Fennel Seed Bread Recipe

 

The fennel seed is a a beautiful ingredient for bread baking – think subtle aniseed with warm, sweet aromas. This fennel seed bread recipe brings out the best of the seed’s aromatic flavours. A flavoursome breakfast bread for any day of the week!

For my fennel bread recipe, I’ve chosen a combination of flours: strong white wheat and maize flour. Taking a look at other bakers’ recipes, there are plenty of fennel and nut combos, specifically hazelnuts (e.g. Ottolenghi’s fennel seed crackers or Hamelman’s hazelnut and fig bread with fennel seeds and rosemary). Dried fruits such as raisins, cherries or figs are also popular fennel seed companions (e.g. Andrew Whitley’s semolina, raisin and fennel bannock). As such, I’ve opted for a fennel bread which includes nuts and dried fruit and it works beautifully.

Fennel seed bread
Fennel seed bread

Fennel Seed Bread Recipe

My recipe uses a fruit, nut and fennel seed soaker to infuse some of the liquid that goes into the dough to extract some extra flavour from the seeds and to soften the raisins pre-bake.
I provided options for both a yeast-based and a sourdough-based version of this bread below.

Fennel seeds
Fennel seeds

Yeast-Based Fennel Bread Recipe

This recipe is based on a small of amount of dried yeast as the leavening agent.

Ingredients

Soaked raisin, hazelnut and fennel seed mix

  • 50g raisins
  • 50g hazelnuts, roughly chopped (you can also use almonds)
  • 6g fennel seeds
  • 100g water, hot

Main dough

  • 450g strong white wheat flour
  • 75g maize flour
  • 9g salt
  • 5g dried yeast
  • 315g water
Fennel seed bread slice
Fennel seed bread slice

How to make fennel seed bread

  1. Prepare the raisin, hazelnut and fennel seed soaker by lightly toasting the fennel seeds in a frying pan for a few minutes until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and roughly crush with the pestle. Combine the fennel seeds and other soaker ingredients in a bowl, stirring before covering the bowl. Leave to rest for a few hours or overnight.
  2. After this, combine all of the main dough ingredients and add the liquid from the soaker.
  3. Form a dough and knead for 10 minutes.
  4. Place in a bowl and cover for about an hour. The dough will have visibly risen by then.
  5. Take the dough back out of the bowl and fold in the raisin, hazelnut and fennel seed soaker until distributed evenly throughout the dough.
  6. Shape the dough into a round loaf, cover the outside with flour and place into a pre-floured proofing basket.
  7. Cover the proofing basket in a polythene bag to prevent the dough from drying out.
  8. Rest for an hour or two until the dough is fully proofed.
  9. Preheat the oven to 220°C and – if you are using a baking dome – preheat the dome from cold at the same time.
  10. Turn out the fennel seed loaf onto the baking dome plate (or otherwise a baking tray lined with baking paper) and score the bread with a scoring knife. Cover the dome if using.
  11. Bake at 220°C for 10 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 200°C for another 45 minutes. Take off the baking dome lid for the final 10 minutes to brown the loaf nicely.
  12. Cool on a wire rack.

Sourdough-Based Fennel Bread Recipe

This version of the recipe doesn’t use commercial yeast, but uses sourdough starter instead.

Ingredients

Sourdough starter

  • 25g wheat sourdough starter
  • 100g strong white bread flour
  • 100g water

Soaked raisin, hazelnut and fennel seed mix

  • 50g raisins
  • 50g hazelnuts, roughly chopped (you can also use almonds)
  • 6g fennel seeds
  • 100g water, hot

Main dough

  • 350g strong white wheat flour
  • 75g maize flour
  • 9g salt
  • 215g water

How to make fennel seed bread

  1. Refresh the sourdough starter by combining the sourdough ingredients mentioned above in a medium bowl. Mix well, cover with a lid and set aside at room temperature for at least four hours or overnight.
  2. At the same time, prepare the raisin, hazelnut and fennel seed soaker by lightly toasting the fennel seeds in a frying pan for a few minutes until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and roughly crush with the pestle. Combine the fennel seeds and other soaker ingredients in a bowl, stirring before covering the bowl. Leave to rest for a few hours or overnight.
  3. After this, combine all of the main dough ingredients with 200g of the refreshed sourdough starter (the rest goes back into the fridge for your next bake) and add the liquid from the soaker.
  4. Follow steps 3 to 12 as in the yeast-bread recipe version above. However, please allow more time for step 4 and step 8 as the process will take quite a bit longer using sourdough instead of yeast.

