semolina fennel seed bread with currants & pinenuts (BBD#04)

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Bread Baking Day #04 – bread with spice(s)

(Click on image to see larger view and more photos)

semolina fennel bread As soon as I saw Susan’s (Wild Yeast) post entitled “Semolina Bread with Fennel & Currants (and Pine Nuts)”, I knew I HAD to make it. (Make sure to take a look at Susan’s bread.)

I love currants! I’d never had pinenuts in bread before but felt certain they would be delicious. Fennel seed is fabulous in bread and perfect for Bread Baking Day #04. The only thing that disturbed me was the semolina. I’ve only tried one semolina bread before (from Carol Field’s Italian Baker and it wasn’t a huge success. It wasn’t bad but we never felt the urge to have it again. Since that failure, we have just used semolina for making pasta.

Still, Susan’s description and photo were just too compelling. Good thing too! This bread is going to be a standard with us.

I can’t decide what I like more about this bread.
The aroma of it baking?

  • Fennel!

The flavour?

  • The currants! The fennel! The slight hint of sourdough flavour from the wild yeast!

Sliced warm with roccolo cheese? Toasted with butter?

  • It’s impossible to pin it down. All I know is that we both love it.

But when I make it again, I probably won’t include the pinenuts. It’s not that we didn’t like them in the bread. They were wonderful. But they weren’t nearly as wonderful as the currants and almost got lost. Which is a shame. Because when one considers the price of pinenuts, pinenuts should stand out and be the central feature.

And I may add more fennel seed. When the bread was baking, the house was absolutely full of the scent of fennel. I worried a little that I’d gone overboard. But amazingly, once the bread is baked, the fennel seed takes a back seat to the currants! And when the bread is toasted, the fennel seed almost disappears entirely! In toast is where the pinenuts do make their presence known. In that delicious pinenut way they have. Even so, I will probably omit the pinenuts when I make this bread again. Which I will. It’s too good!

Here is what I did to Susan’s recipe:

Semolina Fennel Seed Bread
with currants and pinenuts

based on Susan’s (Wild Yeast recipe)

makes 4 short baguettes

wild yeast starter . wild yeast starter buildup . bread


  • ¾ tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 c (250ml) lukewarm water*
  • 1 c (250ml) wild yeast buildup (It came to 200 gm on my rotten scale.)
  • 1½ c (375ml)** unbleached all-purpose flour (Susan calls for 220 gms; on my rotten scale, it came to about 1¾ c; I decided to add a small amount of wholewheat flour.)
  • ¼ c (60ml)*** wholewheat flour(my addition)
  • 220 gm semolina flour (aka suji)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1¾ tsp seasalt
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds (Susan calls for 9 gm or 5 tsp)
  • 1 c dried currants
  • ¼ c pinenuts, optional (use more currants if omitting pinenuts)


  1. Mixing: Put active dry yeast a small bowl. Add ¼ c of the lukewarm water (do the baby bottle test on your wrist). Stir until the yeast dissolves and the liquid is creamy looking.
  2. Put the rest of the ingredients except the seeds, currants and pinenuts into a bowl that is large enough for the mixture to triple. Add the rehydrated yeast. Stir together with a wooden spoon until the flour is incorporated. It will look a bit like slightly stiff oatmeal porridge. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto an unfloured work surface.
  4. Wash and dry the mixing bowl.
  5. Kneading: Without adding extra flour, knead the dough until it is smooth (about 10 minutes). Let your dough scraper (a spatula works) be your friend if the dough is sticking to the board. One hand scrapes the dough and the other kneads. Under no circumstances should you add more flour. If you find your kneading hand is sticking too much, just scrape off the excess with the scraper and continue.
  6. Spread the dough out as best you can and scatter the currants (and pinenuts, if using) over top. Work them into the dough to evenly distribute them. (about 5 minutes) The dough should become smooth with the addition of the currants.
  7. Put the dough into the clean dry mixing bowl. Cover with a clean damp tea towel (or use one of those elasticized reusable plastic covers that look like shower hats) and allow to rise in a draftfree area of the counter (I use the oven with only the light turned on) for an hour or more – until the dough is about doubled. To test, wet your finger and poke a hole in the top of the dough. If the hole fills up, it hasn’t risen enough. If there is a whoosh of air and the dough deflates a little, it has risen too much. If the hole stays in exactly the same configuration and the dough remains otherwise intact, it is ju-u-st right.
  8. Shaping: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide it into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece up to make tight cylinders – without completely deflating the dough. Place them seam sides down on a parchment covered peel. (If you wish to make a longer baguette, allow the shaped cylinder to rest for about 15 minutes. Gently pull it to stretch it longer.) Cover with a clean damp teatowel and allow to rise to about double (about an hour). To test, flour your finger and press gently on the edge – it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough.
  9. Baking: Thirty minutes before you are going to bake, put the baking stone on the middle rack of the oven and turn it to 450F. (Take the shaped loaves out of the oven first!!)
  10. At the time of baking, slash the tops of the loaves. Spray the top of each baguette liberally with water. Put the bread in oven and immediately turn the oven down to 400F. Bake the bread for a total of 20 to 25 minutes or until it has an internal temperature of about 210F. Half way through the baking, turn the bread around to account for uneven heat in the oven.
  11. Remove to cool on a rack. Wait til the bread is cool before cutting it. It is still continuing to bake inside!****

*Tap water is fine to use – just make sure that it has stood for at least 12 hours so that the chlorine has dissipated. Please refrain from using water from the hot water tap. To warm up the water, heat it in a kettle or microwave; add heated water to cold until it is the right temperature (do the baby bottle test on your wrist).

