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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fennel and Saffron Bread and the Suitcase Saga



From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...There really is a connection between today's recipe and what the Silver Fox and I call the suitcase saga. We returned from India seven weeks ago. It was a wonderful trip, save for the fact that our luggage and that of the small group with whom we were traveling was lost. The airline was not helpful, and, as it happened, our luggage stayed in Kathmandu for a far longer time than we did. I was especially irritated because one of the suitcases contained gifts for the children, notes from cooking classes and spices that included a large quantity of saffron. We were about to begin negotiations for claims reimbursement, when Santa, in the guise of a Fed-Ex man delivered the supposedly irrecoverable luggage on Christmas Eve. The only problem was his truck contained all of the missing luggage and I had a momentary skirmish with the driver when I refused to accept any suitcase that had a luggage tag that did not bear our name. It took several phone calls and some head scratching to determine the next course of action, but the matter was finally resolved to every one's satisfaction and rest of the luggage was rerouted and sent on to its rightful owners. The good news was I had my saffron and that meant we could have bouillabaisse on New Year's Eve. It also gave me the opportunity to try a bread originally designed to go with the soup. The bread is the creation of Jacques Collet whose bread shops are famous in France. The bread is made with crushed fennel seeds and saffron and it is not for the faint of heart. It has a soft lovely crumb, and the addition of semolina also gives the bread a crisp exterior that makes it perfect for dipping into bouillabaisse. The bread is strongly flavored and some thought should be given to when you might want to use it. It is perfect for Mediterranean soups and stews, but I don't think it works for much else. I find its unique flavor too strong for sandwiches or toast. The bread is very easy to make and its color in daylight is beautiful. I really like this. I think you will too. Here's the recipe.

Fennel and Saffron Bread...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Jacques Collet

Ingredients:

1-1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 to 2-1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon fennel seed, freshly ground
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron
1 cup semolina flour
Coarse cornmeal

Directions:
1) In a large mixing bowl, combine water, yeast, sugar, and 1 cup unbleached flour. Stir until thoroughly blended. Proof for about 5 minutes.
2) Once proofed and foamy, add salt, fennel seed, and saffron, and stir to blend. Add semolina flour, little by little, stirring to blend. Stir in up to 1-1/4 cups more unbleached flour, working dough until it is too stiff to stir. Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and begin kneading, adding additional unbleached flour if dough is too sticky. Knead until dough is smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes.
3) Place dough in a bowl. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
4) Sprinkle a baking sheet with coarse cornmeal. Punch down dough. Shape into a firm ball and set on baking sheet. Cover with a cloth and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
5) After about 40 minutes, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
6) Bake bread in center of oven until crust is crisp and brown, about 40 minutes. Set on a rack to cool before slicing. Yield: 1 loaf

You might also enjoy these recipes:
Pain au Levain - Stumptown Savory
Rustic Potato Herb Bread - Playing House
Italian Bread - Annie's Eats
Basic Potato Bread - Cooking with K
New York Deli Rye Bread - Smitten Kitchen
Sourdough Seeded Rye Bread - Coconut and Lime
Debbie's Whole Wheat Bread - Tasty Tidbits

This post is also being linked to:
Wild Yeast - Yeast Spotting

44 comments :

kitchen flavours said...

I'm glad you got your suitcase back! And in time for Christmas too! The bread looks lovely. Never tried using saffron before, it is not an easy spice to find, and costly too. It is smart of you to get them from India! Have a lovely day!

Priya said...

Great looking flavourful bread.

My Little Space said...

Good heaven, you got your suitcase back! Congratulations! See, Santa treat you so well. And the bread looks like a sunshine. Hope you're enjoying the holiday.
Blessings, Kristy

. said...

This look s so good....

Red Nomad OZ said...

Maybe the airline spun the 'irretrievable luggage' story to make you grateful when it WAS recovered?? Nevermind - the recipe now has a story attached, so will be all the more memorable!!

Happy future travels!!

penny aka jeroxie said...

Oh my. The colour of this bread is beautful.

The Words Crafter said...

I'm so glad you got your luggage back!

My mom used to make a bread for dipping. It was soft and tasty in the middle and crunchy on the outsides. This reminds me of it!

I hope your holiday was wonderful :)

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

"Lost" luggage is just the worse, glad they found yours and in time for Christmas.

This bread looks interesting. Diane

bellini valli said...

Si happy to hear that it all worked out. A King's ransom in saffron is a wonderful last minute Christmas present.

Cathy said...

Great news, Mary, that you recovered your saffron in time for your New Year's Eve dinner. I'm sure your bread is heavenly with a bowl of bouillabaisse.

Happy New Year!

CaSaundraLeigh said...

I really despise flying for the fact that my luggage disappears half the time. But luckily it's been returned within a few days each time. Glad you got yours back!!

Design Wine and Dine said...

I just received some saffron as a Christmas gift! This bread looks amazingly delicious! I would love to dip this bread a nice hearty stew!

Chiara said...

I'm glad you got your suitcase back!The bread looks very tasty...have a lovely day dear Mary, blessings...

Penny said...

So glad your suitcase was returned in time for Christmas. We just got back to Lake Lure for a few days and believe it or not, I have all of the ingredients for this bread already on hand. Think I will give it a try today. Enjoy your New Years! Hope 2011 is good for you.

Sushma Mallya said...

Perfect and yum

Barbara said...

