Recipe: Wholemeal, rye and fennel bread

This bread is inspired by my many adventures in Scandinavia where they aren’t afraid of using really bold spices in their baking. I love it sliced thin with butter and Jarlsberg as an open sandwich, but it’s equally good for mopping up soup or stew leftovers. The rye means that the flavour continues to intensify after baking, so usually, I make this a day ahead because it’s better the second day. After that, it usually gets gobbled up fairly swiftly!

I’m working on a whole series of recipes inspired by the awesome places that I’ve been, so I’ll keep you posted about that one – watch this space.

Wholemeal, rye and fennel bread 

  • 200g coarse wholemeal flour
  • 100g rye flour
  • 20g pumpkin seeds
  • 20g sunflower seeds
  • 10g poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 200ml tepid water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Extra seeds for sprinkling
  • Butter or olive oil spread for greasing

In a bowl combine the wholemeal and rye flours with the seeds and mix through with your hands. Make a small well in the middle of the flour, put the yeast at the bottom and cover it with 50ml of tepid water. Leave until a grey sludge appears in place on top of the water, which indicates your yeast is waking up and dissolving.

Mix in the remaining 150ml of water and the salt and use your hands to turn the dough roughly in the bowl. If you add the salt before this point it can inhibit the yeast from working properly.

Tip it out onto your counter top and knead the dough gently for about 10 to 15 minutes. You should find that it transforms from a loose shaggy mixture to a flexible smooth dough. See my separate blog about kneading for more info.

Once you have kneaded the dough, put it back into the bowl, cover it and leave somewhere away from drafts for about 40 minutes or so, until it has doubled in size.

Once your dough has doubled, sprinkle a little rye flour on the worktop and gently remove it from the bowl, being careful not to man-handle it. To shape it, take one edge and fold it inwards, creating a tight surface tension on the underneath side. Repeat this step until physically unable to do so further, and what you have in front of you resembles a sausage.

Butter a 1LB loaf tin and scatter the inside with seeds. Slide the dough into the tin, cover and leave to rise again. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 200 degrees centigrade.

Once the dough has risen to the top of the loaf pan, brush the top with a little water and drench the surface with the remaining seeds.

Cook for approximately 45 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. At this stage, your whole house will smell hhhhhmmmazing, let me tell you!

Tip the loaf out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack. Store wrapped in a tea towel to keep it fresh.

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