Molasses Fennel Rye Bread from Memory Lane (BBB September 2012)

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BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for Molasses Fennel Rye based on the fantastic bread served at “Clark’s by the Bay” restaurant; a Bread Baking Babes project; submission for YeastSpotting and Bake Your Own Bread; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) September 2012

It was all because of a holiday we took not long after we were married some years ago in the last century….

Clark's Bread When I was looking at the BBBabes’ August recipe, I suddenly realized that Julia Child’s book was one of the first “bread” books I got out of the library – to find out how to make real French bread. And that got me thinking about how it was I started my bread-making craze in the first place.

My mother made bread often when I was growing up. And while I have since made Mum’s bread many many times, this molasses-fennel bread is the very first kind of yeast bread I ever made.

On our holiday all those years ago, we had gone for a splash-out dinner at the fabulous restaurant “Clark’s by the Bay” (now sadly closed) near Kingston, Ontario. The restaurant was in a beautiful mansion and we sat at a secluded table by the fireplace in the tastefully decorated former living room. Our dinner was spectacular. With the dinner came the most wonderful freshly baked rolls.

And because we came from far away Toronto, I thought it would be okay to ask how these rolls were made. Our server (who happened to be the owner and somalier) said he’d go to the kitchen and ask. And he returned about 30 seconds later and smiled as he handed me a piece of paper: a photocopy of the very recipe that had been published in the local paper a few weeks before. How happy were we?!

As soon as we got home, I made the bread, making two loaves rather than rolls. And it was just as good as it had been at the restaurant!

I have always made this bread using cup and spoon measures. I thought it would probably be a good idea to check the weight measures too.

Molasses Fennel Rye Diary:

Sunday 9 September 09:29:

Clark's Bread ingredients The heat and humidity has finally broken and it’s a beautiful clear cool morning. Yay!

I’ve just finished mixing and kneading Clark’s bread. I’ve made this bread often over the years and after the first time making it, adjusted the amount of all-purpose flour. The original recipe called for half the amount that I use and made a very sloppy dough. But I hadn’t made this bread since last December (or was it even longer??) so haven’t yet tried making it with the weight measures. I’ve always used the cup and spoon ones for this particular bread….

So I used the weight measures for the first time, just to make sure they were right. Before mixing, I re-calculated the measures, just to be sure. The yeast measure was off. I used 5gm active dry yeast (I realize that there isn’t a lot of difference between 5 and 6 gm of yeast but there IS some…).

I also cut back a bit on the salt. 18gm seemed like an awful lot. I used my tablespoon to get it out of the box. A tablespoon was 9gm (but our salt is a rather fluffy grained seasalt). I added another half tablespoon to pull it up to 15gm.

Clark's Bread And a warning, the dough is on the slack side. I used ALL of the extra 64gm flour for kneading.

16:29: I love how the dough basically falls out of the bowl, once again proving that there is no need to oil the rising bowl.

And, in spite of the slackness of the dough, shaping was a breeze. We miraculously have room in the freezer right now so I decided to decorate one of the loaves with star cookie cutters. Clark's Bread This will save me time at Christmas (we like to serve this bread on Boxing Day and I invariably run out of steam with the baking).

18:29: I CAN’T believe it! I let the shaped bread over-rise. And then I left it in the oven a little too long too. Eeeeeek!

Clark's Bread It smells really really good though. But I can’t serve that to Christmas guests! Waahhhhh! We’re going to have to eat it now.

And I don’t think I’m going to have time (or room in the freezer) to bake it again before Sunday. Yikes. How am I going to convince people that they want to bake it?

I’m really hoping that the photos of the sliced bread will do it justice.

We decided we had to bite the bullet(s) and have it the next night for dinner. T made chicken liver pate and lentil soup.

Clark's Bread When we sliced the star decorated loaf, I saw that it doesn’t look nearly as bad inside as it does on the outside. (We could have served it to Christmas guests after all.)

And Whooohooooo!! It was fabulous! Even the slightly scorched parts were fabulous….

