Fennel Seed Bread Recipe

Ingredients:

Sponge:

  • 1 ½ cups warm water (105-115°F)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)

Dough:

  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds, lightly toasted
  • 500g (about 4 cups) strong white bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Optional additions:

  • 1 tablespoon honey for subtle sweetness
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes for a touch of heat
  • ½ teaspoon minced onion or garlic for extra savoriness

Instructions

Preparing the sponge:

  • In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast, and sugar. Stir gently and let stand for 5-10 minutes until foamy. This indicates the yeast is active.

Making the dough:

  • Toast and crush the fennel seeds: Lightly toast the fennel seeds in a dry pan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Transfer them to a mortar and pestle or sturdy bowl and lightly crush them using the back of a spoon or a pestle.
  • Combine dry ingredients: In a separate large bowl, mix flour, salt, and crushed fennel seeds. Add any optional ingredients (honey, red pepper flakes, etc.) and mix well.
  • Mix and knead: Add the olive oil to the foamy yeast mixture. Gradually pour this wet mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing as you go. Combine until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. You can use a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment if desired.

First Rise:

  • Place the kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel.
  • Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1-2 hours until doubled in size.

Shaping and Second Rise:

  • Punch down the dough and transfer it to a lightly floured surface.
  • Divide the dough in half and shape each piece into loaves. You can make round boules, traditional loaves, or even rolls.
  • Place the loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or in greased loaf pans. Cover lightly and let rise again for 30-60 minutes, until nearly doubled in size.

Baking

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F (230°C).
  • Score the top of the loaves with a sharp knife (optional, for a decorative look).
  • Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  • Let the loaves cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Tips:

  • For softer bread, you can substitute some of the water with milk.
  • Experiment with different amounts of fennel seeds to find your preferred level of flavor.
  • Fennel bread pairs well with soups, stews, alongside cheeses, or dipped in olive oil.
  • Store leftover bread in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days, or freeze for longer storage.

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