Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fennel and Saffron Bread and the Suitcase Saga

There really is a connection between today's recipe and what the Silver Fox and I call the suitcase saga. We returned from India seven weeks ago. It was a wonderful trip, save for the fact that our luggage and that of the small group with whom we were traveling was lost. The airline was not helpful, and, as it happened, our luggage stayed in Kathmandu for a far longer time than we did. I was especially irritated because one of the suitcases contained gifts for the children, notes from cooking classes and spices that included a large quantity of saffron. We were about to begin negotiations for claims reimbursement, when Santa, in the guise of a Fed-Ex man delivered the supposedly irrecoverable luggage on Christmas Eve. The only problem was his truck contained all of the missing luggage and I had a momentary skirmish with the driver when I refused to accept any suitcase that had a luggage tag that did not bear our name. It took several phone calls and some head scratching to determine the next course of action, but the matter was finally resolved to every one's satisfaction and rest of the luggage was rerouted and sent on to its rightful owners. The good news was I had my saffron and that meant we could have bouillabaisse on New Year's Eve. It also gave me the opportunity to try a bread originally designed to go with the soup. The bread is the creation of Jacques Collet whose bread shops are famous in France. The bread is made with crushed fennel seeds and saffron and it is not for the faint of heart. It has a soft lovely crumb, and the addition of semolina also gives the bread a crisp exterior that makes it perfect for dipping into bouillabaisse. The bread is strongly flavored and some thought should be given to when you might want to use it. It is perfect for Mediterranean soups and stews, but I don't think it works for much else. I find its unique flavor too strong for sandwiches or toast. The bread is very easy to make and its color in daylight is beautiful. I really like this. I think you will too. Here's the recipe.

Fennel and Saffron Bread...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Jacques Collet


1-1/4 cups lukewarm water

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

2 to 2-1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon fennel seed, freshly ground

1/8 teaspoon ground saffron

1 cup semolina flour

Coarse cornmeal


1) In a large mixing bowl, combine water, yeast, sugar, and 1 cup unbleached flour. Stir until thoroughly blended. Proof for about 5 minutes.

2) Once proofed and foamy, add salt, fennel seed, and saffron, and stir to blend. Add semolina flour, little by little, stirring to blend. Stir in up to 1-1/4 cups more unbleached flour, working dough until it is too stiff to stir. Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and begin kneading, adding additional unbleached flour if dough is too sticky. Knead until dough is smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes.

3) Place dough in a bowl. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

4) Sprinkle a baking sheet with coarse cornmeal. Punch down dough. Shape into a firm ball and set on baking sheet. Cover with a cloth and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

5) After about 40 minutes, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

6) Bake bread in center of oven until crust is crisp and brown, about 40 minutes. Set on a rack to cool before slicing. Yield: 1 loaf

You might also enjoy these recipes:

Pain au Levain - Stumptown Savory

Rustic Potato Herb Bread - Playing House

Italian Bread - Annie's Eats

Basic Potato Bread - Cooking with K

New York Deli Rye Bread - Smitten Kitchen

Sourdough Seeded Rye Bread - Coconut and Lime

Debbie's Whole Wheat Bread - Tasty Tidbits

This post is also being linked to:

Wild Yeast - Yeast Spotting

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