Here is how to make this most wonderful bread:

Molasses Fennel Rye Bread
based on Jack Francis’ recipe for Molasses-Fennel Bread served at “Clark’s by the Bay” restaurant in Collins Bay, Ontario (near Kingston) – now sadly closed

edit 20 September 2012: A clarification (hope it’s not too late): When measuring the ingredients for this recipe, please use either cup and spoon measures OR weights. They should be roughly the same but it may not be a good idea to mix and match. (When I made the bread using the weight measures, the only reason I used cups and spoons was for transferring the ingredients to the bowl on the scale.)

makes two round loaves

  • 1½ tsp ( 6gm  5gm) active dry yeast ¹
  • ¼ c (63gm) lukewarm water ²
  • 4 tsp (17gm) sugar
  • 4 Tbsp (85gm) blackstrap molasses
  • 1¾ c (438gm) water, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp (6gm) fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp (1gm) ground dried ginger
  • 1 c (103gm) rye flour
  • 1 c (122 gm) whole wheat flour
  • ½ c (59gm) wheat germ
  • 2 c (254gm) unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp (18gm) salt (I used 15 gm) ³
  • ¼ c (36gm) Thompson raisins
  • up to ½ c (64gm) unbleached all purpose flour for kneading 4 I used all of it – it’s pretty slack dough
  1. Mixing In a smallish bowl, whisk yeast with the lukewarm water (do the baby’s bottle test on your wrist) until it resembles cream. Set aside.
  2. 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, wheat germ and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is mostly absorbed.
  3. 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 a plate and let sit on the counter for about 20 minutes.
  4. Kneading Scatter a little of the flour for kneading onto a wooden board. Turn the dough out onto the board.
  5. Wash and dry the mixing bowl. (Please do not be tempted to skip this step.)
  6. Hand knead the dough 10 to 15 minutes, adding the smallest amounts of additional flour if dough is sticky. You don’t have to use up all the flour. When the dough is springy and silky to the touch, knead in raisins.
  7. Proofing Form the dough into a ball and put it in the clean bowl; cover it with a plate (there is no need to oil the bowl!) Let the dough rise in a no-draft place at room temperature (or in the oven with only the light turned on if you want) for about an hour or until it has doubled in size. Gently deflate dough. Recover with the plate and allow to rise until doubled again.
  8. 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.
  9. Shape into two round balls and place them (not touching) on a parchment papered pan or a cornmeal dusted peel. Dust the tops with flour. 5 Cover with a clean tea towel followed by a large plastic bag overtop let rise until double in size. (about an hour if the temperature is around 20C)
  10. Baking Place a breadstone, if you have one, on the middle to second from the top rack and preheat the oven to 400F.
  11. If you want, slash the top of the rounds 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 middle to second from the top rack for 35-40 (I bake it for  45-50  30-35) minutes until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 205-210F or until it is hollow sounding on the bottom. It’s a good idea to turn the bread  after about 20 minutes of  half way through baking to allow for uneven heat in the oven (remove parchment paper at the same time).
  12. Remove to cool on racks. Please wait until the bread is cool before cutting it. It’s still baking inside! If you like to eat warm bread, reheat the bread after it has cooled. 6

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. And it is fantastic thinly sliced and spread with Roasted Red Pepper Pâté and/or Chicken Liver with Green Peppercorns Pâté as an appetizer.

Please note that 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. Or, slice it before freezing and remove slices as they are needed.

To reheat unsliced bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.


1.) Measures: I first started making this bread before I had a scale, so I used our cup measures. Please note that a Canadian cup holds 250ml. But a Canadian half-cup holds 120ml. (Go figure) I fluff and scoop flour, always using our half-cup measure. When performing the conversions to grams, I took that into account. But I use our pyrex cup measure to measure water. It holds 250ml….

2.) Water: Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Heat the water in a kettle or microwave and add cold water until it is the correct temperature, (use the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist – your fingers have no idea of temperature!) Or you can use a thermometer. The temperature should be BELOW 120F because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

3.) Salt: Because we use the larger grained Kosher salt, I’ve found it’s best to measure salt by weight rather than volume. Having said that, when I first started making this bread, I didn’t have a reliable scale that could measure small volumes… This time round, I scooped the salt with the measuring spoons and stopped when I had scooped 1.5 Tbsp and 15 gm.