** Please note that a Canadian cup holds 250ml. When I measure flour, I really fluff it up in the bag before scooping out flour to roughly fill the cup.

*** Remarkably, the Canadian quarter cup measure holds only 60ml. (I know. 60×4=240. The cup measure manufacturers must have been away the day the class learned about fractions….) Sometimes, I am very casual and just eyeball half of half a cup when measuring a quarter cup. But usually, if a recipe calls for a quarter cup, I use the quarter cup measure. But the ¼ cup markers on the liquid measuring cup are evenly spaced to have around 62 ml….

**** If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it 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.

If you have not yet captured wild yeast, please take a look at:

wild and commercial yeasts This bread calls for wild yeast AND commercial yeast to get it to rise a little faster. Susan uses instant yeast in her bread. I never have instant yeast on hand so substituted active dry. And because there is no sugar, rehydrating the active dry yeast doesn’t create a spectacular show of foam and just looks somewhat milky.

semolina and all-purpose flours When I was kneading, I thought the dough would never smooth out completely. We buy our semolina in Indiatown – semolina is called “suji”. T uses it to make fresh pasta and the pasta doesn’t get smooth until it has been rolled many times through the pasta maker.

Even after about 10 minutes of kneading, I decided that the bread dough would probably always be a bit grainy feeling. I added the currants and pinenuts and amazingly, as I was working the dough to distribute the currants evenly, the dough suddenly became smooth and silky!

semolina fennel bread It rose beautifully too and for once, I was even able to form baguette shapes as Susan suggested. (I almost chickened out and made boules – baguettes have always eluded me.)

I also managed to slash the loaves! This is something else that has been giving me difficulty. But because the bread had not over-risen, the slashes actually worked. I particularly like the one with the “ears”. I used scissors for that one.

I really couldn’t be more thrilled about the bread. I have only one complaint. It takes no time for a loaf to disappear!

Thank you once again, Susan!


Event announcement: Bread Baking Day #04

Manuela (Baking History) is hosting the fourth round of Zorra’s (Kochtopf) wonderful event, Bread Baking Day. In her announcement post, Manuela wrote:

You can enter any type of bread (yeasted, sourdough, or quick breads, sweet or savory), as long as it contains one (or more) spice(s).

  • Bake a bread with spice(s), take pictures (if possible) and blog about it between now and Saturday, December 1, 2007.

For complete details on how to participate in BBD#04, please go to:

Please also read about previous BBDs:


The Foodie Blogroll Even though I still have a horror of the word “foodie” and visibly cringe even when I type it, I must accept the fact that language evolves… this particular “F” word should not to be considered a disparaging term. My reluctant acceptance (almost – I’m still shuddering every time I see it) of the word is partially due to The Foodie BlogRoll (TFB), started and maintained by Jenn (The Leftover Queen). It is a handy (and growing!) list of links to food related blogs. You may have seen the TFB image on the sidebars of this and other blogs.

This blog has recently been officially added to TFB. (Thank you, Jenn!) It’s easy to join The Foodie BlogRoll – just fill out the form at the bottom of the linked page.

Take a look at the list of all the blogs already on the list! This community is HUGE!


edit 4 December 2007: The BBD#04 roundup is online with 25 spicy entries! Check it out here:

This entry was posted in baking, BBD, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, crossblogging, food & drink, posts with recipes, wild yeast (sourdough) on by .

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11 responses to “semolina fennel seed bread with currants & pinenuts (BBD#04)

  1. JennDZ_The Leftover Queen

    This sounds just delightful! I am so sorry that Foodie is such an F word for you! That is too funny! Hope you aren’t too traumatized by having the word on your blog! :)

  2. Susan

    Very nice, Elizabeth! I’m glad you loved this. You’re right about the pine nuts being more assertive when toasted. I was thinking I should toast them before adding them to the dough.

  3. ejm Post author

    No, It hasn’t been too traumatic, Jenn; thanks for asking. :-) And the bread IS delightful.

    Thank you for hosting BBD #04, Manuela. The bread really is delicious. I hope you get a chance to make it yourself.

    We adore this bread, Susan. We can’t really thank you enough for the recipe! Toasting the pine nuts first, eh? That might be a good idea. (I still think we’ll be omitting them though – they’re pretty pricey here.)

    You are right, SusanFB, this bread is ambrosial. You’ve got to try it!

    So do you, Paz. I feel certain you would love it. And it doesn’t really take all that much time to make. (A lot of the time spent is leaving it alone to rise.) If you have a wild yeast starter, I’m pretty sure that you could make it without. Just make a biga (see first part of the recipe for Pagnotta) the night before and use a cup (250 ml) of it on the day of baking.

  4. ejm's sister

    It really is great bread. ejm gave me a miniloaf to take home one day (thanks, E, we are hoarding it, and still have half the loaf in the freezer). It’s brilliant toasted, the way it brings out the flavour of the pine nuts. Strange how the fennel taste almost disappears when it’s toasted – I think I’d add a bit more fennel, but keep the pine nuts, and have it primarily for toasting.

    I wonder if pre-toasting the pine nuts would cause the toasty-pine-nut flavour to still be there in non-toasted bread. Or does the toasty-nut flavour depend on the nuts still being warm?

  5. ejm Post author

    It’s definitely worth making, Zorra! (All thanks should go to Susan at Wild Yeast though.)

    Glad you like it, B. I know what you mean about the fennel seed sort of disappearing when the bread is toasted. And I too wonder if it would really make any difference if the pine nuts were pre-toasted before baking. And might they get overtoasted when toasting the bread?


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