Sunday, April 5, 2009

Double Fennel Loaf

I love fennel in all its guises. I love it in nature with its lacey yellow flowers, the elegance of its long stems, its fragrance which reminds me of wild childhood summers spent camping in Corsica, and I love it in the kitchen, roasted, boiled in a soup, steamed for an aïoli, slowly cooked into a confit, etc. And now I love it in bread!
I had seen a recipe for a triple fennel bread in a French baking book. The recipe called for commercial yeast. It also called for something I didn't have and have never seen in the stores, fennel pollen.
So I opted for double fennel instead of triple and for liquid starter instead of commercial yeast. We loved the result. The bread was moist and fragrant, a great accompaniment to soup but lovely also for breakfast (at least for palates like mine which favor savory breads).
For a delicious picnic, I plan to add to the dough tiny bits of fennel sausage, slowly sauteed in a pan until almost crisp. (In case you are interested, there is a great recipe for fennel sausage in David Tanis' A Platter of Figs).

  • 325 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 140 g rye flour
  • 30 g water
  • 250 ml milk
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 150 g liquid starter (100% hydration)
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 10 g salt

  1. Crush the fennel seeds either in a mortar with a pestle or with an electric grinder. Do not overprocess as the seeds should just burst open, not be ground into a powder
  2. Pour the milk in a little saucepan and heat it up
  3. When it starts boiling, remove from the heat and add the fennel seeds
  4. Let steep for 2 hours
  5. Turn on the oven (350 F/177 C)
  6. Clean and dice the fennel, put it in an oven dish and drizzle olive oil over it. Add salt and pepper and mix well
  7. Cover with foil and roast for about 45 minutes or until the fennel turns golden and tender
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool on a plate covered with a kitchen towel
  9. When the fennel-infused milk is ready, strain it through a mesh colander to remove all seeds or fragments of and pour it into the pan of the breadmachine (if using. If not using the breadmachine, use a mixer as this very wet dough may be difficult to mix by hand)
  10. Add all the other ingredients, except for the fennel pieces, in the order prescribed by the manufacturer (in my case, all liquid ingredients must go first)
  11. Start the dough program but stick around as you will need to check the consistency of the dough to make sure it isn't too wet
  12. When the machine beeps, add the fennel and check the consistency again (I had to add some flour as the dough had become very wet)
  13. When the programme ends, remove the dough from the bread machine, put it on a lightly floured counter and mix it by hand for a few minutes. It will be very sticky
  14. Put it in an oiled dough bucket (or a big bowl), cover and let rise until doubled in size, doing two folds (one every 45 minutes). For a video on how to fold a wet dough, check out this page of Susan's blog, Wild Yeast)
  15. When the dough is ready (when the imprint of your finger springs back really slowly), take it out of the bucket and put it on the lightly floured counter
  16. Pre-shape it into a boule (ball) and let rest about 20 minutes under a damp cloth
  17. Shape into a boule and place in a well-floured banneton (or basket). Put the banneton inside a large clear plastic bag, blow once into the bag and tie the end tightly
  18. Let rise 1 hour and a half to two hours at room temperature
  19. When the dough is ready (when the imprint of your finger springs back really slowly), take it out of the banneton, turn it over (so that the bottom is up) on a well-floured parchment paper (as the dough had somewhat stuck to the banneton, it wasn't easy to take it out. Maybe next time I will just let it ferment on the paper like a ciabatta) and score it
  20. Using the parchment paper as a sling, transfer to a Dutch-oven (cast iron or pyrex), close the Dutch oven tightly and put in the cold oven
  21. Turn on the oven to 470 F/243 C and bake for 45 minutes
  22. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and the bread from the Dutch oven (using the paper as a sling). Lower the temperature of the oven to 450 F/232 C and put the bread back in the oven for 10 minutes, directly on the baking stone if using one. If necessary, tent foil over the bread to prevent scorching
  23. Turn off the oven and let the bread dry for about 10 minutes in the oven with the oven door ajar
  24. Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

This bread will be submitted to Susan, from Wild Yeast, for Yeastspotting.


  1. I am a big fan of fennel too. I have seen a couple of breads with fresh fennel but have never tried it. This looks like a winner!

  2. Looks great, and I bet is smells wonderful! I just picked up some fennel pollen at our Farmer's Market. There is a local company that harvests wild fennel pollen - in case you are feeling up to the triple fennel recipe.

  3. Thank you, Susan and Ethan! Re: fennel pollen. I'll be going to the Ferry's Building Farmers Mkt in SF this morning and I'll look for it. If I can't find it, I'll try the website. Thank you very much for the tip.



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