4.) Molasses: One of the European BBBabes asked exactly what molasses is. According to the Cook’s Thesaurus, molasses = treacle. I confess that until I read the Cook’s Thesaurus page, I didn’t know there was much difference between the containers of molasses we buy. We alternate between using Crosby’s “fancy” and “family”, although these days, I’m favouring “fancy” because it has no additives or preservatives. According to the Crosby’s stats, the “family” molasses has some blackstrap (blackstrap is made by adding sulfites)

5.) Embossing the Bread with Stars: To make the design, I balance cookie cutters on top of the shaped loaf and take them off just before baking. This WOULD have worked beautifully if only I hadn’t let the bread over-rise. (There’s a better example of the cookie cutter method here.) When you do it, just make sure that the cutters are lying quietly on top. You don’t want to push them in (unless you want to have a really weird looking knob on top of the bread – IF you can get the cookie cutter off after the loaf has risen).

6.) But I want Warm Bread!! If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after the loaf has cooled completely. To reheat UNsliced bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.

Clark's Bread I LOVE this bread! Every time I eat it, I remember why we make our own bread and I thank Clark once again.

Now I’m glad that I thought the star loaf wouldn’t do for Christmas. We can have it again for breakfast this morning. :-)

Bread Baking Babes
Bread Baking Babes: September 2012 - Molasses Fennel Rye Bread

I have the honour of hosting of September 2012’s Bread Baking Babes’ task. And I hope that you too would like to join us this month by making Clark’s sublime bread! Make it into loaves or rolls, whichever pleases you more. (Remember to adjust the baking time, if you are making rolls.)

I hope you all like this bread as much as we do!

To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: bake Molasses Fennel Rye Bread in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turned out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 September 2012. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to contact the Kitchen of the Month (that’s me!!) to say that your post is up.

Here’s how to let us know:



  • leave a comment on this post that you have baked the bread, leaving a link back to your post.

If you don’t have a blog, no problem; we still want to see and hear about your bread! Please email me with the details so your molasses fennel rye bread can be included in the roundup.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ Molasses Fennel Bread:


Yeastspotting - every Friday ( image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:

Bake Your Own Bread (BYOB)
BYOB is a monthly event hosted by Heather (girlichef)

that encourages you to start (or continue) getting comfortable baking bread in your own kitchen. Anything from simple quick breads to conquering that fear of yeast to making and nurturing your own sourdough starter. All levels of bakers are welcome to participate.

BYOB Badge For more information about BYOB, please read the following:


Molasses-Fennel recipe When I was searching through various Kingston newspapers to find the original newspaper article featuring the ‘Clark’s by the Bay’ bread recipe, I came across the following about Clark Day. I’m so happy to hear that Clark’s by the Bay is once again operational, even if it is now a farm rather than an inn and fine restaurant. How I wish we lived closer so we could sample some of Clark’s cheeses! And taste his savoury plum jam….

He oversees the running of three eating establishments, makes nearly daily trips to Prince Edward County to source out new products and still finds time to make pickles and jam. So how does Clark Day get it all done?

“It’s simple,” he jokes over breakfast last week. “I have a 30 hour day.”

The latest Day family project is Bayview Farm in Collins Bay, run by wife Laurie which offers locally sourced foods of all kinds, many of them from producers that Clark has befriended in the restaurant business over the years. It’s located on the family’s Bath Road homestead, which many Kingstonians will remember was the site of the popular and bucolic Clark’s on the Bay restaurant for many years. […]

While we chatted we dined on a handsome breakfast whipped up by Clark and featuring nothing but local products. We started with juice made from local watermelon and blueberries. Then there was a rib-sticking plate with bacon gotten from the Days’ pigs, eggs from their chickens, homefries from local russet potatoes and toast made from local bread and served with a pear jam made by Clark himself. Even the lemon balm tea I had came from their garden. […]

Bayview Farm in Collins Bay, 4085 Bath Road, 613-770-0774. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Offering a variety of local and area produce, cheeses, jams and meats. Owned and operated by Laurie and Clark Day.

