Rustic Olive & Fennel Bread
possibly the SOFTEST loaf I’ve ever baked. A slice of heaven! It’s true what they say that once you try homemade bread you can never go back. There’s something magical in seeing it rise in the oven, and the smell invading the house, and the countless variations you can experiment with - mixing flours, spices, and other ingredients to suit your taste.
If I had to choose one spice that represents Sicily the most, that would be fennel (wait, or maybe cinnamon). We use fennel on a variety of savoury and sweet dishes - from donuts, to sauces, to pickles.
I love the slight sweetness it added to this bread and it goes wonderfully with the slight bitterness of olives. What do you think of this combo?
Wholegrain spelt flour - 100g
White spelt flour - 275g
Warm water - 230ml
Sicilian orange blossom honey (or other honey) - 1 tbsp
Fresh yeast - 9g
Salt - 5g
Green pitted Belice olives - 12-15
Fennel seeds - 1 tsp
Dissolve honey and yeast in water and let sit for 5 minutes.
Sieve the 2 flours together and start adding the water in small batches, kneading to incorporate. Once you’ve added 3/4 of the flour, add the salt and remaining flour and transfer to a lightly floured surface.
Knead energetically for 10 minutes, trying not to add any more flour. The dough may seem sticky at first but it will come off the counter as you keep kneading. Once you’ve obtained a smooth ball, incorporate the olives and fennel and quickly knead again to distribute them evenly.
Transfer to a slightly oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel until doubled in volume. This should take about 2-3 hours.
Place the dough on a round baking pan of about 12cm diameter and transfer to the oven right away (no pre-heating) on the middle rack. Also place a small metal pot of water at the bottom of the oven to create moisture and turn on to 220°C temperature. After the first 15 minutes, remove the pot of water, reduce the temperature to 200°C and bake for another 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the bread inside until it has cooled down completely, then slice and enjoy.
This bread will stay soft for several days.