Enjoy!

I also used fennel seeds in this Moroccan bread recipe.

Polenta Bread Recipe (Sourdough)

 

I love polenta and it tastes awesome in bread. Here is my polenta bread recipe for a sourdough loaf with pumpkin and sunflower seeds inspired by Dan Lepard’s polenta bread in The Handmade Loaf.

Polenta bread slices
Check out the wonderful colour on these polenta bread slices

Polenta bread recipe with seeds

Day 1

Sourdough

  • 50g 100% hydration sourdough starter
  • 100g strong bread flour
  • 100g fine wholewheat flour
  • 200g water

Combine the above ingredients in a bowl and cover for 24 hours.

Toasted Seed Soaker

  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds, toasted
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 80g water

Toast the seeds in a small saucepan and cover with the water. Cover for 24 hours.

Day 2

  • 50g polenta
  • 175g water
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • 300g white flour
  • 50g maizemeal
  • 7g salt
  1. Oil a dinner plate with the olive oil (use a brush to spread).
  2. Place 50g polenta and 100g water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil; stir while it thickens and wraps itself to the stirring spoon.
  3. Remove from the heat and from the pan right away; spoon the polenta onto the dinner plate and flatten it out across the whole surface.
  4. Place another dinner plate (up side down) on top and leave to cool slightly.
  5. Combine the flours and salt, the cooled down polenta, the remaining water (75g), 400g of the sourdough and the seed soaker in a large bowl.
  6. Knead for 10 minutes.
  7. Place back into the bowl, cover and leave for about 1.5 hours.
  8. Give the dough another quick knead.
  9. Prepare a proving basket by flouring the surface in order to prevent the wet dough from sticking. Alternatively, if you have one, use a Lékué bread maker, it’ll make the proving and baking process much easier.
  10. Shape the dough into a loaf and move around in a flour bath (covering the whole loaf surface) before placing it into the proving basket seam-side up.
  11. Cover with a polythene bag and keep in a warm place for 3-5 hours until well risen. The time may vary widely based on the temperature in your room. Give it some extra time if the dough needs to rise more.
  12. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  13. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  14. Turn out the dough onto the baking tray and score the dough by making several diagonal incisions.
  15. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes.
Polenta bread
Polenta bread – delicious with cheeses and cold cuts of meat

Gluten-free buckwheat & linseed bread recipe

 

 

I personally get on well with gluten, a natural protein found in wheat and other grains. I am, however, painfully aware that not everyone is as lucky. Gluten-free bread recipes don’t have a particularly good reputation; but I found a great recipe that uses a variety of gluten-free flours and tastes delicious!

Gluten-free buckwheat & linseed bread
Gluten-free buckwheat & linseed bread

The role of gluten in breads

When preparing wheat dough, a stretchy web is formed. This elastic gluten network expands with the gases formed in the fermentation process, holds moisture and prevents bread from crumbling.

In gluten-free bread baking, ingredients such as linseed and psyllium husks help to hold the bread’s shape. Golden linseed, when toasted and added to the liquid ingredients of bread dough, releases a sticky gluten-like gum which softens the crumb. Psyllium seed husks, a source of fibre, bind moisture and make gluten-free breads less crumbly.

Psyllium seed husks
Psyllium seed husks

How gluten-free bread is different

The absence of gluten has a number of implications on the bread and baking process:

  1. Kneading is not required as gluten (the stretchy network) can’t be developed.
  2. The dough needs to be quite wet as gluten-free flours soak up much more water than wheat.
  3. Although gluten-free bread doesn’t keep too well and gets stale quickly, freezing parts of your freshly-baked loaf solves this problem.

