revised November 2002, December 2003
Molasses Fennel Rye Bread
© ejmorris 2001, 2002, 2003
from the fabulous Clark's by the Bay Restaurant (now sadly closed) near Kingston, Ontario - although a rumour has been confirmed that he has opened another restaurant in Kingston itself.
Ingredients makes two loaves
¼ c lukewarm water
2½ tsp active dry yeast
4 tsp sugar
4 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
1¾ c water, room temperature
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
½ tsp ground ginger
1 c rye flour
1 c whole wheat flour
½ c wheat germ
2 c unbleached all purpose flour
1 Tbsp salt
¼ c Thompson raisins
up to ½ c unbleached all purpose flour for kneading
- In a smallish bowl, mix yeast with ¼ c lukewarm water (do the baby's bottle test on your wrist) and set aside til creamy. (Or if you think the yeast may not be viable, until the mixture starts to bubble. Put the bowl into the *cold oven (with the light turned on if you want)* with the door closed. Let it sit there as you start to make the bread dough. It sometimes takes more than 10 minutes to start foaming.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl large enough for the dough to double, pour the rest of the water. Stir in sugar and molasses. (If the molasses is stiff because of a chilly kitchen, use warm water instead of room temperature) Add fennel seeds and ground ginger. Dump in flours and wheat germ and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is mostly absorbed.
- Add the yeast mixture (it should be quite foamy - if it is not after a period of 20 minutes have passed, either the yeast is dead or the water was too hot or far too cold. Check the due date on your yeast container. If the date hasn't passed, try again.) stir to form a rough dough. Cover the bowl with plastic and let sit on the counter for about 20 minutes.
- Put some of the ½ c flour for kneading on a wooden board. Turn the dough out onto the board. Sprinkle the salt overtop the dough. Wash and dry the mixing bowl. Hand knead the dough 10 to 15 minutes, adding small amounts of additional flour if dough is sticky. When the dough is springy and silky to the touch, knead in raisins. Form the dough into a ball and put it in the clean bowl; cover it with a damp cloth (or plastic wrap); let rise in a no draught place at room
temperature (or in the cold oven with the light turned on if you want) for about an hour, until it has doubled in size. Gently deflate dough. Recover with a damp cloth and allow to rise until doubled again.
- Gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board; cut it in half with a dough scraper if you have one, with a knife if you don't.
- Shape into two round balls and place them (not touching) on a lightly oiled pan or a cornmeal dusted peel or on parchment paper. Dust the tops with flour. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until double in size. (about an hour)
- Thirty minutes before you are going to bake, turn oven to 400F. Put water into a broiling pan and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.
- Slash the top of the balls with a very sharp knife. Liberally spray the tops with water. Put bread in oven and immediately turn the oven down to 350F. Bake the bread on the second lowest rack for 35-40 (I bake it for 45-50) minutes or until it is hollow sounding on the bottom.
- Remove to cool upended on cooling racks. Wait til the bread is cool before cutting it. If you like to eat warm bread, reheat the bread after it has cooled.
This is not a particularly sweet bread and is excellent with soup and/or salad. It's wonderful with cheddar cheese. It also goes very well with Baked Beans.
Uneaten bread should be stored at room temperature rather than refrigerated. (the refrigerator causes the bread to go stale faster) Bread can also be stored in the freezer - double bagged airtight plastic. Take it out of the freezer and leave it in the bag until the bread has thawed. To reheat the bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the oven for ten minutes.