produces a perfect rise and crust that will transform your home baking. An overnight prove and morning bake also fills the house with the smell of warm crusty bread and soft sweet figs all day... (If you don't feel confident handling quite a sticky dough you can reduce the total water content to 300g, but you may not get quite such a good result.)

Feed your starter the morning before you want to bake. I use a rye starter, mixed with double the amount of rye flour and lukewarm water (eg 75g starter, 150g flour, 150g water) left out at room temperature until the evening.

At aound 5 or 6pm mix 135g of the now active and bubbly starter in a large bowl with 325g cool water, squeezing the starter between your fingers until it is broadly broken down. Add 400g of organic strong white flour and 100g of organic spelt flour and mix until you have a fairly soft but slightly sticky dough. Cover and leave for 20mins before adding 7-10g salt (depending on your preference) mixed with 15g water, kneading until this is just incorporated. Leave for a further 10mins before adding 50g sliced soft ready to eat organic figs and 30g roughly chopped organic walnuts and giving the dough another 1-2min knead until the fruit and nuts are fairly evenly distributed. Leave the dough in the bowl and cover again.

Now you can start the bulk prove. Every 30mims for the next three hours (i.e. six times) stretch out one side of the dough, fold it right over the top, press down and then turn the dough 90 degrees, repeating until you have folded four or five times. Keep the dough in the bowl while you do this and stretch and press gently, you're trying not to tear the dough too much.

After a further 30mins, pre-shape the dough. Sprinkle a light dusting of flour on top of the dough and then gently scoop it out onto a work surface, flour side down. Stretch the dough into a rough square, then fold each corner into the middle and press gently to make a smaller square, then fold the new corners in again to make a rough ball. The dough should be sticky enough for the folded edges to stick. Now turn the dough over, and form a tighter ball by cupping your hands gently around the base (using the side of your hands and last two fingers to hold it steady) and pulling it towards you 6-8 times, rotating it around clockwise 45 degrees in between. Keep the dough ball upright (you're not rolling it along the counter top but using the friction against the tabletop to pull the 'skin' on top tight), but try to avoid tearing it. When you're done, place the dough in the bowl, seam side up. (Ideally you won't have a hole where the folded edges have joined - the 'seam' - but pinch the dough together if you need to.)

After a final 30mins to an hour, do the final shape. Tip the dough out, seam side down and tighten the ball again, using the same cupping and pulling technique. When you have a nice round smooth ball, after about 6-8 turns, tip the shaped dough in a floured bowl or banneton, seam side up, and leave to prove overnight.

In the morning place the Dutch oven on top of a baking tray inside the oven and preheat the oven for 30mins at 240 degrees (220 fan). Cut out a large circle of greaseproof paper, tip the chilled sourdough out onto this (now seamside down) and slash the top of the dough with a sharp knife or lame. Lift the paper with the dough on it and drop carefully into the Dutch oven. Turn down the heat to 210 degrees (190 fan) and bake for 15mins with the lid on, 15mins with the lid off and then 20mins out of the Dutch oven and just on the baking tray.

You should now have a beautiful crusty, light and soft loaf! If you can, leave to cool before devouring...