An open door in a side street off the Barfüsserplatz in central Basel. The unmistakeable smell of baking punctures the pre-dawn air, attracting glances from early morning travellers who stare enviously at those carrying packages home for breakfast.
Sadly this scene is no longer part of Basel’s rich bakery tradition, which is a shame. The breads produced by this old-style bakery contradicted the laws of physics, one bread more than others – a crusty walnut rye bread with a dense texture and a remarkably soft crumb.
The magicians who made these masterpieces every day from a traditional recipe had every right to claim it was the best walnut bread in the land.
We never managed to get the complete recipe out of them, but we believe they employed a sourdough called gerstel, a secret blend of barley, rye and wheat flours and a subtle use of walnuts.
Gerstel Leaven 50 g gerstel/barley flour 50 ml of water, lukewarm 150 g rye flour 100 ml of water, lukewarm (keep back 100 g)
The gerstel has three stages. This starts the initial process.
Firstly mix 50 g barley with 50 ml lukewarm water, leave to ferment covered with a damp cloth for 24 hours.
Secondly mix 150 g rye flour with 100 ml lukewarm water, add to the first mixture and leave to ferment for 12 hours.
Thirdly hold back 100 g of this mixture, and add 300 g rye flour to make a dry crumbly starter.
It will keep for weeks, and is reconstituted with an equal amount of water, then with rye and water to start the process all over again.
Use the remaining 250 g as sourdough for next batch of walnut bread making.
Final Dough 400 ml water 500 g rye flour 250 g sourdough 100 g wheat flour 120 g walnuts, halved 15 g salt 10 g yeast
In a large bowl dissolve yeast in the water, stir in the flours, sourdough and salt. Form into a dough, knead for five minutes.
Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for an hour.
Divide walnuts into two equal piles.
Cut dough into two equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a 25 cm round. Take one pile of walnuts and place half on the dough, roll and shape into a ball, pushing remaining walnuts into the top of the dough. Repeat, place doughs on greaseproof paper on a baking tray.
Leave to rise covered for 90 minutes.
Desired dough temperature 28°C.
Preheat oven to 140°C.
Bake for two hours.
Walnussbrot – 2
This is a 50:50 rye-wheat combination.
400 ml water 300 g coarse rye flour 250 g sourdough 300 g wheat flour 120 g walnuts, halved 15 g salt 10 g yeast
Boil 300 ml water. Sieve rye flour into a small bowl, pour in boiling water and leave for an hour to thicken into a paste.
In a large bowl dissolve yeast in 100 ml water, add wheat flour, rye paste, sourdough and salt. Form into a dough, knead for five minutes. Add the walnuts. Knead until dough is smooth. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for an hour.
Cut into two equal pieces, shape into rounds and place on greaseproof paper on a baking tray. Leave to rise covered for another hour.
Desired dough temperature 28°C.
Preheat oven to 240°C.
Place a tray half filled with boiling water in the bottom of the oven.
Turn heat down to 180°C and bake for 45 minutes.
Walnussbrot – 3
This is walnut bread made with wheat flour.
450 g strong white flour 150 ml milk, lukewarm 150 ml of water, lukewarm 125 g walnuts, chopped 25 ml oil 25 g yeast 15 g salt 10 g sugar
In a large bowl dissolve yeast in the warm water. Add flour, salt, sugar and walnuts. Mix thoroughly, then add the milk and oil, and form into a dough.
Knead on a floured surface for ten minutes.
Cover and leave to rise for two hours, degas once.
Shape into a round, and place on greaseproof paper on a baking tray.
Leave to rise, covered, for an hour.
Desired dough temperature 26°C.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Make a deep cross with two sharp cuts almost to the edges and leave to rise, covered, for 30 minutes.
Dust the loaf with flour.
Bake for 40 minutes.
This is adapted from The Bread with Big Holes
EDITORIALS EURO SNACKS FOOD CONNECTIONS FOOD STORIES GLOSSARY HIGH FIVES LEGENDARY DISHES RECIPES REVIEWS STREET MARKETS