Fennel Bread

Fennel Bread is a slightly sweet bread, excellent served warm and slathered with butter. Enjoy with coffee, or served alongside a savory dinner!

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Loaf of Fennel Bread on a teal napkin

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Long story short–this is my Great Grandma’s recipe for Fennel Bread. Growing up I thought it was some common traditional Scandinavian recipe, but I have yet to find a good history, or even duplicates of this recipe. Unless I haven’t scoured the internet well enough, I’m just going to assume this is some modification of some other traditional recipe.

So, after that intellectual and fact ridden summary of the background, what is Fennel Bread?

Well, it’s kind of sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.

It’s a labor of love, but to me the payoff is worth it.

It’s unique! Every year I make this around the holidays to share, and it’s always something that people have never heard of but end up enjoying.

How Do I Make Fennel Bread?

Buckle up Buttercups, you’re in for a journey. It’s a relatively easy one, but time consuming nonetheless.

First things first, we need to get your yeast rising. In a medium mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1/4 teaspoon sugar in lukewarm water, 110 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. (Too cold won’t activate the yeast, and too hot will kill it.) Set aside to rise.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan heat the milk and butter on low until the butter is melted. You don’t want the milk to boil, so make sure to keep the heat low and stir often.

While the milk is heating, crush the fennel seeds by placing them between a folded sheet of parchment or wax paper and press down on them with a spoon.

Fennel Seeds
Spoon crushing fennel folding into parchment paper

Once the butter is melted, remove from heat and stir in the 3/4 cup of sugar, salt, and fennel seeds. Set aside to cool.

milk and butter scalded with fennel

By now your yeast should be ready to go, all nice and foamy.

Yeast foamy and ready to use

Once the milk has cooled to a lukewarm temperature, stir in the yeast and egg yolks.

Wet ingredients for fennel bread mixed in bowl

Stir in the flour little by little, combining as much as you can before adding more. Your dough will still be pretty sticky, that’s OK!

Fennel dough all mixed

Grease a large bowl with softened butter and transfer the dough into the greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp flour sack towel and let the dough rise double, about 2 hours.

It’s best to do the rising in a somewhat warm environment. If your house is chilly, turn your oven light on (but not your oven) and keep it in there. Just as with prepping the yeast, you don’t want it too cold or too hot.

Fennel dough all mixed before rising

Once the dough has risen, dust a light layer of flour over the top of the dough (so your hand doesn’t stick) and lightly punch it down so it deflates. Cover and let it rise again for 2 hours.

Fennel dough in bowl after rise

Turn the dough onto a floured surface.

Fennel bread dough turned out on board after rise

Keep your hands dusted with flour and and form the dough into two equal balls.

Next, place each ball of dough on its own greased cookie sheet. Lightly cover with a damp flour sack towel and let rise again until the diameter is about 8-10 inches. This can be anywhere from 1-2 hours.

Fennel dough formed into ball pre rise
Fennel dough ball of dough risen

After your loaves have finished their final rise you’ll need to prepare them for baking. In order to keep the bread from splitting you want to gently prick the loaves with a fork all over, not deep, just lightly breaking the surface.

Fennel dough poked with fork pre baking

Once you’ve done that, put the loaves in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes, or until the crust begins to brown.

Fennel Bread loaf baked on cookie sheet

As soon as you take the bread out of the oven, rub some butter over the top for extra flavor, if you wish! Let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

How Do I Keep The Bread Fresh?

The best way to keep your bread from drying out too fast is to only slice off what you’d like to eat at the time. Keep the loaves in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap.

The bread will keep for 4-5 days, but peak freshness starts to wear off on the second day. You can also keep the bread in the freezer for up to 3 months.

What Do I Serve With Fennel Bread?

No matter what you eat it with, warmed with butter is the best way to go! Our family traditionally eats this on Christmas Eve with ham, Swedish meatballs (well, our family’s version), mashed potatoes, and peas. It’d go great alongside most any meal!

I also love eating the remainder of the loaves the next few days with breakfast in the morning, or for a snack with a cup of afternoon coffee or tea.

Fennel Bread on a cutting board with a few slices
Fennel Bread loaf sliced on cutting board

Fennel Bread

A semi-sweet bread that is fabulous smothered in butter, either with coffee or alongside a savory dinner!
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Rising Time 6 hrs
Total Time 7 hrs
Course Breakfast, Brunch, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Scandinavian
Servings 2 Loaves
Calories 1352 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Cups Whole Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Fennel Seeds (Crushed)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons Yeast (1 packet)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Lukewarm water (About 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 5 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 2 Egg Yolks

Instructions
 

  • In a medium mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and 1/4 teaspoon sugar in the warm water. Set aside.
  • In a saucepan heat the milk and butter on low until the butter is melted.
  • While the milk is heating, crush the fennel seeds by placing them between a folded sheet of parchment or wax paper and press down on them with a spoon.
  • Once butter is melted, remove from heat and add the sugar, salt, and fennel seeds to the warm milk and butter and stir to combine. Set aside to cool.
  • Once the milk has cooled (to about 110 degrees) and the yeast is foamy, combine both and add the egg yolks.
  • Stir in the flour little by little, combining as much as you can before adding more.
  • Transfer the dough to a greased bowl and cover and let it rise double, about 2 hours.
  • Dust a light layer of flour over the top of the dough and lightly punch it down so it deflates. Cover and let it rise again for 2 hours.
  • Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form into two equal balls.
  • Place each ball of dough on its own greased cookie sheet. Lightly cover and let rise again.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Gently prick the loaves with a fork all over, not deep, just lightly breaking the surface.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the loaves begin to lightly brown.
  • Carefully remove from the oven and brush the top with butter (optional).

Notes

  • I use softened butter to grease the bowl and cookie sheets for rising and baking.
  • Damp flour sack towels work best for covering while rising.
Keyword Bread, Fennel, homemade

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