Monday, December 12, 2011

Aroma Bread with Coriander and Fennel

     Recently, I purchased a new cookbook: Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck.  Had it not been on a top-ten of 2011 cookbook list, I don't know that I ever would have picked it up.  I had just come across another top-ten list: the worst things to eat for good health.  I have to admit that none of them was surprising, but of that list, I only eat one on a regular basis.  That item is white flour.  I really rather like products made with it, and I am the antitheses of gluten free.  I love rice for sure, as you've seen in previous blog posts, but a good rustic loaf right from the oven brings childhood memories that are only brought on by the scent of warm wheat and butter.  I decided I ought to find a way to satisfy my periodic fresh-bread cravings while alleviating the need for so highly-refined a product.  That, and whole grains are super trendy right now, so I decided to order the book.

     This is the first recipe I am trying out of Ancient Grains, and I am pretty pleased.  Below is the recipe, as it is written in the book and on  Instead of sunflower seeds I used millet that was soaked for about two hours, and I did not include any whole grains (all I could find in the cupboard was some expensive heirloom farro...).  My last change was that I did the final proof in a very well floured banneton, then turned the loaf onto parchment and baked it on a well heated stone at 400F until the interior was 200F. 
     It is indeed a very dense, aromatic loaf that would be epic toasted slightly with fresh butter and orange marmalade slathered on 
(the spices used to scent the bread all have distinct citrus notes and affinity for those fruits).  

Aroma Bread with Coriander and Fennel
yield: 1 2-pound loaf

  • 3 cups whole grain spelt flour (12 ounces)
  • 1 cup whole grain rye flour (3 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup coarse or medium stone-ground whole grain cornmeal (2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup flax or sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
    1/2 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 1/2 tablespoon caraway
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon rapid-rise or instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat, rye, Kamut, or spelt berries, soaked overnight and drained (optional)
  • 2 cups cold water
  • Cornmeal, for sprinkling

To prepare the dough, start at least 12 hours ahead. Whisk together all the ingredients except the whole grain berries and the water in a large bowl. Scatter the grain berries on top and add almost all the water. Stir with a dough whisk or a wooden spoon until the flour is incorporated. The dough should be wet and sticky to the touch, like firm oatmeal; otherwise, add a bit more water. But don't worry too much about the liquid-to-flour ratio, as this is a forgiving dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature to ferment for at least 12 hours and up to 18 hours.

The next day, finish the bread. Sprinkle a linen or cotton kitchen towel (not terry cloth) with cornmeal and generously flour your work surface. Using a bench scraper or a rubber spatula, scrape the stringy, bubbly dough onto the work surface. Using floured hands, fold it exactly 4 times, always toward the center — from the right and from the left, as well as from the top and the bottom. Turn the loaf upside down so the fold is at the bottom, and set it on the kitchen towel. Fold the towel over the loaf to cover, and let sit for about 1 hour.
3 After about 30 minutes, position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 475°F. Place a 4 1/2- to 5 1/2-quart cast-iron pot or Dutch oven with its lid in the center of the rack. After about 1 hour, your loaf should have nicely risen. (When you press it with your finger about 1/4 inch deep, the dimple should remain; if not, wait 15 more minutes.) But again, don't worry too much — I have sometimes been less than precise and still succeeded.

Using thick pot holders, carefully remove the cast-iron pot from the oven and place it on a couple of folded kitchen towels (to avoid cracking); uncover. Unwrap the dough, sprinkle with a bit more cornmeal, and invert directly from the kitchen towel into the pot, seam side up (it might look a bit wiggly; that's normal). If the dough doesn't drop into the center, shake the pot once or twice (use caution, it is hot!).

Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the loaf is nicely browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 200°F, 20 to 25 minutes. Using thick pot holders, remove the loaf from the cast-iron pot and transfer to a wire rack. If you can resist, allow to cool completely, about 3 hours, before cutting the loaf with a sharp serrated knife. And a sharp knife it must be — this is a German-style bread, after all.


  1. I am so intrigued with this bread and love the honesty of your post. Never had German bread, but I've heard how good it is.

  2. Hi Jasmine,
    You and Tomasz should come down and play with me in ( with) our brick oven . Naturally leavened breads are fun. I've really enjoyed the "Tartine Cookbook". I'm baking every Thursday and Friday.
    Katie Pence-Robbins

  3. I did the same, proofing the bread in a banneton. I wonder, though, why your bread was very dense. Mine wasn't. Did you use less water?