The Perfect Brunch Bread: lemon and hazelnut

I spent last weekend in Calgary, visiting family, which meant no time for baking.

But it also meant I got to put my latest creation to the perfect test. The lighter coloured bread on the right is my Lemon and Hazelnut wild yeast bread (aka Sourdough), with a bit of herbs de provence to keep it on the savory side of things. This odd combination of ingredients was the result of me wanting to bake something with lavender, finding good pairings (lemon and hazelnut) and then realizing I was out of lavender (whoops).

The extra light crust is the attractive result of baking in a dutch oven, and forgetting to take the lid off after the first 15 minutes. The crust is just as crispy and delicious, but I like how it looks this way.

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Oh well!

Lox (smoked salmon) and bagels are all well and good, but you know what’s better? Lox and lemon hazelnut sourdough!

Unfortunately, we ate it too fast to take pictures with the lox (aka it was delicious and I was too distracted to remember to take pictures), but trust me, the lemon, with the soft earthy flavour of the hazelnuts and the floral flavours coming from the herbs de provence all worked perfectly together. Consider this your next brunch bread. (What, doesn’t everyone make bread for brunch?)

When I told my family that I was bringing a “lemon hazelnut bread” to brunch, they naturally assumed it was a quickbread – you know, with the lemon drizzle on top, loads of sugar, and a nice tart dessert.

The lesson here, along with my Savory Chocolate Bread from Thanksgiving, is that with a few simple tweaks (often just omitting added sugar), you can enjoy traditionally sweet flavours in a savory package, which is great for a dessert lover like me.

This bread couldn’t be simpler to make. It’s got a grand total of 6 ingredients.

  • Flour
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Hazelnuts
  • Lemon Zest (from two lemons)
  • Herbs de Provence

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This formula assumes that you’re using a whole wheat sourdough starter at 75% hydration, and that it’s been fed recently, preferably no more than 12 hours before mixing the dough, as we want to keep this bread on the less sour side.

Lemon Hazelnut Formula.PNG

The Dough

  1. Build up your refreshed starter into the whole wheat levain. Allow it to reach its peak (8-12 hours, depending on environmental factors). If you’re going to mix the dough right away, leave it out, but don’t let it collapse. If you’re not mixing right away, put the levain in the fridge for up to 48 hours.
  2. When ready to mix, put the levain, water and flour into the bowl of your standmixer and mix with the paddle until combined, or mix by hand until combined. Omit the salt. I don’t usually autolyse, but because of the acidity from the lemon, I did here. Leave it (loosely covered) for 20 minutes.
  3. While waiting, zest your lemons. The 1% (approx 12g) suggested above is more of a guide and is what I used for one decently sized boule (as pictured). It gave the bread an unmistakeable, but not overpowering, flavour of lemon. If you have meyer lemons available, I might try it at 2%.
  4. Switch to the dough hook (or continue mixing by hand, although I don’t recommend it), add the salt, lemon zest and herbs de provence (but not the nuts), and mix on 2nd speed for 3-4 minutes, until your dough is smooth, and tacky but not sticky.
  5. Remove from the bowl, knead for 30 seconds and then form into a ball and leave uncovered.
  6. Roughly chop your hazelnuts. You don’t want pieces bigger than about a half of a hazelnut, but not too small either – they should be big enough to get some crunch into the bread. A few whole ones won’t hurt.
  7. After 10 minutes, flatten the ball with your hand, spread out a quarter to a third of the chopped nuts on the exposed surface of the dough, and do a ‘stretch and fold’. Form the dough into a ball, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  8. Repeat 3 more times, leaving about ten minutes between each set. Each time you do a ‘stretch and fold’, add another handful of your chopped nuts, so that they’re all incorporated by the final ‘stretch and fold.’
  9. Do a windowpane test.
  10. If, after all 4 sets are completed, the dough still doesn’t pass the windowpane test (it should), leave it covered on the counter for 20 minutes, and do a final ‘stretch and fold’.
  11. Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly, and leave at room temperature for at least 2 hours, or until it just shows signs of growth (for me in a Winnipeg fall/winter, this can take up to 4 hours, due to the dryness and cold. Every kitchen is different).
  12. Put the dough in the fridge at least overnight, and up to 4 days.

Baking Day

  1. Remove the dough from the fridge 4 hours before you plan to bake (longer if your kitchen is cold, though I cheat and stick them in a cold oven with the light on to speed it up. It’s risky, try to avoid it.)
  2. After two hours, turn out the dough, divide and shape as desired.
  3. Leave to proof in a banneton or couche. If you’re proofing freeform, put your dough on parchment paper with significant overhang so it can be dropped into a dutch oven without deflating it.
  4. If you’re baking in a dutch oven, preheat it inside the oven at 500F at least 45 minutes before baking.
  5. When ready to bake, put on high-temperature oven mitts.
  6. Carefully remove the lid of the dutch oven and put aside.
  7. Lower the bread into the pot without dropping it, replace the lid, and close the oven.
  8. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until a knock on the bottom sounds hollow. To get the lighter colour you see above, leave the lid on the dutch oven the whole time (cooking time will be a bit longer). For a traditional crust, take the lid off after 10 minutes.
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