Thursday, 31 March 2011

Bread with dried wild fennel flowers, oregano, slow-roasted tomatoes and red pepper paste

This is a colorful, intense-tasting, savoury variation of a standard white loaf. To be quite honest, when I made this bread I did not measure anything but quickly threw everything together. It's fine of course – and also even enjoyable – to be a purist when it comes to bread-baking, but there are days when I just do not have the time or inclination. Here, I just wanted to have fun adding good quality ingredients to a dough which I know always works, adjusting quantities here and there when needed.

Regarding the ingredients, the starting point for this recipe is a red pepper paste I am sent by my aunt in Calabria (Southern Italy). It's made with ripe, locally grown red peppers (I think they use a specific variety for this, but I'm not sure) which are first boiled, then cooked again with salt, strained and made into a thick, concentrated paste which you can keep in the fridge for months. The intended use for this paste is a delicious instant pasta sauce (olive oil, diced shallots; add the paste; cook gently for a couple of minutes; add a little boiling pasta cooking water and it's done) but I also use it instead of tomato sauce on pizza, or on bruschetta. I've also added slow-roasted tomatoes – you can make your own or just buy them ready made. The other ingredient I specifically wanted to add to the dough are dried wild fennel flowers from plants growing in my parents' garden. These (and regular fennel seeds) are very often used in my father's village in Calabria, most noticeably in the delicious cured meats they prepare each year.

Bread with wild fennel flowers, oregano, slow-roasted tomatoes and red pepper paste


For the dough:

  • 270 ml water
  • 8-9 g instant yeast
  • 450 g white bread flour
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp red pepper paste (or tomato paste, but then use less)
  • a few slow-roasted tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried wild fennel flowers
  • 3/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano

For the slow-roasted tomatoes:
  • small vine or Roma tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • dried aromatic herbs (e.g. thyme, rosemary)
  • salt, pepper


Prepare the slow-roasted tomatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 110°C. Cut the tomatoes in half. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the halved tomatoes with a very little amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with the herb(s) of your choosing and small quantities of salt and pepper. Cook at 110°C for about three hours until nicely shrivelled but still a little moist. Note: you can keep these in the fridge (in a jar, covered with olive oil).

Prepare the bread dough.

Warm the water. Mix 1/3 of the water with the instant yeast and 1 tsp sugar. Wait 5 minutes until bubbly. In a large salad bowl, mix flour, 1 tsp sugar and 1.5 tsp salt. Add the yeast mixture and mix with hands. Gradually add the leftover warm water until the dough forms a ball and stops sticking. If the dough is too dry, add a little water. If too wet, add a little flour.

Knead the dough for about 8 minutes, then add the red pepper paste, the chopped slow-roasted tomatoes, the dried wild fennel flowers, fennel seeds and oregano. Knead again for about 2 minutes until well incorporated. Form a ball, place in a lightly oiled container, cover with a damp towel and leave to ferment in a warm place for 90 minutes.

Punch the dough and knead quickly for a couple of minutes.

Shape the dough as a loaf, then place in a lightly oiled baking tin. Cover with a damp towel and proof for an hour or until the dough crests 2-3 cm above the bakin tin lips.

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C.

Bake at 220°C for 20 minutes, then about 10-15 minutes at 200°C.

Leave to cool on a rack.

Bread with dried wild fennel flowers, oregano, slow-roasted tomatoes and red pepper paste

Submitted to YeastSpotting.


  1. Dis l'ami, je ne sais si c'est conscient ou inconscient mais tu t'achemines vers l'alliance de la Belgique et du sud (ok l'Italie ici mais bientôt j'espère ce sera la Provence !!!). Je me trompe ?? Bisous, Françoise



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