-Greg Burliuk, “Fresh from the Farm”, Kingston Whig-Standard, Saturday, September 17, 2011

Molasses Fennel Rye (BBB)


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13 responses to “Molasses Fennel Rye Bread from Memory Lane (BBB September 2012)

  1. Lien

    I just love how your bread looks so fluffy. What is in that american rye flour. Thanks for this bread with a wonderful history behind it for you guys, that really makes it special!

  2. Heather @girlichef

    I absolutely love the sound of this loaf. I’m a sucker for anything with fennel, though. I probably won’t get a chance to bake it in time since I’m flying out to Ireland on Tuesday and won’t return until late on the 26th…but I’ll definitely save it so I can bake it soon there after!

  3. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    I always love a wonderful story to go with a really wonderful recipe! Thanks much for this one Elizabeth.
    For whatever reason, my dough was never slack but then I didn’t use but 2 tablespoons of white flour. Really happy to have a recipe to make with so many whole grains, very little sugar (I left the “sugar” out) and only used the molasses ;-)

  4. Baking Soda

    Lien, I hope the malfunctioning I did made my rye as fluffy as theirs! Keep fingers crossed. The memory of this loaf is so very special Elizabeth, I loved the story! My dough is still rising as we speak (yes I know, I deserve to be kicked. Out? Nooo! let’s just leave it at kick).
    Great loaves, and if I were to be guest at your house and served this bread? I’d gladly confiscate the butter and say thank you!

  5. Elle

    It is a wonderful, romantic, story Elizabeth! Still have not found my flour, but might be able to lift the tin in the freezer that likely has it soon. Hope that being a bit late will be OK with the Babes. It sounds like a wonderful bread!

  6. ejm Post author

    Maybe it’s what isn’t in the flour, Lien. We’re using “no additives” (aside from the vitamins that are required by Canadian law) all-purpose and whole wheat flour now. It really seems to be making a difference.

    Have a great time in Ireland, Heather, and this will be exactly the right bread to make when you get back – not too difficult and really delicious.

    Tanna, you devil! You left the sugar out! And then hardly any white flour – only whole grains! It sounds like my kind of bread. :-)

    Karen, no kicking is required at all! I’m so glad you made the bread and I don’t believe for a minute that there was any malfunctioning going on in your house at all!

    Elle, you wouldn’t believe how we learned about the restaurant in the first place. Remind me to tell you! Hope you found your flour. Of COURSE being a bit late is OK! And now that Natashya has outlined in her account how to make the bread using a stand mixer rather than by hand, it should be easy to make with one hand tied behind your back.

    You’re most welcome, Natashya! I’m so glad to hear you loved it. We adore it.

    Thank you, Sandie! I can’t wait to hear how your molasses fennel rye turns out.


  7. Tara Lidell

    Thank you for the recipe! It looks/sounds wonderful and I want to try it myself the very first chance that I get!!! :)

    Thank you for dropping by. I can’t wait to hear about your Molasses fennel rye, Tara. -Elizabeth

  8. Ckay

    This was such a fantastic bread. I loved its texture and the combo fennel/raisins.
    By the time I’ve finished posting I had to get some out of the freezer (so pleased I still had some at hand)…impossible to resist.

    Elizabeth, I really enjoyed reading your post and all the precious notes.
    Thank you for sharing such a lovely recipe.

    Thank you, C! I’m glad you enjoyed the bread and my voluminous notes. -E

  9. Ckay

    Look what I’ve found in my freezer, Elizabeth: 1/2 a loaf of this wonderful bread.
    Well I can make a statement now: it has been freezed for one (one year?!!!! How quickly time passes!) year and IT WAS STILL FANTASTIC!
    All the best

    How lucky you are, Carola! It IS fantastic bread, isn’t it? I’m so glad that it appears you like it as much as I. And thank you for the reminder to make it again. -Elizabeth


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