Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread with Anise

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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49 Comments Add yours

  1. I love good bread. My grandmother and mother baked delicious bread, and my daughter bakes amazing bread. It skipped my generation. I can look at this photo and ingredients, and just know I would swoon at a warm piece with butter. 🙂

    1. Sometimes, even my gluten-free friends sneak a little bite!

      1. Love sourdough bread with soup and anise seeds adds favorite subtle flavor !

      2. It’s one of our new favorites now!

  2. Sheree says:

    That looks really good

    1. Merci! It is really tasty; I’ll save you a slice!

      1. Sheree says:

        Please do

  3. Gail says:

    Bakery-worthy! 🍞🥯🥐🥖

    1. Thanks Gail! It was really good!

  4. sunisanthosh says:

    Definitely good bread.

    1. Thank you! It’s a favorite here.

  5. Jenna says:

    It sounds amazing! I wish I had the patience to make bread 🙂

    1. Thak you Jenna! It’s funny, my mom was not a patient person, always moving from one thing to the next, but with bread making, she had the patience of a saint. I think the process calmed her.

  6. brwbmm says:

    I wish there was some way to make a 100 percent whole wheat bread that had a light, porous texture. That’s what I aim for in my breads. My solution is to use half whole wheat flour and half (white) bread flour. If you look at whole wheat flour under a microscope the particles have sharp barbs. As the dough ferments, the barbs cut the gluten strands which causes the dough to deflate. This results in a dense texture. Adding more yeast (or sourdough) does not help to produce a lighter texture. This is the chemistry of bread baking.

    1. Are you able to find the white whole wheat by King Arthur? It is 100%whole grain, hard white spring wheat, stone-ground, but softer in texture. I use all whole wheat in this loaf and it is beautifully soft. The English muffins come out great as well using all of this flour.

  7. NativeNM says:

    Looks amazing! You’re inspiring me to make bread!

    1. Our temperatures are dipping as we get engulfed by the polar vortex. Right now, -8 (-26 with wind chill)and falling…..

      1. NativeNM says:

        That kind of weather speaks soup and bread! Stay safe and warm!

      2. Yeah, I’m not going out until Sunday!

  8. Ronit says:

    Honey AND anise in a bread???! I’m all in! 🙂

    1. You’d love this one Ronit! A beautifully soft dough.

  9. Just in time for our Arctic freeze; Homemade bread. Honey and Anise divine!

    1. Thank you! It’s really tasty, and there’s nothing like warmed bread as the temperatures dip. -8 and falling…

      1. Love sourdough bread with soup! Anise seed does add a great subtle flavor.

  10. Christy B says:

    You traded bread for vegetables and did what you had to do ~ You’re a great mom! I think I love your background stories as much as the recipes xx

  11. Your bread looks wonderful. And I bet it is delicious. Great flavors.

    1. Thank you! It was really tasty, and I’ve made it several times.

  12. CarolCooks2 says:

    There is nothing like the smell of bread baking and sneaking that first slice of still warm bread…Bakers perks ! I hope you have a great weekend, Dorothy x

    1. Thanks for stopping by Carole! You have a lovely weekend too!

  13. Bernadette says:

    GM Dot, it is frigid here as I expect it is in Vermont also. Your recipe looks wonderful. We are very fond of the flavor of anise. I will give it a try in my brand new bread maker. I will let you know how I make out. Also, your story about selling your bread touched my heart and brought back memories of being a penniless young bride and mother. I used to sell ceramics!

    1. We did what we had to to make those ends meet, didn’t we? I could stay home with my kids, and bring in the much-needed bartered goods! A few folks wanted to make sure they got their favorite bread, so they bought directly from me and gave me a bit of cash too!

  14. nancyc says:

    What a beautiful loaf of bread! I’m a big fan of homemade bread, especially sourdough! 🙂

  15. This looks really interesting and delicious! I love bread! I love baking it, eating it, smelling it, ripping off a chunk and dipping it in my soup, making a Dagwood sandwich, getting/giving a loaf as a gift, slathering it with butter while still warm, toasting some for breakfast or just a snack with a cuppa. There’s nothing like a hearty homemade loaf of bread, good old peasant food, the staple at the table. Oh yeah! I love bread and it’s time to break out the old bread maker!

    1. I think you are hungry, sister dear, and in immediate need of carbs. I’ll cut you a big slice. The butter is already softened!

  16. Looks amazing!

    1. Thank you! It’s always a delight to bake bread!

  17. terrie gura says:

    Dorothy, my imagination can already smell this bread in the oven! It’s very similar to a bread I make called “limpa,” a Scandinavian recipe that would also include some orange zest. The citrus oils combined with the anise are simply intoxicating! Also, I want to thank you for reminding not to slice into fresh bread too soon. Every time I bake, I practically have to restrain my husband from messing it up with a knife. I’m going to show your comment on this to Les and say, “see???” 😂

    1. Bread from the oven needs to carry over cook until it cools. If you’ve ever cut into it when it is hot, it will usually look undercooked in the middle even if the time and temp was right. So, you’ll ruin the whole texture if you don’t use restraint! Did you hear that, Les? 😌

  18. Carolyn Page says:

    I do believe we all suffer from wanting to cut into (whatever) we’ve baked and start to eating!!! There’s something so fabulous about the aromas and warm feelings of baked goods.
    Not quite so for me though, Dorothy. Not, at least, at the moment during these long hot summer days. However, I can imagine you (up there) warming yourself in your kitchen and enjoying the delights of winter recipes…

    1. It’s certainly been a delight to have the oven on during these sub-zero days and nights!

      1. Carolyn Page says:

        I can imagine that warmth, Dorothy. Our winter temps, here in my little corner of the world, rarely get into single figures. Celsius, that is!

  19. I’ve made a lot of bread but I never tried making bread that uses starter. This bread looks beautiful, love the rustic look. Perfect for butter or cream cheese 😄

    1. We use it for everything! It’s nice and soft in texture.

  20. miakouppa says:

    Love the idea of adding anise to this bread Dorothy! We have been thinking about re-trying making a sourdough starter (our first attempt did not work!). This recipe may be the final inspiration we needed! xoxo Helen & Billie

    1. Give it a go! When you do, drop me a line and I’ll send you my tip sheet on sourdough!

  21. Wow! What a great combination of flavors 😋😋 I would love a warm slice with some butter 😋

    1. I’ll let you know next time I take a loaf out of the oven!

  22. Mary says:

    Your bread looks divine. I make Sourdough bread weekly and will make your recipe next round. I have never used this much starter before but will go with your measurements.
    I love reading the comments from makers and bakers who are happy to share little nuggets of tips. ie grated orange zest with the anise, sounds divine too.
    Off to feed Leon, the starter!! :))

    1. We’ll have to introduce Leon to Ginny Junior!
      Orange with the anise sounds divine!!!!

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