Spelt Sourdough Bread with Fennel Seeds – Mediterranean-Inspired Sourdough Recipe!

Spelt Bread with Fennel Seeds - Mediterranean-Inspired Sourdough Recipe

I’ve been in love with fennel seeds for a while. I make tea out of them every single day, and the next natural progression was putting them in my sourdough bread. I also used spelt flour for this bread because its nutty flavour goes so well with the seeds.

Fennel seeds are very traditional in the Mediterranean cuisine and I keep seeing bread with fennel seeds around, so I’m very pleased I finally have my own version. It came out amazing!

Let’s get baking!

Ingredients:

  • 200g sourdough starter (fed and allowed to double, check this blogpost for the instructions on how to create, maintain, and refresh a sourdough starter)
  • 650g water
  • 700g white spelt flour
  • 300g wholegrain spelt flour
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 24g fine sea salt
  • 40g fennel seeds

If you don’t have spelt, you can use wheat flour instead, but you’ll need to adjust the amount of water a little bit.

Mixing the Dough

To start with, you’ll need a sourdough starter that has been recently fed and allowed to double. My starter is 50% white flour and 50% wholewheat flour, equal amounts of flour and water.

Next, add 600g of water (I use room temperature water these days because it’s warm enough already, but if it’s cold at your home, you can use warm water to speed up the process, just not over around 38 degrees C).

Whisk the water and the sourdough until it’s bubbling happily.

Now it’s time to add the flour. For this recipe, I use 700g white spelt flour and 300g of wholegrain flour because I love the nutty taste and texture of spelt, but feel free to use regular wheat if you prefer. You’ll just need to adjust the amount of water slightly.

The last ingredient at this point is extra virgin olive oil. Not only does it make the bread taste better, but it also makes the dough less sticky, which makes it so much easier to work with.

Then take a Dutch whisk and mix the dough roughly (or use a regular mixing spoon and then your hand). This is just a very preliminary mixing, to make sure all the flour is incorporated into the dough. Then cover the mixing bowl and leave it to rest for 30 minutes. This rest period is called autolyse and it allows the flour to absorb the water. It will make the dough much more elastic and easier to work with later.

The next step is adding salt, fennel seeds, and a little bit more water. Then you’ll need to knead the dough until it’s very elastic and soft. It’s going to take somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes. At the beginning it will feel like there’s too much water, but keep kneading and all of it will get absorbed.

If you feel that the dough is sticking too much at any point, just rinse your hands, shake off the excess of water, and knead again. I knead using the pincer and stretch & fold methods. I first pinch the dough, then I stretch it out and fold it onto itself (watch the video below to see what I mean). When you stretch the dough, make sure you don’t overstretch it. When you feel the resistance of the dough building up too much, stop or you’ll break the gluten strands. That’s not very good for the structure of the bread.

Once the dough is very elastic, it’s time to cover it and leave it to rest for 30 minutes. Then repeat one cycle of stretch & fold 3 or 4 times every 30 minutes.

With each stretch & fold, the dough is going to feel softer, smoother, and more elastic.

Once the stretch & folds are done, leave the dough until it’s expanded by around 30-50%. It’s important not to over-ferment it at this point. You’ll know that you’ve overdone it when the dough is too sticky and it doesn’t hold its shape well anymore. Also when there are a lot of big bubbles in it. If that happens, ferment it for a shorter time next time.

Shaping the Dough

Spelt Sourdough Bread with Fennel Seeds - Mediterranean-Inspired Recipe

The next step is shaping. First, take the dough out of the bowl carefully and place it on a clean unfloured surface. Then sprinkle some flour on top of it, divide it into two equal pieces, flip each piece, fold it in half, so that both sides are floured now, and then pre-shape it very roughly to a sort of boule. This is a very rough pre-shape, it doesn’t have to look like a perfect boule. Do the same with the second loaf.

Cover with a towel and leave it to rest for 30 minutes.

Once the time is up, it’s time to prepare the bannetons. Sprinkle some corn flour inside to prevent sticking.

Next, the real shaping! Sprinkle each loaf with some flour, flip it, shape it into a rough rectangle, and then stretch and fold halfway onto itself. Do it on all four sides until you’re left with a tight parcel. Flip it and tighten the surface by rolling it on the work surface (it sounds more complicated than it really is, just watch the video below for a demonstration of these moves).

Place the loaf in the banneton with the seam up. Repeat the same shaping process with the second loaf.

Place both bannetons in plastic bags and leave them to rest for the final proof. If you leave them out on the worktop, it might take you just 2 or 3 hours. But you can also put them in the fridge for the entire night. Do whatever works with your schedule, and don’t be afraid to experiment. There is hardly anything that can go wrong as long as you don’t overproof it (that’s truly the only sin you can commit).

Baking the Masterpiece

Spelt Sourdough Bread with Fennel Seeds - Mediterranean-Inspired Recipe

It’s time to bake the bread when it’s grown considerably, I’d say around 50-70%. You can also use the finger test. If the loaf is ready to be baked, if you press a floured finger into it, the dough will spring back up gradually. If it’s not ready yet, it will spring back too quickly. If it’s overproofed, it won’t spring back at all.

Place the Dutch oven inside the oven and set the tempareture to 260 degrees C (500 degrees F) which is usually the max. temperature for most ovens. Leave it on for 20 minutes. Then carefully drop the first loaf into the Dutch oven, slash it with a razor blade (I usually make three parallel lines or I draw a square because it looks good on a round loaf), cover the lid, and place the Dutch oven in the oven. Reduce the temperature to 230 degrees C (450 degrees F) and bake for 20 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for another 20-22 minutes until the crust looks perfect to you.

While the first loaf is baking, you can place the second one in the fridge. This will prevent over-proofing and will give the loaf an even better oven spring.

Once the first loaf is done, take it out of the oven and cool on a rack. Place the Dutch oven back in at the max. temperature of 260 degrees C (500 degrees F) for 10 minutes to re-heat. Then take it out, place the loaf in, slash it, cover the lid, and bake in exactly the same way as the first one. That’s it!

Always wait for at least 30 minutes before slicing fresh bread straight out of the oven because it keeps baking for the first 30 minutes after coming out of the oven.

Also bear in mind that spelt will never have as much oven spring as wheat, it will be a little denser, but it has such a beautiful nutty flavour that it’s my definite favourite.

Enjoy the baking process, and if you try this recipe, please send me a photo of your masterpiece on Facebook or Instagram. Receiving pictures of your beautiful bread makes my day each and every time.

Other sourdough recipes I posted in the past:

Simply yours,

Vita xx

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