Slightly sweet, beautifully textured, with the subtle fragrance of anise
It is a frigid day, so a perfect time to bake bread and make soup. I needed to feed “Ginny Junior,” my sourdough starter, so bread making was definitely in the cards.
Sweet and sturdy
I wanted a sturdy loaf, whole wheat with a lot of substance and fiber, and flavor was most important. Honey is always delightful in a whole-wheat loaf, and while this bread is not overly sweet, it does gain a little from the honey, and natural sweetness of the stone-ground whole wheat. If you wish a vegan loaf, simply substitute maple syrup for the honey, it’s just as delicious.
What is that flavor?
The anise seeds give it even more interest, but they are subtle. “What is that background flavor?” one might ask, more an enhancement than a flavor. The seeds also add texture. However, if you don’t care for that anise in any form, simply omit the seeds. or use one you like, perhaps carraway.
The aroma alone
I think one of the reasons I love to make bread is to fill the house with the aroma as it bakes. There’s nothing better, filled with memories of my childhood and my children’s childhood as well. While I consider myself more a cook than baker, I do love to bake bread. Although you measure precisely, it is not really an exact science because you always have to use your own judgement when adding flour. Is this enough? The age of the flour, the protein content, and the weather all contribute to how the dough comes together, and if you ask me, the mood of the baker as well.
Good times, but a learning experience
Bread making saw me through some very lean times; for a couple of years when my kids were small, I bartered my homemade bread at a Puggy Wrobel’s farm stand in Chesterfield, N.H., for vegetables and dairy products. She delighted in the bread, and I was happy for the exchange. Lots of good memories there. The honey whole wheat was the most popular, followed closely by the oatmeal bread. I think of those times as the scent of the bread wafts through the air. My little kitchen table in my tiny kitchen would be filled with loaves, as more baked in the oven, and I juggled nursing a baby and running after a toddler. Then, the production line of wrapping them all up. They were hard times, but good times, and I learned a lot about resourcefulness and gratitude as I kneaded the mountains of dough, counting the pennies in my head. We might not have had two nickels to rub together, but we always had bread. Really good bread at that.
Serve with some soup, what else do you need?
This luscious bread was served recently with a pot of mushroom soup I made to use up some that were not at their best cosmetically and needed to be consumed. Mushrooms as they soften, and even when they acquire little brown spots, actually have more flavor than one crisp and white from the market. Not beautiful to look at, but more earthy and full flavored, so don’t toss them because they look a bit off. Some of my best mushroom soups have come from the discounted bin at the market!
If you don’t have sourdough starter
If you want the flavor of this bread, but don’t have a starter, use my basic whole wheat & honey bread recipe and add the anise seeds. I can’t give you sour, but this flavor is delightful even in a standard loaf. I think Puggy’s old customers would agree.
Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread with Anise
- 1 cup fed starter
- 3 cups King Arthur white whole wheat flour, divided
- 1 cup room lukewarm water
- ¼ cup dark native honey
- 1 pkt. active dry yeast
- 2 or 3 tsp. anise seeds
- 2 tsp fleur de sel
- 2 tbsp. warm water
Mix together the starter, 1 cup of the flour, the water, honey, and yeast in the bowl of your standing mixer, or a large bowl. Mix until blended, cover the bowl with a towel, and let sit for a half hour. This will help activate the yeast and lend more flavor.
Dissolve the sea salt in the water and set aside.
One the mixture has rested, add the rest of the flour a little at a time, then mix up the salt water and add that too.
Knead with the dough hook on low for six minutes, or by hand for 7 or 8. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover, set in a warm place, and let rise for about an hour.
Flour a proofing basket. If you don’t have one, line an 8.5 inch- (22 cm) basket or bowl with a tea towel and liberally flour.
Turn the dough out to a floured board and gently shape into a sturdy ball shape, rotating the dough on the board while cupping your hands around and under the ball. When the underside does not have a big gap or hole, you are ready to turn it into the floured basket, smooth side down. Cover and let rise another hour or so, but start checking at 45 minutes. A finger gently poked into the dough will leave a little impression that fills in. If the dough bounces right back, it needs more time; if it leaves an impression that does not fill in, the proofing has gone too far and you probably should start over!
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
Take a breath and plop the dough out onto a parchment-lined sheet. Score the top with a sharp knife or razor blade so the bread does not explode when it expands in the hot oven. Alternately, you can bake this in a Dutch oven. Heat the Dutch oven for about 20 minutes in that hot oven, lightly spray the bottom with oil and flour. Turn out the dough directly into the hot pan, the basket top-side down. Score.
Immediately reduce the heat to 375, and bake for about 25 minutes, then remove the lid and bake an additional 10, or until the internal temperature of the bread is about 200 degrees F.
Let set in the pan for five minutes, then gently turn out to a wire rack and let cool completely. As much as you want to, don’t cut into it when it is hot, you’ll ruin the texture. Wait at least an hour. I know, but you have to.
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