Incredibly Easy Tomato and Fennel Bread

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Over the past few weeks, I have been making the transition from studying all hours of day and night combined with two part-time jobs, to a more leisurely life working a part-time job that currently involves sitting around a room complaining about the industrial conflict which  prevents me from doing my job. It’s been a challenge. To fill the void in my life that was once filled with making flashcards, I’ve turned to making bread. Having a loaf of fresh bread on the table feels like an achievement. It gives the impression that you have something to show for a day that has mainly involved flicking between The Guardian, Broadsheet and old episodes of The Colbert Report, interspersed with napping. Moreover, being able to make bread seems to be an intrinsic part of Danish culture.  Most young Danish people I’ve met make their own, and every supermarket will sell both fresh and dried yeast. I saw this recipe on Food 52 (originally from Jim Lahey’s ‘My Bread’) and decided I had to try a recipe that compared making bread to having a pet cat. It requires minimum effort, a little bit of waiting, and given that I have used it six times with five perfect results, and one almost perfect result*, I would have to say it is foolproof. I’ve adapted a plain loaf to make a tomato and fennel loaf, which is fantastic with some very seasonal wild garlic pesto and a schmear of goats cheese. This makes a decent 500g loaf, and just requires you to plan a day ahead.

*This recipe is designed for white flour. If you use wholemeal flour you will get a denser loaf that doesn’t rise as much. A 50/50 mix yields good results.

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Ingredients

  • 400g white flour
  • 300ml cold water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1g (1/4 teaspoon) dried yeast, or 3g fresh yeast
  • 1-2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped sun dried tomato

Method

  • Put the flour and salt in a large bowl.
  • Dissolve the tomato puree and yeast in the water.
  • Stir into the flour with a wooden spoon until you have a dough.
  • Mix in the fennel seeds and sundried tomato.
  • Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave for 12-18 hours covered (it will rise massively).
  • Take it out of the bowl with floured hands, and knead together for a minute or so on a floured surface until it forms a coherent ball coated in flour.
  • It will still be more sticky than you think is right, but it is, you don’t need to add more flour.
  • Wrap in a tea towel and leave for 1-2 hours.
  • It’s ready when you stick your finger in it and it leaves an indentation.
  • During the last half hour or so of this, put a big casserole dish (apparently called a Dutch oven in the States?) or metal pot with a lid big enough to fit the dough almost doubling in size) in the oven at 250C to preheat.
  • When the dough is raised, shape it into a loaf.
  • Dust the now heated pot (carefully) with flour.
  • Add the loaf to the heated pot and put in the oven with the lid on for 30 minutes.
  • Take off the lid and cook in the oven for about another ten minutes, until the outside is crispy and golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack for 30-45 minutes.

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4 thoughts on “Incredibly Easy Tomato and Fennel Bread

    • Thanks. This is based on a bread my parents used to buy from Cooke’s Cafe in Dublin when I was a child. Cooke’s Cafe is long gone now but I still fondly remember their tomato and fennel bread.

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