Crusty Fruit Loaf (Sponge Dough)

by - February 27, 2018

After trying the woodfired bread at Yallingup, Western Australia, I am in love with crusty breads.  We missed their fruit loaf the day we went and we really wanted to try the highly recommended loaf of bread. So, I tried my best and baked this crusty dried fruits bread as a consolation for myself. I just happened to get a new oval shape bread proofing basket that was ideal for this loaf.  The crust is crispy and the bread itself is very soft.  But of course we can’t compare with the Woodfired bread that we tried. 

My bread crumb is fine as I am still using instant yeast instead of natural yeast or sourdough starter.  I found that natural yeast or sourdough bread takes a longer time for proofing which is less convenient for me.  

It is advisable to read the below general notes before starting baking.


For kneading, please regard the timing provided as an indication only. It is only meant as a guide.  Timing may differ depending on the brand of flour and electric mixer used. The protein content may vary from one brand of flour to another.

Some have experienced the dough breaking during the second proofing.  If that happens it is due to over kneading.  Please stop the machine and check your dough during the final cycle of kneading to ensure that you don't over knead. Every machine is different and there is always a chance of over-kneading when using a machine. You may need to adjust this timing and stop as soon as you reach the window pane stage.

The right flour plays a very important role in bread making.  Usually bread flour content around 11.5 - 13.5% protein, while high gluten flour is around 13.5 - 14.5%.  All purpose flour content less protein around 9 - 11%.  To achieve fluffy, soft and light bread, I used Japan High Gluten Flour in most of my bread baking.  Sources from here and here.

The liquid measurement given is also a guide.  It is advisable to always reserve some liquid and not add it all in one go.  This would give you the opportunity to adjust if necessary. If dough is too dry, add the reserve liquid one tablespoon at a time until the right consistency.  This is because each flour absorbs water and hydrates differently. 

Please note that the proofing timing may also vary depending on your climate and environment. The humidity and temperature at your place will influence how dough rises.  
If you are unable to judge by just looking at the dough, you can do the finger poke test:
  1. First Proofing:
    • Lightly flour or oil your finger or knuckle, gently poke in the centre of the dough then remove your finger.  If it bounces back immediately without any indentation then it needs more time.
    • If the indentation stays and it doesn’t bounce back or if the dough collapses, then the it is over proved.  
    • If it bounces back just a little, then the dough is ready to be punched down and shaping.
  2. Second Proofing:
    • Lightly press the side of the proved dough with your finger.  If it bounces back immediately without any indentation, it means the dough is under proved and needs more time before baking.
    • If the indentation stays and it doesn’t bounce back, it means it has been over proved.
    • If the indentation slowly bounces back and leave a small indentation, it is ready to bake. 
    • There will be a final burst of rising once the bread is placed to bake in the oven and it is called oven spring. 
If your bread collapses or gets wrinkled on top after removing from oven, it could be because your dough over proved during the second proofing. Please proof your dough until it just reaches or is slightly below the rim of the pan.

Do also note that the baking temperature and timing provided are what works for my oven and should also be regarded as a guide only. Every oven behaves a little differently, so please adjust accordingly for your oven.

If you have any questions regarding this recipe or any other post, please leave me a comment in the “LEAVE A COMMENT” link and I will reply you as soon as possible.

Recipe - Crusty Fruit Loaf 

Yields:  1 loaf


Starter Dough:
90g bread flour (Japanese High Gluten Flour)
½ tsp instant yeast
½ tsp brown sugar
60g water (room temperature or lukewarm water)

Main Dough:
210g bread flour (I used Japan High Gluten Flour)
1 ½ tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 1/8 tsp salt
15g olive oil 
135g water (room temperature or lukewarm water)
25g raisins
25g dried cranberry
50g dried apricot

Dutch oven (cast iron skillet)
10” oval bread proofing basket (25cm X 15cm X 8cm)


For the Starter Dough:
  1. Combine water, yeast and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Then mix in bread flour and knead with your hand for few minutes until smooth and shiny.  Roll into a ball and place in a greased bowl.  Cover with cling film and let it prove for 2 hours in a warm and dark place. 

For the Main Dough:
  1. Add all main dough ingredients except dried fruits (first add salt, flour, sugar, yeast, olive oil, water and sponge dough (tear into few pieces)) into the bowl of stand mixer. Using the dough hook on a stand mixer, knead until the dough until comes together and achieve window pane stage (when stretch the dough you should be able to see thin membrane). It takes around 15 minutes.  Add the dried fruits after 10 minutes.   If the dough is too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time. Some bread flour absorbs more water.
  2. Let the dough complete the first round of proofing in the same bowl, about 60 minutes until double in size in a warm and dark place.  The best place is in an off oven.
  3. Transfer the dough to a floured table top.  Shape into a ball and flatten it with your fingers. Roll the dough into an oval shape. Transfer the dough into the floured proofing basket with seam facing up. Let the dough rise for second proofing about 45 to 60 minutes or until double in size.
  4. 30 minutes before baking, pre-heat the Dutch Oven with lid on at maximum temperature, 250C (fan-forced).
  5. Turn the dough onto a parchment paper. 
  6. Transfer the Dutch oven from oven and open the lid carefully.  Gently drop the dough with parchment paper into the Dutch oven.  Score the dough with razor blade at your desired pattern. Close the lid and return back to oven.  
  7. Bake for 30 minutes at 200C – 210C (fan-forced).  After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until the desired colour.
  8. Let it cool in cooling rack.

  1. If you don’t time to bake on the same day.  You may prepare one night before. After 1 hour of proofing, place into the refrigerator and use the next day. 30 minutes before using, take out the sponge dough from refrigerator to return to room temperature.
  2. Some oven can be very hot, you may remove the bread after 30 minutes.
  3. Bread crust stays crispy while the bread still warm.  However, it turns soft or chewy once it cools down.  To get back the crispy crust, just put the bread in a hot oven for 10 to 15 minutes to reheat or toast it.

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