from one generation to the next
I love bread, good dense sourdough bread with a crispy crunchy crust and a chewy crumb, the style of bread you see being sold at a high price in boutique baker’s shops across the globe, the style of bread which wins Parisian bakers their high level of regard.
I’ve been baking sourdough bread for over a year now and for the passed 6+ months each high quality loaf that I’ve taken my oven has left me humbled by the wondrous power of fermentation and it’s magical transformative power which changes flour water and salt into bread.
This miraculous bread tastes so darn good it’s very hard to resist and while I’d be happy to eat simple wholemeal or grainy bread every day my thoughts often wonder in the direction of variations. My only limitations are that I use just spelt flour, the fermentation must happen at a leisurely pace and I’m limited to ingredients that are tummy friendly.
I have a soft spot for fennel seeds and harbour lingering memories of their mellow aniseed flavour teamed with olive oil in a beautiful crusty loaf served by a friend many years ago. With confidence in my bread baking skills, I felt sure I could recreate that alluring flavour. All I had to do was make a few minor adjustments to my every day wholemeal loaf.
This is THE perfect loaf to serve with charcuterie and char grilled it make a delicious base for bruschetta.
Olive Oil and Fennel Seed Spelt Sourdough Bread
300g active sourdough starter
300g white organic spelt flour
200g wholemeal organic spelt flour
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, roasted and ground
1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
2 tablespoons robustly flavoured extra virgin olive oil
260 mls filtered tap water
2 tablespoons olive oil extra
2 teaspoons fennel seeds extra
Measure the ingredients into a large non reactive mixing bowl in the order they are listed.
Mix to a shaggy dough then cover* and set aside for 20 minutes.
Tip the sticky dough onto the floured benchtop, sprinkle a little flour over the dough and rub your hands with olive oil.
Knead the dough until smooth and elastic.
Clean the mixing bowl, add the second measure of olive oil and coat the surface of the bowl.
Put the ball of dough into the bowl, turn it in the oil to coat then cover and leave to rest for 45 minutes.
Tip the ball of dough onto the clean bench top and carefully stretch the dough out as thinly as possible by putting your hand under the dough and stretching outward.
Fold the dough into three in each direction until you have a tight ball.
Return the dough to the oiled bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 36 hours. My loaf proofed for 16 hours.
Prepare one large or two small bannettons by dusting generously with rice flour.
Divide the dough into 2 pieces if you prefer smaller loaves, then stretch each piece out as thinly as possible as per the night before.
Fold the dough into three in each direction until you have a tight log, then tidy the ends by turning the dough in on itself until neat.
Put the dough join side up into the bannetton then cover and leave for a minimum of 2 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
You can tell when the dough is ready to bake by a simple finger poke test. Poke a small indentation in the loaf. If the hole rebounds only halfway then the dough is ready. If it fills completely it requires further time, if their is no rebound the loaf has over proofed.
Preheat the oven to 225C fan forced.
When the oven reaches temperature, tip the dough from the banneton into a sheet of baking paper. Spray the surface with water, sprinkle with the extra fennel seeds, then slash the top surface.
Transfer the loaf on the paper to a roasting dish (I use a Falconware Enamel Roaster) and cover tightly.
Bake at 225C for 20 minutes.
Remove the lid of the roasting pan, reduce the heat to 200C, and bake for a further 25 minutes.
Remove the loaf to a wire rack to cool.
* I avoid the use of single use plastic in my kitchen. I have found that regular, elastic edged plastic shower hats designed to keep your hair dry in the shower are perfect for covering bowls.