Long-Fermented Toasted Sesame Loaf

390g warm filtered water

120g active sourdough starter

450g all-purpose flour

50g whole wheat flour

15g wheat germ

3g toasted sesame oil

18g salt

25g toasted sesame seeds

Adding new and interesting ingredients to bread can be both exciting and scary. Most of the time, adding fruit, nuts, seeds and spices will have a minimal effect on the fermentation. Other times, one is reminded that sourdough baking can be such a delicate balance that adding in another variable can throw a major wrench in the gears. So, with the unknown before me, I mixed a dough as usual, let the flours and water autolyse (rest) for two hours, and then threw in a whopping handful of freshly toasted sesame seeds at the same time I added the salt. And then I waited.

Fortunately, in this case I got the balance just right between time, temperature and texture. The “crumb” - or the interior of the loaf - was certainly more “closed” than my usual sourdough loaf, but I expected that.

When adding larger ingredients like dried fruit and nuts, you can count on the interior texture to come out very open and airy as these relatively large pieces get suspended in air pockets. Not so with small seeds, such as sesame seeds. As the CO2 suspended in the dough expands when subjected to the heat of the oven, it pushes outwards. Some air escapes and the rest gets trapped inside.

In this case, the sesame seeds were pushed out with the expanding gas and popped a number of the larger bubbles as a result. The same phenomenon occurs when seeds such as flax, sunflower, millet and other whole grains are thrown into the mix.

This is where the proofing becomes crucial. An under proofed dough that contains a high ratio of small seeds will often turn out dense. I’m talking bricks. I’ve done it before. Many times.

If you’re adding a small seed like sesame or one of the others mentioned, make sure to mix your dough a bit warmer and to give it sufficient time to rise before baking. I opted to mix with warm water and decided to let this dough proof for around 9 hours at a temperature of 68 degrees. After that, I made a game day decision before I went to bed. I could had three options: 1.) to leave it at this temperature, 2.) to chuck it in the fridge, or 3.) to find something in between. I opted for 3).

Sarah and I are currently sleeping in a basement room which runs about 8-10 degrees cooler than the main floor of the house. I decided to set the dough on my nightstand and see what the morning would bring.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t be posting this recipe and method if I wasn’t very happy with the results. The combination of the sesame seeds and oil leads to a super savory finished product that goes equally well with jams and peanut butter as it does with gruyere cheese and prosciutto.

So be brave. Give it a go. Just remember to add the seeds when you add the salt so that seeds don’t perforate your gluten as it develops.

Cheers, friends.