Monday, 27 June 2011

Hoegaarden white beer, fennel seeds and rosemary sourdough bread

Addendum: Connie kindly suggested that I took part in the 41st edition of Bread Baking day (BBD#41), the subject of which is "Bread with local herbs". Rosemary and fennel seeds, of course, are not originally from the region I live in. I made this bread before reading the brief, so I hope I'll be forgiven. I am, however, using a local beer. ;-) By the way, Hoegaarden beer uses coriander seeds in its fabrication: these have been available locally since the 15th century.

Living in Belgium means being spoiled for choice when it comes to beer: about 800 varieties can be found. I confess that I don't drink beer very often although I do appreciate the wide range of flavours. In summer however, I sometimes enjoy a glass of Hoegaarden white beer, which I find quite refreshing. Summer not having been quite here yet, I thought I would try to use white beer in my Sunday bread baking routine. The combination with fennel seeds and rosemary immediately seemed to pop into my mind and I decided to give it a go.

It's a strange feeling to open a bottle of beer at 7:30 in the morning. I hadn't prepared any pre-ferment the night before because my sourdough starter didn't seem to be very much awake yet (it had been in the fridge for a couple of weeks, and was only out and fed again since a little under three days). Also, I planned to go out mid-morning to meet other bloggers at an Indian cash and carry (I bought mango juice, coconut milk powder, cumin seeds, curry leaves, samosas, dried fenugreek leaves and refrained myself from buying more stuff) so I figured I could start the sponge early and see how it was around 1:30pm. I could then get started with it or, if it was flat, just use commercial yeast. Luckily the sponge was active and bubbly; one more hour wouldn't have hurt, but I was in a hurry.

So, how was the result? I think my starter would have benefited from a couple of days more feeding. The dough didn't rise terribly much during fermenting and proofing but there was a reasonable oven spring. The crumb was a little chewy, but nothing terrible. The crust ended up great, really good texture and taste. And happily the three main flavours (beer, fennel seeds and rosemary) were balanced, easy to pick up individually but also worked great together.

Hoegaarden white beer, fennel seeds and rosemary sourdough bread

Ingredients: (for one loaf)

For the sponge:
  • 120 g 100% hydration sourdough starter
  • 60 g white bread flour
  • 45 ml Hoegaarden white beer

For the final dough:
  • 235 g white bread flour
  • 65 ml Hoegaarden white beer
  • 40 ml lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Hoegaarden white beer, fennel seeds and rosemary sourdough bread


Place the sponge, flour, beer and water in a salad bowl. Mix for a few minutes until combined, then add the salt. Knead for about 10 minutes, adding a little flour or water if necessary. Add the fennel seeds and rosemary, then knead again for a couple of minutes until well incorporated.

Shape in a ball, transfer to a lightly oiled container, cover with a damp towel and leave to ferment for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Shape the dough. Place on an oven tray lined with parchment paper or a non-stick mat. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to proof at room temperature for 90 minutes to a couple of hours.

Preheat the oven to 250°C. When ready to bake, place an small oven-proof dish filled with boiling water on the sole of the oven. Dust the loaf with a little flour and slash its surface with a knife. Place the tray in the middle of the oven. Throw a small quantity of cold water on the sole of the oven to generate steam and immediately close the oven door.

Bake with steam for about 15 minutes then remove the small oven-proof dish. Lower the temperature to about 225-230°C and continue baking for a further 15 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack for 2 hours before serving.

Hoegaarden white beer, fennel seeds and rosemary sourdough bread

Submitted to YeastSpotting.

BBD #41 - 4th anniversary editon - bread with herbs (last day of submission July 1, 2011)


  1. This loaf looks so big and healthy! it is superb! did you proofed it in the fridge? usualy that blistered crust is achieved by long fermentation in a cold environement, or at least that is my case.

  2. Beautiful and it looks so tasty. I would be a nice bread for the BBD#41, bread with local herbs. There is still time! Can you describe the taste of beer in bread; does it really add something extra? Maybe I can find a bottle of beer here, but because we don't drink alcohol, I hope you can persuade me to buy a bottle just for the bread.

  3. Fab, your loaf looks so amazingly good! I loved the pic and am sure the taste must be wonderful too! I´ll be fixing it and let you know! I live in Brazil and can´t find the type of beer you used, can I use normal yellow one?
    Thanks a lot! Cheers!

  4. It looks really amazing!! I have to try it!! Thanks for sharing :-) fennel seeds



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