As it sometimes goes in the kitchen, the first loaf I made was a disaster that sadly ended up in the trash. I got a little overzealous at the thought of adding whole wheat flour to it and clearly, after I pulled the flat, dense, brick of a loaf out of the oven, I knew that I had overdone it. The second time, I backed way off the whole wheat flour and it was a definitive success. I think the next time I make it, I will change the ratio a bit and see if I can’t get a ½ cup more whole wheat flour in it.
The raisins and fennel seeds was an idea given to me by my sister-in-law who had it in a restaurant and was taken with the bread. It’s really an excellent combination of flavors – the raisins add their golden sweetness while the fennel seeds somehow keep it savory.
For one large loaf:
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour (available at King Arthur and Trader Joe's)
- 2½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 1½ teaspoons fennel seeds
- 1¾ cups cool water
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and yeast. Stir in the raisins and fennel seeds. Pour in the water and stir until a soft, shaggy dough has formed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place overnight.
After 12 hours or so, the dough will be bubbly. Lightly flour a work surface. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the floured surface and with floured hands, knead it a few times, cover with a clean towel, and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Lightly grease a clean bowl, form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside for 1-2 hours. The dough is ready for baking when a small indentation remains after you poke it with your finger. If it springs back, it needs more time. The amount of resting time it needs is dependent on the warmth of your kitchen.
Place a heavy, oven safe dutch oven with a lid such as a Le Crueset onto the center rack of the oven and turn the oven on, bringing it to a temperature of 450 degrees. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the lid off the pot and place the dough into it, giving the pot a shake to even the dough out. With a knife, you can create a few slashes in the top of the dough, about a half-inch deep, for decoration. Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pot and bake for 10-15 minutes longer, so that the bread is a deep, golden brown.
Remove the pot from the oven and turn the bread out onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.