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!


  • 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 the remaining 50g of 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 toΒ 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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  1. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
    can I omit the fennel seeds without affecting the final result?

  2. Shahar Shaynes says

    A wonderful bread! baked it a few times, does not last too long πŸ˜‰
    How will it behave with higher hydration? let’s say 70%, 75%?

    Thank you!

    • It really depends on how much of the wholegrain flour you’re using, and whether your white flour is of the strong variety or not. I personally can’t increase the hydration at all because the dough becomes too watery and doesn’t hold the shape at all. So glad you’re enjoying the recipe! <3

      • Indeed, It did not hold the shape. Not sure about how strong is the grain, But I am using 70% white and 30% whole Spelt.

  3. Hi Vita,

    I am looking forward to try this recipe now. How long does the bulk fermentation take? Can I go according to your suggestions in your post on your secret sourdough bread recipe? My appartement is cold, below 18 degrees celsius. Can I just leave it one the counter over night for 10 hours? Or will it overferment? Thank you, Paula

    • Hello Paula! I have such a temperature sometimes, and I still find that leaving it overnight is too much. It overferments because the thing is you don’t really want the bread to grow by more than 50% or so in the bulk fermentation stage. I would personally do the 3 or 4 stretch & folds and then would put it in the fridge overnight. However, if your apartment is considerably colder than 18 degrees, it might actually be OK for you. You really just need to experiment and see. <3

  4. Great, thank you. I just tried your recipe, and the dough is in the proofing baskets. I had to add some extra flour because after kneading and stretching and folding it for about 10 minutes it was still kind of sticky or a little watery. In the end I just prepared it in the morning, rather than in the evening, so that I would be able to observe the fermentation state πŸ™‚ I am new to sourdough baking, and two breads I have baked so far turned out delicious, but kind of flat, they did not have a good ovenspring, I guess I overfermented them…so I hope this time it will work out.

    Another question, is it possible to make this recipe with 700 gr whole spelt flour and 300 gr white spelt flour? Will the results be the same, or do I need to adjust the amount of water?

    • PS the bread turned out amazingly! Thank you so much for your recipe and your detailed descriptions., making the process so much easier πŸ™‚

    • Hello Paula, I’m so sorry for replying so late. Flour in different countries or even different brands differs a bit, so the amount of water will always differ as well. Feel free to always adjust a bit. πŸ˜‰ It does sound like those loaves were overfermented. Honestly 99% of the time someone asks me about a problem like that, it’s always overfermentation. You can make it with 700g of wholegrain spelt, but bear in mind that it’s going to be quite dense and dry, plus you’ll need quite a bit more water, and the fermentation times will be shorter. <3

  5. Theresa Aberilla says

    Hi, your way of bread making is heavenly!

  6. Aliza Herman says

    Thanks Vita– I’m a follower! Made this three times and once didn’t overnight proof and still tasted great!

  7. Hi made this bread with 100% whole grain spelt I add 675g of water instead of 650g from your recipe. Crust of bread looks nice & crispy but inside dough is still a little wet not fulling dry. What could be the reason for this?

    • Could it be a little undercooked? Also, how was the texture? Was it very dense and sour? If that’s the case, it’s likely to be fermented a little too long. <3

  8. The sour dough breads I mainly make use a Levain. The results are great but I have an issue with the amount of discard I’m left with. Do you make most of your breads with only the active culture?

  9. This bread is delicious, but I have halved the amount of fennel seeds because I found it too strong otherwise. And I would suggest using parchment paper between the bread dough and the Dutch oven, so as to avoid it sticking (which happened to me this morning and meant that the bread ended up breaking all over the place because it wouldn’t come out). But, it is still delicious πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    • Sprinkling flour on the bottom of the Dutch oven prevents it from sticking, but yes, using parchment paper is another good option. Thank you so much for sharing! <3

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