Amazing you had the suitcases returned after 7 weeks, Mary!
I've had the reverse happen....lost on the way there and had to buy clothes! Travel is always full of surprises.

The bread is interesting and after reading the ingredients, agree it would take a specific soup or stew to match it. Copying now.

Happy New Year to you and yours, Mary!

Ginny said...

I believe saffron is the most expensive spice there is, because the tiny flower insides have to be each pulled by hand. It is a whole lot cheaper in India and that's why you returned with so much? That is really good thinking! I have never tasted it, but I know there is a spice of some kind that acts as a cheap substitute, can't remember what now.

Cooking With Kids said...

Wow Mary, that sounds like a scene from a movie, just in time for Christmas! The heavens were watching over you (after their little siesta while the bags went walkabout!).

Looking forward to reading more Saffron recipes now :)

Joanne said...

My god Mary that sounds like such a nightmare! I'm so glad it was resolved, though, and just in time because this bread looks delicious!

Julie said...

Beautiful bread!!! I've never lost my luggage (knock on wood) but I've also never traveled on a trip like yours. You're a better person than I am, you didn't say what airline wasn't helpful! I think I'd have had to say that in my post!! The New Year's Eve dinner sounds amazing!!

Kath said...

That took a while to get your suitcase back, but I'm glad it made it home. Your bread is beautiful!

Pondside said...

I think that the bread should be renamed Suitcase Bread or something along that line!
The thought of a lovely thick soup and substantial bread is tempting!

GLENDA CHILDERS said...

As a person who has travelled a lot, I share your joy in the missing suitcase showing up on your doorstep . . . and on Christmas Eve, no less. Fun.

Fondly,
Glenda

Emily Z said...

Losing your luggage is the WORST! I lost mine flying to Houston last year. Luckily it only took 24 hours to get it back, but it was a VERY stressful 24 hours. I determined that Southwest Airlines slogan "bags fly free" didn't guarantee that your bags flew on the same flight as you. ;) I am glad you got it back, though! A nice Christmas surprise! Your bread looks wonderful... the saffron was worth the wait!

Sook said...

I hate when that happens. I think it happened to me once when I went to Florida. It was one of the worsts! I am glad you got it back though. The bread looks awesome, too! :)

speedy70 said...

Cara Mary, è un vero piacere conoscere il tuo blog!!! Mi iscrivo come tua sostenitrice, così non ti perdo di vista; un abbraccio, a presto!!

teresa said...

how great that you got your suitcase back!! this bread looks wonderful, love the flavors.

Claudia said...

That is an assertive bread but the flavors are indeed wonderful! Happy you finally received your luggage... scary that they were willing to give you someone else's suitcase!

JG said...

This colorful flavorful bread would be wonderful with Beef Stew on a cold night. Glad you were able to retrieve your luggage, too.

Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes said...

Thankfully the luggage issue was resolved! Such a hassle! Thankfully you have the saffron! Enjoy your New Year's Eve dinner -- I'll bet it will be delicious!

Mary

Rhonda said...

Oh happy day, you got your luggage! I am in love with saffron, I can taste it just by looking at the picture!

Kim said...

I really love this bread because of the color and the fennel seeds, I love fennel!

Kim said...

I got a kick out of reading that your suitcase showed up on Christmas Eve. It really is the season of miracles. I know the children will treasure their gifts just as you will treasure your cooking notes.

This bread sounds very unique and aromatic, the perfect accompaniment to your bouillabaisse.

Foodycat said...

It looks so beautiful, but I think I agree with you about the flavourings making it wrong for basic toast. Maybe toasted under a seafood canape? But with fish soup, superb!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

This bread looks gorgeous! I am always intriqued by and attracted to saffron - I've never seen a recipe for bread, but since I'm quite into bread baking I just have to try this. I love the strong flavor. (And I'll bet the saffron may have been worth more than the suitcase!)

Aunt Snow said...

This looks wonderful!! I have some semolina flour in my cupboard - I can make it today!

Karen said...

Another tale of wayward luggage! Glad you got yours back. What a shame to have it lost forever.

Anonymous said...

This looks delicious and flavorful, and I could make it while still off work this week.... do you think I could substitute fennel pollen for 1/2 tsp. of the salt?

- J

Mary said...

Anon, this bread is already intensely flavored. If knowing that, you still want to use the pollen I don't see why not. Blessings...Mary

A Canadian Foodie said...

This bread looks incredible... and so does the beef dip. That is one of my dad's very favourite lunches... and I am the lover of artizan breads. I love the colour!
If/when you get time, Mary, I would love you to drop by and offer your insights on Food Trends for 2011. I was so surprised to find Anna's views, from Australia to be so similar to ours, in Canada... and am curious to see if NYC's - or yours, are on the same path - generally speaking, regarding trends.
:)
I know you will drop by - but I am truly curious about whether the entire western world is headed in the same direction... both wish wise, and in reality!
Valerie

Anna A. said...

What beautiful bread and I'm glad the saffron survived the voyage! I have some Greek saffron I've been meaning to use. Maybe in bread?!

Michelle Stiles said...

Oh my, my grandma used to make this bread for the holidays. I haven't thought about that in a long time. Thank you! I also love your pictures!

Debbie said...

That looks beautiful. I'm not too keen on fennel, but it looks so good that I might have to give it a try anyway!

That Girl said...

Losing your luggage is a small price to pay for a fabulous trip. I have had that happen to me. Glad you got it back.

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