|An easy bread with fennel seeds, fennel pollen, orange zest and candied peel.|
Some days I think bread is my favorite food group.
I was raised on biscuits and cornbread, sometimes both at one meal. We also ate our share of “light bread” — Bunny brand being my favorite — which was used for sandwiches or breakfast toast on the rare occasions when there were no biscuits.
A loaf of light bread was requisite alongside fried fish dinners and take-out barbecued beef. Slices given to children had their crusts discarded while the fluffy white insides were rolled into a ball and eaten.
Because this was the 1970s, whole grain loaves made their way into the pantry and I eventually developed a preference for them, and the more grainy the better. Somewhere along the way, the preponderance of commercial loaves caused us to forget how truly good bread can be.
Enter the bread renaissance at the turn of the 20th Century. From individual kitchens to small businesses to commercial enterprises, Americans have rediscovered bread. And that’s a good thing.
|Homemade candied orange peel.|
All during this bread renaissance, my workaday life prevented me from delving very deeply into yeast loaves. There was no time. And there was no need because we lived with easy access to excellent small artisan bakers. Their loaves were better than anything I could make. Oh, and let’s just admit it: I don’t like to knead. Tedious. That’s why they invented dough hooks for stand mixers.
But sometimes, I have that yearning to bake. Any kind of homemade bread — grainy or white floured — has a comforting appeal, especially in the colder months. Right now, for instance.
I’m happy to present my take on Abby Dodge’s January #baketogether selection, a peasant boule. Abby’s recipe is a simple to make yeasted loaf that is adaptable and hard to mess up. I’ve baked it three times now, twice as the muffin shaped dinner rolls I’m featuring and once as a whole wheat boule.
My version takes Abby’s standard recipe and bakes them in muffin tins. Each muffin shaped roll is comprised of 3 to 4 small balls of dough which makes the bread easy to pull apart for buttering. For flavoring, I add orange zest, homemade candied orange peel, crushed whole fennel seeds and a couple pinches of fennel pollen. I enjoy a subtle hit of fennel seeds in bread. I added the orange flavors because one of my favorite ways to marinate olives is with fennel seeds and orange zest.
Thanks, Abby, for another winning recipe.
Fennel and Orange Bread for #baketogether
Makes one dozen muffin shaped rolls.
3 1/3 cups (15 ounces) all purpose flour
1 packet (1/4 ounce) instant yeast (Rapid Rise)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
zest of one orange
1 tablespoon candied orange peel, minced
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds, crushed
1 or 2 small pinches fennel pollen (optional)
1 1/3 cups very warm water (between 115 and 125 degrees)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
In a large bowl of an electric stand mixer, whisk the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the orange zest, candied orange peel, fennel seeds, fennel pollen. Whisk again until everything is evenly incorporated. Attach the bowl into the mixer stand and fit the mixer with the dough hook.
Check that the water temperature registers about 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (In order for this type of yeast to grow, the liquid needs to be between 115 and 125 degrees.)
With mixer on medium-low speed, slowly pour the water into the flour and mix until the flour is completely incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the bottom and sides of the bowl, about 6 minutes. Don’t venture too far away while it’s mixing as the mixer might dance around on the counter.
Scoop up the dough and shape it into a ball. Lightly grease (using some of the melted butter or spray release) the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and pop the dough, rounded side up, back into the bowl. Cover the top securely with plastic wrap. (I like to use a plastic produce bag from the supermarket.) Let the covered dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Using some of the melted butter, generously butter a 12-cup muffin tin. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and press to deflate it. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. From each of these pieces, form 3 to 4 smaller balls of dough. Place these 3-4 balls into each muffin cup. Generously brush the top and sides with some of the melted butter. You may not need all the butter.
Let the dough rise (no need to cover it) in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 25 minutes.
About 15 minutes before the dough is ready to bake, position a rack in the middle of the oven and the oven to 375°F. Bake until the muffins are lightly browned and they sound hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and turn out the rolls onto the rack. You can let them cool completely or serve when warm.