Baking was not always a strong suit of mine. My aunt was a huge influence, introducing me to a wonderful tray bake called Food for the Gods.
This loaf is inspired by this pastry, which was one of the first bakes I mastered. With a delightful caramel taste from the brown sugar, a lovely sweetness from dates, and texture from chopped walnuts, it’s one of my favorite loaves to pair with tea and jam.
- Water: 281g
- Bread Flour: 240g
- Rouge de Bordeaux: 80g
- Rye: 40g
- Leaven: 72g
- Barley Malt Extract: 50g
- Sea Salt: 7g
- Brown Sugar: 36g
- Ghee: 36g
- Baking Dates, dredged: 54g
- Walnut, pieces: 54g
1. The day before you plan to make your dough, create the levain using an active starter. Mix water, flour,and starter and place into a small container that has enough room for the levain to grow 2-3x in volume.
Allow this to rise for at least 8 hours. When ready, proceed to step 2.
2. Using a large bowl, mix together water, levain, barley malt extract, and flours. Cover lightly with a towel and let sit for one hour. The longer the autolyse, the stronger the gluten structure.
3. Sprinkle salt over the dough and mix with 10g of water until thoroughly combined. 4. During bulk fermentation you will need to perform a fold to each dough half. Wet your hands with clean water, then gently grab the top of the dough and fold over towards the center of the bowl. Repeat this fold on all sides of the bowl.
5. Add the dredged dates and walnut pieces on top of the dough during the first fold. This will gradually mix evenly into the dough over the next few folds.
6. Repeat the folding during the bulk fermentation every 30 minutes for another 1-1/2 hours for a total of three folds. After the last fold, let sit for another 30 minutes for the dough to relax.
7. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and butter. Set aside.
8. Lightly sprinkle flour on top of the dough and turn over on a clean work surface. Gently flatten the dough, then spread the brown sugar and butter mixture using a spatula.
9. Shape the dough into a round by folding over the top of the dough to the center. Rotate the dough 180° and fold over the top to the center again. Repeat this to the remaining sides.
10. Clear off any excess flour on your work surface and turn over the dough, seam side down. Cup your hands around the top of the dough with your pinkies resting on the your work surface. Pull the dough towards you to tighten.
Repeat this on each side until the dough’s surface feels tight. Let rest for 15 minutes.
11. Prepare your banneton by lightly dusting it with flour. This will prevent your dough from sticking to the linen.
12. Perform the final shape on your dough: lightly sprinkle the top with flour, then flip over so the seam side is up. Gently pat down the dough into a rectangle with the short edge facing you. Fold up the bottom towards the center. Fold the top towards the center. Turn the dough 90°.
Take the top and roll in to create tension. Continue to roll and create tension until you have a tight shape.
13. Transfer the dough upside down into the banneton, using a bench scraper to guide it. The seam side should be up. Cover the basket with a light towel and place in the fridge for 10-12 hours.
14. When you are ready to bake, place a cast iron pan in your oven and preheat to 500°. Let your pot heat up for at least 45
15. Trim a piece of parchment paper into a large square to fit into the cast iron with plenty of room on the sides so you can lift.
Remove your banneton from the fridge and, using your hand to guide the loaf, turn upside down onto the parchment.
16. Once the cast iron pan is thoroughly heated, use oven mitts to carefully remove the it and place on top of your stove.
17. Pick up your loaf using the edges of the parchment and carefully place into the hot pan.
18. Use a lame to score the top of the loaf. This will help direct how your loaf will rise in the oven.
19. Return to the oven and turn down the heat to 350° and let bake for 60-70 minutes.
20. The loaf is done if the internal temperature reads 200°F, or the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow if you tap it. When done, place the finished loaf on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before slicing