There is nothing better than a fresh, crackling, fragrant loaf of bread. And there is nothing more empowering than making said loaf in your own oven.
Each time I find myself scooping up a loaf at the grocery store (unless it is this bread from this San Francisco standard,) I scold myself for not thinking ahead or making a starter ahead of time. Bread is a science, and a fulfilling one at that. It doesn’t take much time, but it does take some planning.
This week, I not only forgot to think ahead to make a starter and prep a loaf of home-made bread, but also forgot to purchase one at the store. And so, this new go-to recipe was born. This loaf of Fennel Seed Soda Bread took just a few moments to pull the ingredients from the pantry and mix up the dough. The bread baked while a pot of vegetable minestrone bubbled on the stove, and smells of toasted walnut, fennel and mesquite filled the house as I practiced yoga upstairs relaxing into the evening.
You could use whatever combination of seeds or nuts that spark your interest, though we loved this combination so much we haven’t yet even dreamed of changing a thing. Mesquite flour is a gluten-free flour found in the aisles of specialty natural foods stores or purchased online here. It lends a nice, earthy flavor and excellent texture to this bread but, if you can’t acquire it, you can substitute spelt or unbleached white flour.
- 3/4 cup each raw walnuts and pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 3/4 cup spelt flour
- 1 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup mesquite flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1 3/4 cup soy, hemp or almond milk + juice of one small lemon
- a bit of extra milk for brushing
- extra pepitas for sprinkling
- Preheat your oven to 400F degrees. Place a rack in the center of the oven and prepare a baking sheet by sprinkling lightly with flour.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the flours, baking soda, and salt.
- Stir in the walnuts + pepitas.
- Make a well in the flour, pour in the buttermilk, and mix with a spatula until the dough just comes together. It will likely still be a smidgen wet - if its still very sticky sprinkle just a tiny bit more spelt flour over the dough. Then, flour your hands and tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly for about a minute, just long enough to pull it together into a loose, soft ball but no longer. Its important that you get the dough into the oven while the baking soda is still active!
- Place the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet and slice a deep cross across the top, cutting two-thirds of the way through the loaf with a serrated knife. Brush with buttermilk and sprinkle with the remaining pepitas to your liking.
- Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until the bread is golden crusted on top and bottom (you may want to move the oven rack up for the last 15 minute if you need more color on the top of the loaf). Cool on a wire rack, or serve warm with irish butter.
- Makes a single loaf.