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Spelt, date, and walnut sourdough using wheat leaven

This is intended for people who want their bread to have that sense of being 'a meal in itself'. It is exceptional with blue cheese. This is necessarily a wheat leaven technique - don't bother doing this with yeast. It is a different approach to, for example, Andrew Whitley because he uses a spelt leaven. No need - your normal wheat (or rye) sour will work here.

Ingredients 175g wheat leaven (refreshed wheat sourdough starter - use a very lively wholemeal organic wheat - not spelt - flour for the frefresh. Might I suggest the wholemeal biodynamic from SM, if you are lucky enough to have got your hands on some.) mine is slightly runny - if yours is quite a stiff mix you might want to add 20 or so of water to the recipe.


300g organic wholemeal spelt flour

100g organic white spelt flour

90g chopped dates - I favour fairly moist ones for this, such as the 'mazafati' type very affordably found in many good Persian or Turkish food shops.

35g chopped walnuts.

9g sea salt

Sesame seeds to sprinkle

200g boiled or filtered water, cooled to room temp (sourdough does not love chlorine)


1 Mix the flour with the water and leave it to autolyse (sit still while it forms gluten) for about 45mins, in the mixer bowl covered with a wet tea towel.

2 (using still the food mixer) Mix in the sourdough starter and salt. Allow the mixter to go for at least a minute to strengthen the gluten.

3 Wet the work surface so the dough doesn't stick and scrape the dough out of the mixer onto it. Do not put downward pressure on this as it is a wet dough. Stretch it gently into a rectangle a little larger than a sheet of A4. Strew evenly the walnuts and dates all over this and then attempt the following. It does not matter whether it is a clean success:

4 Stretch and fold the 'sheet'. The bottom half up to meet the top: then left over right, right over left, top over bottom, bottom over top - this should form a decent ball-like parcel. Leave the dough with a moist bowl over the top of it for 45 mins.

5 Stretch and fold again. Leave for 30 mins under the bowl. Yes, the finely chopped dates and walnuts will cause a hassle here. It doesn't matter.

6. Stretch and fold and mould into a shape ready to go into the loaf tin. You should use a tin liner, baking paper or silicone. Roll the loaf in sesame seeds and drop it in to the tin and liner. Sprinkle more sesame seeds on the top, and 10 to 15 sunflower seeds for aesthetics.

7 Bulk fermentation. Put the tin into a plastic bag; blow into it to inflate it - but not fully! - and seal it up with a clip. Leave to rise in a warm place for 4 hours. Check it after 4 hours and allow more time - up to 6 hours if need be - for it to have risen noticeably. This is spelt - it has less rising power than wheat. It does not have to rise a huge amount and will expand when cooked also.mine generally reaches the top of the tin.

8 Place a dish (oven proof Pyrex) in the base of the oven filled with boiling water from the kettle to provide steam. Cook at 220 (fan oven) 10 mins and then turn it down to 200 for 26 mins.

9 Turn out. You might not be able to resist cutting some while still warm. If you do this, plug the sliced edge with baking paper to prevent the loaf drying out.