Gluten-free flours

There is a good variety of alternative flours which can be used in gluten-free baking. Gluten-free flours can be made of corn, tapioca, buckwheat, rice, chickpeas, beans, soya, millet, potatoes, teff, chestnuts, almonds and peas.

Health food stores and more and more supermarkets stock gluten-free flours. Real Foods stocks a great range of flours and ships worldwide.

Gluten-free sourdough

Gluten-free bread baking does not mean sourdough-free baking. Teff flour sourdough for example is usually used to prepare the Ethiopian bread injera.

On this note, there are some very interesting findings in terms of making wheat sourdough bread safe for people with coeliac disease. More on this with some encouraging results on Celiac.com.

The gluten-free buckwheat & linseed bread recipe (by Dan Lepard)

I used a Dan Lepard recipe for this gluten-free buckwheat and linseed bread, substituting half of the cornflour with buckwheat flour. Cornflour is a useful base flour with good binding properties, however its nutritional value is limited. Buckwheat adds flavour and nutritional quality into the mix.

Gluten-free bread dough, no kneading required
Gluten-free bread dough, no kneading required

The verdict

I don’t have to opt for gluten-free breads, but I think this buckwheat, cornflour and linseed loaf tastes great and takes very little effort. It’s spongy and doesn’t break up or crumble although it’s a little cake-like in consistency. As I used half corn and half buckwheat flour, the bread has a strong buckwheat taste. This isn’t a bad thing at all if you like the distinct buckwheat flavour, like me.

Eat with…

I personally like combining this bread with very salty flavours. It works well with smoked fish, gherkins and cottage cheese but I have also tried more Mediterranean-style toppings such as black olive pâté or a tomato, olive and basil salad with pecorino shavings.

Khobz Recipe – Authentic Moroccan Bread

 

Watching the first episode of Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast set in Morocco, I was (of course) inspired by the industriousness in the Moroccan bread bakery. It brought back memories of my first authentic Moroccan meal, sitting on a balcony overlooking the bustling Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakesh.

If you love Middle Eastern & Mediterranean food as much as I do, Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks are an unbelievably wonderful resource:

Now For The Khobz Recipe…

This authentic Moroccan bread, called khobz, is a round, flattish bread with plenty of crust making it an ideal bread for dipping and scooping up tagines and salads.

Khobz 2014
Khobz – Moroccan Bread with Sesame Seeds

I found a wonderful recipe for Moroccan bread on the Culinary Anthropologist blog and have adjusted it slightly by using wholegrain spelt instead of wholemeal wheat flour. The bread is usually flavoured with anise seeds; however, I used fennel seeds instead which worked well.

Ingredients for 2 khobz loaves (enough for 6 people)

  • 325g strong white bread flour
  • 50g wholegrain spelt flour (use wholemeal wheat flour as an alternative)
  • 125g maize flour or fine polenta
  • 9g salt
  • 5g dried yeast
  • 350g tepid water (add slightly more if needed)
  • 2 tsps sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • Sesame seeds for the topping
  • Olive oil to grease the bowl and brush the bread

How to make khobz bread

  1. Combine the flours, salt, yeast and water in a large bowl.
  2. Knead for 10 minutes.
  3. Knead in the sesame and fennel seeds.
  4. Lightly grease the bowl with olive oil.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball, place in the bowl (moving it around to cover the dough with olive oil), then cover the bowl.
  6. Prove the dough for approx. 2 hours (depending on the temperature in the room; it should rise significantly).
  7. Divide the dough into 2 halves with a dough scraper and shape each part into a ball.
  8. Prepare a baking tray and line with baking paper.
  9. Place the dough balls onto the baking tray and flatten them with your hands to about 4 cm in height.
  10. Sprinkle the loaves with the sesame seeds and use your flat hand to carefully press them into the dough.
  11. Cover the loaves with a tea towel and leave for their second prove. This should take about an hour.
  12. 1/2 hour before baking, preheat the oven to 240°C.
  13. Just before baking, brush the loaves with olive oil and make a few incisions.
  14. Bake for approx. 30 mins.
  15. Cool on a wire rack.
Khobz close up 2014
Moroccan bread with maize flour and fennel seeds

Khobz is best eaten on the day of baking. We had it with this super-tasty lamb tagine, a recipe by Antony Worrall Thompson.

