Beetroot & toasted walnut sourdough

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Beetroot bread is nothing new but I like to add walnuts to the dough for added crunch and the lovely flavour they give, which is a great complement to the slight earthiness you get from the beetroot here. I gently toasted the walnuts here to really bring out the flavour.

The beetroot here is not over-powering, in terms of both colour and flavour it brings: the vibrancy of the initial dough reduces somewhat as the dough bakes looking, I think, less “off-putting” than some of the more garishly pink beetroot loaves you sometimes see.

It is quite a wet dough because of the inclusion of the beetroot, but with slacker doughs such as this, the stretch and fold method is much easier than full-on kneading.

About the “stretch and fold” technique

I have waxed lyrical before about the stretch and fold technique: an alternative to traditional kneading, this is simple approach that is excellent for slacker doughs; the gluten develops fully during the process,the dough gets sifnifiant aeration during the process and the result is bread with an excellent structure.

More information about the “stretch and fold” is on my main sourdough post here

Serving ideas

This is wonderful served just as it is with butter and with soup and toasted and spread with butter is a joy – as is the case with all sourdoughs!

I love this particular bread for open sandwiches: it is particularly excellent with a roast beef and horseradish cream topping, or topped with with salmon, lemon mayonnaise and spring onions.

However, mini loaf versions of this sourdough are wonderful sliced horizontally and then filled for more substantial sandwiches.

Beetroot & walnut sourdough: makes 2 medium loaves

  • 750g strong white plain flour
  • 200g sourdough starter
  • 14g fine sea salt
  • 450ml cold water
  • 180g raw beetroot, peeled and grated
  • 100g walnuts, roughly chopped (lightly toasted for extra flavour ideally)

(1) Mix the flour, beetroot and walnuts together in a bowl. Add the starter and most of the water, mixing until it comes together in a soft and fairly wet dough, adding more if necessary. Cover with a damp cloth and leave for about 30 minute to an hour.

(2) Sprinkle the salt on top of the dough and mix in: you will notice the dough become a little tighter.

(3) Grab a handful of the dough and lift it high out of the bowl. Slap it back into the bowl. Rotate the bowl a little and grab another handful. Repeat this for a few minutes. This is one set of stretches and folds. Cover with the damp cloth and leave for about 20-30 minutes at room temperature.

(4) Repeat the stretch and fold sessions three or even four more times, resting it for about 20-30 minutes after each session. Cover again but this time leave the dough for up to 24 hours in a fridge or about 8 hours/overnight at room temperature.
NB: the timings are approximate but don’t rush this bulk fermentation. An even slower rise in the fridge, for up to 2 days for instance, will give a tangier flavour.

(5) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and leave it there for about 10-15 minutes. Don’t worry if it is sagging and spreading: just give it a couple more stretch and folds so it holds it shape again but trying not to knock out all of the air that is in the dough.

(6) Cut onto two equal portions and pat each out into a rough rectangle with the shorter edge facing you. Fold the longer edges a little towards the middle and then lightly roll up the dough towards you. Gently roll the dough to give two smooth cylinders.

NB 1: the dough should hold its shape easily without collapsing. If it does not hold, pat the dough out again and repeat the shaping to develop the surface tension: it will get there!

NB 2: this is also great shaped into mini loaves and put in mini loaf tins – ideal split vertically down the centre and filled for sandwiches

(7) Pop the shaped dough into two bannetons that have been well dusted with rice flour or fine semolina, with the seams facing upwards. Dust the tops also and place inside a large plastic bag. Leave to prove at room temperature for several hours until risen to almost the top of the bannetons.

(9) Towards the end of the rise, pre-heat the oven to its highest setting and place a solid roasting tin on the bottom. Place two cast iron pans or solid baking sheets in the oven to heat up. NB: cast iron sizzle pans or griddle pans are ideal here.

(8) Remove the baking sheets or cast iron pans and gently invert the bannetons onto them: the dough should come out easily and hold its shape. Slash the tops with a razor or very sharp blade.

(9) Pour cold water into the roasting tray and place the turned out dough in the oven, bake for 10 minutes at this higher tempersture before turning down the temperature to 200C for about 30-40 minutes further.

For a non-sourdough version:

Make up the initial dough with a total of 750g strong white flour, 7g easy-blend dried yeast and between 380-400ml water instead of the starter. Incorporate the walnut and beetroot with the flour at the start, as in the recipe above.

Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking & eating.

6 thoughts on “Beetroot & toasted walnut sourdough”

  1. Nice! I really appreciate the freezing tip. Its a problem I’ve had with banneton loaves. I look forward to trying it. You’d need to cook it a little longer, no? Also the beets being primarily water would figure into the hydration on the liquid side of things. Any sense of the final hydration?

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    1. The freezing won’t affect the baking time too much as it is doesn’t get too frozen: just enough to hold its shape when it turns out.

      Yes re: the water in the beetroot. I add enough water to bring it to a soft enough dough, going more by feel, but with the water content of the beetroot it works out to be a little under 75% hydration in all

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