Lahey Loaf #5: Fennel Raisin

It's fall now, so I can turn the oven back on and start baking bread again.

So far I have made the fig walnut (my personal favorite), the chocolate coconut, the olive and the lard bread, all from Jim Lahey's fabulous book My Bread.

With each new loaf I bake from Lahey's book, comes a new found confidence in myself.

I stopped in an Italian deli this week for fresh mozzarella (which was warm and delicious) and picked up a loaf of gorgeous "looking" bread, supposedly baked that morning in Brooklyn.

It was so stale, I couldn't even tear a hunk from it to eat with my mozzarella. It was so disappointing that I said to myself, I can bake a better loaf than the guys in Brooklyn, why did I just waste $5. on this?

Now that's confidence.

For my 5th loaf, I decided not to follow a recipe, but make one up and use Lahey's basic recipe as a guideline. Some of his loaves only use 1/4 tsp of yeast, some use 3/4 tsp. Not sure why, so if you know, please add your two cents.

There is a place in NYC called Amy's Bread, and she makes a delicious fennel raisin cornmeal loaf, it's pretty famous.
I used 3/4 tsp of yeast in the recipe, and it came out dense just like Amy's.

Since I was out of fennel seeds, I used ground fennel seeds, which was even better if you can find a jar. You can use fennel pollen too, but that's more delicate. The fennel gives it a nice anise flavor and goes so well with the sweetness of the raisins.

It was wonderful toasted w/ butter, as well as with ricotta drizzled with honey.

Fennel Raisin Bread:

3 cups of bread flour (I use King Arthur)
3/4 tsp yeast (I used Fleischman's this time)
1 1/2 cold water (55F-65F)
1/4 tsp of salt
1/2-3/4 cup of golden raisins
1 tsp of ground fennel seeds, (whole fennel seeds or fennel pollen)
cornmeal for dusting

I did the usual Lahey method and started it on a Saturday at noon, to have a nice Sunday loaf.

In a large glass bowl, whisk the yeast, fennel seeds, flour and salt together.

Add the cold water and mix until a sticky dough forms.

Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter in a cool, dry area for 12-18 hours.

When you return, the dough should have doubled in size and have little bubbles all over (my kitchen always smells like beer when the dough sits all night).

Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto a board coated with cornmeal, and fold the dough over a few times to make a ball.

Cover it with a tea towel (not linen, or it will stick) and let rest another 2 hours on the counter.

Preheat your oven to 475F and preheat a large Dutch oven with lid or casserole (cast iron or Le Creuset enamel works well) for exactly 15 minutes.

Place the ball of dough onto parchment paper and slide into the preheated pot.

Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake uncovered for 15 minutes until golden brown and crust is nice and crispy.


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I had no idea you could make such a variety of interesting breads with Jim's method. Looks great Stacey. I love the flavor fennel gives to almost anything.
I'm so impressed with your bread baking! I shy away from anything yeast. Nothing like fresh bread baking in the oven though.
I need to work on my self confidence!
Ciao Chow Linda said…
Oh if only I had some of this wonderful bread to enjoy with a glass of wine today. Now you've got me inspired to get out the flour and yeast. Lahey's bread recipes ROCK!
Oui Chef said…
You're my hero (or heroine as it were)...this sounds and looks amazingly good.
Joanne said…
GO YOU! I hate those stale loaves of bread when you know you can do better yourself. Your loaf looks great.
Anonymous said…
This looks great and I would love to try it – but I have a question: do you bake it at 475F? I think the Le Creuset lid only takes up to 350F, above that the knob melts. Can you cover the pot with aluminum foil? Thanks.
Stacey Snacks said…

I bake all my breads in the Le Creuset Dutch ovens and I always bake it at the 475F temp. My knobs have never melted!

I just looked, and it says not to exceed 450F, I never knew this!

No melting knobs, and I bake bread almost weekly......hmmmmmm.....

Thanks, Stacey
Marie said…
That looks stunning. I wonder if I use too much yeast...
Anonymous said…
Thanks - wonderful news!! This is the season for bread baking, and I have one more recipe to try :)
Anonymous said…
I love Amy's fennel raisin bread, it's the best....this looks amazing!
I bought his book after you made your first loaf.....It's amazing. I'll make this one soon, and can't wait to try with your suggestion of ricotta and honey.
Dana said…
I could eat that whole loaf. Just fyi, I was making an Indian dish for one of my classes last spring that called for toasted fennel seed that you then ground up - the flavor was amazing.
Anonymous said…
Hiya, thanks for the post - I love that Amy's bread and am excited to try to make it myself - but when do you add the raisins? I'm assuming before you add the water, but I don't see mention of them in the instructions.
eric said…
Looks like this recipe isn't being followed up on, but yeah you never mention when to add the raisins. Judging from other recipes, it seems they would be added before the first 12-hour rise, but since I didn't see that mentioned, I'll be adding them before the 2-hour rise. Otherwise, looks like it'll be real good!
Stacey Snacks said…
You add the raisins with the first rise, but I've done it in the second rise with good results too!

Sorry about that!
Unknown said…
Do you think you can mix cornmeal and flour to get the yellowish color and semolina taste?