If you have any leftover khobz, try this spicy Moroccan bread salad recipe.

Enjoy!

Savoury cornbread recipe

 

Last Sunday I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner and my friend Mariel from NY put on a huge feast for us (great homemade rum ice cream also by Rich!). Of course, my contribution to the dinner was going to be bread related and for this occasion it had to be cornbread (the savoury kind). This is my very own savoury cornbread recipe, tried and tested many times.

First of all, some clarification on cornmeal since I live in the UK and this is a typical US dish. Cornmeal (the finely ground version you need for cornbread) is also referred to as maize flour in the UK or you might get finely ground polenta.

Traditionally in the States, a skillet (a cast iron pan with slanted sides) is used for baking cornbread. The skillet is the only way to make it all-round crispy and crunchy. Unfortunately, I’m currently lacking a skillet (not much longer I hope!) so I used a baking tin. You can use the same recipe to make savoury cornbread muffins. Just divide the mixture among the muffin tins and bake for slightly shorter than in the below recipe (about 20 minutes overall).

Savoury cornbread with sweetcorn, onion, chili and cheddar
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5 from 3 votes

Savoury Cornbread Recipe

Easy to put together and a great side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner or any other time of the year, whenever you fancy a delicious snack! TIP: Get all the ingredients ready and all the chopping and grating done before you start putting the savoury cornbread batter together.

Ingredients

Ingredients for savoury cornbread

  • 100 g maize flour
  • 100 g plain white flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 50 g butter melted, plus 1 tbsp of butter for the onions
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 175 g buttermilk
  • 100 g sweetcorn from the tin, chopped
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 2 fresh green or red chilli deseeded and finely chopped
  • 125 g of cheddar grated

Instructions

How to make cornbread

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  • Line a baking tray with baking paper. In terms of baking tray size, the above recipe will fill a 23cm square (or round) baking tin, about 4cm deep.
  • Melt a tablespoon of the butter in a frying pan and sautée the onion for 2 minutes.
  • Add the chili and fry for another 5 minutes until the onions start to brown.
  • Add the chopped sweetcorn kernels and stir for another 2 - 3 minutes.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • In a large bowl, mix the maize flour, plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Stir the dry ingredients with a balloon whisk until well blended.
  • In a separate bowl - mix together the butter, eggs, honey and buttermilk - again a balloon whisk works best.
  • Add both mixtures (the dry and wet ingredients) together, mix it all up carefully until combined.
  • Gently fold in the onion, chili and sweetcorn mixture and ⅔ of the grated cheddar. You should now have a creamy, thick, barely pourable batter.
  • Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake at 200°C for about 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven to quickly sprinkle the remaining ⅓ of the grated cheese on top.
  • Return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes or until the cornbread turns golden brown.
  • Check that the bread is baked through by inserting a toothpick into the centre – it should come out completely clean.
  • Allow the bread to cool in the baking tin for about 10 - 15 minutes before you move it onto a wire rack.
Savoury cornbread recipe
Savoury cornbread recipe: great colour and texture and ready to join the Thanksgiving trimmings

What a wonderfully colourful bread! Soft and moist on the inside with a deep golden brown top layer.

This savoury cornbread recipe works really well with soups, starters, grilled meat or salads. Try to fry slices in butter, it’s delicious.

Experiment with the ingredients, take out the chili and just add some fresh herbs such as thyme. Build a basic cornbread batter and add whatever you are in the mood for – sun-dried tomatoes or olives for example. Note that you might need to adjust the amount of buttermilk you use as the consistency of the batter will be determined by the moisture content of your selection of savoury ingredients.

Wrap any leftovers in foil and reheat in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes.

Happy Thanksgiving!