Another example of inspiration coming from The Fresh Loaf.  David is a regular contributor to the forum, and every bread he makes is a work of art. He is the type of baker comfortable enough around sourdough starter to  devise his own recipes, having recently come up with a fig and walnut concoction.   David had access to fantastic figs, but when I went to the store I was not particularly impressed with what was available.  Since I am no longer afraid to improvise ;-), I used dates instead.   This bread is perfect to practice mindful eating. Don’t devour it. Instead, savor each bite as slowly as you can. Awesome bread, very complex taste.

(adapted from David, at The Fresh Loaf forum)

for the stiff levain
41 g water
66 g sourdough starter
78 g all-purpose flour
4 g rye flour

for the final dough
337 g water
416 g all-purpose flour
46 g whole wheat flour
11 g salt
189 g levain
98 g dates, diced fine
98 g walnuts, diced and lightly toasted

Dissolve the starter in the water. Add the flour and mix thoroughly until the flour has been completely incorporated and moistened. Ferment at room temperature for 16 hours.

In a stand mixer, mix the flour and water at low-speed until it forms a shaggy mass. Cover and autolyse for 30 minutes. Coarsely chop or break apart the walnut pieces and toast them for 8 minutes in a 300ºF oven. Allow to cool. Coarsely chop the dates, rinse in cool water, drain and set aside.

Add the salt and levain to the autolyse, and mix at low-speed for 1-2 minutes, then increase the speed to medium (Speed 2 on a KitchenAid) and mix for 5 minutes. Add flour and water as needed. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl but not the bottom. Add the walnuts and the figs to the dough and mix at low-speed until well-distributed in the dough. (About 2 minutes).

Transfer to a lightly floured board, do a stretch and fold, and form a ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly. Ferment at 76º F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours with a stretch and fold at 50 and 100 minutes.  Shape as a large ball (or divide the dough in two and shape as two smaller loaves)  and place in banneton. Proof at room temperature (68-70º F) for 1-2 hours. Cold retard the shaped dough overnight.

The next morning, proof the dough at 85º F for 2-3 hours. Heat the oven to 480º F. Score the bread as desired, and bake with initial steam, reducing the oven to 460 F when the bread goes in. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, and cool completely on a rack before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here


I am still having issues with our oven, the temperature shoots up and down, making it hard to control proper baking.  At some point in the future we’ll change our kitchen appliances, but for the time being we dance according to the music. That’s the proper Zen attitude. Or so I am told…  😉

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting.

ONE YEAR AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

TWO YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

THREE YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese


    • Sawsan, I needed a ton of Zen today…. and not for bread-related reasons, so maybe the oven is good practice 🙂

      Your adventures with the Daring Bakers are great to follow, I am still in awe about the brownies… 🙂


  1. We had oven issues recently too. Ours would not hold a temperature. We finally got it fixed and now I’m having to adjust to its new temperatures (which are probably accurate finally). I keep burning things. Sigh. This bread looks as good as always. I love walnuts and dates. 🙂


  2. I came home from the bakery with a mini key lime pie (decided NOT to buy the loaf of challah bread after all) only to see this amazing fruit and nut loaf. Some of us aren’t even TRYING the jump and you keep raising the bread bar higher and higher. 🙂

    Looks delicious.


      • I want to respond with my mom’s patented, “I don’t care who started it, I’m finishing it … NOW!” but when the results are so delicious looking, I just don’t have the heart to do it. 🙂


        • That is TOO FUNNY! I was the youngest of three kids, but arrived 12 years later than my middle sister, so I was raised more or less as a single child. Still, I can picture very well your Mom’s remark….


          • My brother was 3 yrs older and he picked on me … a lot. And when he didn’t I still said he was picking on me. So neither of us were particularly blameless. Not that when we pulled that sort of thing when my dad was home. 🙂


  3. My very favorite bread is a cranberry walnut sourdough from Whole Foods. Clearly, this would also be a favorite. Thank you so much for sharing. Delicious, as always…and inspiring! I hope you have a wonderful weekend!


    • I’ve had my share of boo-boos, but have been on a nice roll for a while (knock on wood)….

      I am now thinking of baking some bread with commercial yeast instead of sourdough starter just for the fun of it.


  4. You certainly have a knack with bread baking, Sally. This loaf sounds wonderful. Its crumb is just how I prefer and the walnuts and dates are evenly spread throughout. I bet it’s delicious.


    • If I had the opportunity, I would definitely bake bread more often, as I enjoy the process so much! But, you know how it goes… that dance with the music thing 😉


  5. Very lovely loaf – I remember reading years ago that dates added keeping qualitites to bread, something that Nils wrote about on his legendary blog and that Dan highlighted in a Guardian post. Funny the bread details I remember, when I can’t remember where I left my keys… thinking of you and Phil this Eastertime. xx Jo


    • You are too funny! Today I saw my cell phone laying on top of the counter as I headed to work. Grabbed, put it in my handbag. Thirty seconds later I leave the car to go back, all proud of myself because “I almost forgot the cell phone”

      yeah, if you don’t have brains, better have legs.


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  7. Happy Easter Sally! Love the Zen philosophy and with a loaf as gorgeous as this one, I’m not sure your cuisine is suffering. I’m one of these people who absolutely loves the addition of nuts and fruits to bread (and chocolate for that matter ;-)) so I’m absolutely digging your walnuts and dates.

    Thinking of you and Phil and so sorry for your recent loss – xo.


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