Whew, that was a mouthful. I started an experiment feeding my leaven with water kefir—it’s turned out to be a hungry, active, fruity little creature. More about water kefirs and water kefir leaven later, but here’s a second take. More tinkering ahead.

**Water kefir sourdough with hazelnuts and sage
**240g 100% hydration water kefir leaven

150g water

200g T65 bis flour (slightly less refined than T65, could use bread flour)

40g buckwheat flour

40g whole rye flour

7g salt

75g hazelnuts

5g sage leaves, torn (or more??)

1. Take your leaven through as many feeds as necessary to get it nice and active.

2. Mix leaven, flours and water. Autolyse for 1 hr.

3. Add salt and fold in sage leaves and hazelnuts.

4. Use whichever mixing or folding method you are comfortable with, adjusting to your dough and conditions. I did two folds in about two hours. The dough is sticky but has strength.

5. Shape and proof. I had difficulty shaping this one as it’s very wet and sticky.

6.Watch your dough! This one has a tendency to proof very fast. It was ready in less than one-and-a-half hours. Preheat oven to 250 degrees (my oven is not that hot, so I turn it on to its maximum, knowing it’s not really 250).

7. Bake with steam in initial 10 minutes; turn oven down to 230 etc, as you see fit.

NB: my kitchen was about 23/24 degrees celsius.

A word about the water kefir leaven:

* It’s really just substituting water kefir (the fermented liquid drained of water kefir grains) with the water that you would ordinarily feed your leaven with. I find that with water kefir, the leaven ferments more quickly than with water. The leaven is bubbly and fruity-smelling and mild in taste. It also seems to maintain better in the fridge, i.e., doesn’t go sour as quickly as ordinary leaven does.

* Since I refrigerate leavens in between baking, I usually take it through two feeds before use.

* For the last bake with water kefir, I even used water kefir in place of water in the final dough. Everything was faster – fermentation, proofing. The dough was stickier too. I was caught by surprise for the final proof. It had doubled in barely an hour!! I’ve never had a pure sourdough loaf rise so quickly. You can try to slow things down by using fridge-cold water kefir. I wonder how it would take to overnight retardation, so perhaps the next things to try is an overnight proof?

As for the add-ons, I wanted to make it for a friend who sees no point in dried fruits in her breads so l left out the dried pears from the last time. But it would certainly not be remiss. I definitely upped the qty of sage this time, but I think it could do with even more. The fragrance of sage as it bakes is enticing, but the flavour is not really there unless you bite into one. The qty of hazelnuts is all right though. I wonder too how lemon would do in it???? Anyone’s ever baked with lemon zest?? There’s something about sage that brings to my mind lemon, but I wonder how that bakes up…

Result? This is the second water kefir loaf, and I can definitely say it makes for a lighter, milder loaf with a certain sweetness. I’m almost missing my usual sourdough tang. More proof of the ‘leavening’ quality of water kefir: I usually make pancakes with my surplus leaven. Using some rather old water kefir leaven, I added water kefir (in place of water), whole rye and buckwheat flours AND a whole lot of a muesli mix consisting of rye flakes, einkorn flakes, linseeds, oatmeal, pumpkin and sesame seeds—confession: it was an accident involving the muesli canister—and yet I got the lightest, fluffiest pancakes ever, considering all the heavy flours and bits and bobs. There was also this lovely mild sweetness that made any sugar or honey etc. quite unnecessary.

JoannaI know what you mean about missing the sourdough tang, but this looks and sounds fabulous!!!! Brian adores sage, grows it endlessly in the garden, so might try with the milk kefir, as I don’t have the water sort. The pancakes sound amazing too!

michaelawahPost authorhere’s a recipe i chanced upon for the sage lover: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/recipes/10223689/The-new-baker-sage-apple-cake.html

Does sage live past summer into autumn? What happens in winter and what protective measures should one take? I’m a noob

JoannaNo expert but sage is supposed to be a ‘hardy’ herb that comes up year after year. The Painted Sage (Clary) is an annual though, so depends on what sort of sage you have. In winter it gets a bit tatty and the plants can get leggy and woody so it is a good idea to trim them back, or so the theory goes. In practice I replace herbs when they go beyond a certain point. If it is in a pot then you are supposed to wrap pot in bubble wrap or agricultural fleece to stop the soil freezing or something like that. Depends on your local climate. We have purple sage that seems to go on from year to year in the garden.

Adriana CYou can find a bread recipe that use lemon zest if you search on http://www.thefreshloaf.com :

Olive and Herb Levain ,that belong to Pip’s ,dated 18.11.2011.I think that you’ll be able to get insired from there .

Best regards ,

Adriana C from Romania

michaelawahPost authorThanks for the suggestion, Adriana. It does look like a very nice loaf, olives in summer especially. I’ll try this when I get hold of good olives 🙂

cityhippyfarmgirlohhh I’m so intrigued by the water kefir. Thank you also for the lovely offer of the grains, I’m in Australia though and I’m pretty sure quarantine would have something to say about it? I’ll still continue the hunt though 🙂

Gorgeous looking loaf!

Aphro CuisineThis is BEAUTIFUL. Thanks for inspiration!