The Fresh Loaf

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caraway or fennel?

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flourgirl51's picture

caraway or fennel?

I am looking for a great dark rye bread recipe and have found a few interesting ones. Some call for fennel seed and some call for caraway seed. Is there a big difference in these two?Do most rye recipes call for caraway? Just curious.

xaipete's picture

Both spices are members of the parsley family and although each has a different taste or aroma, either one would be fine in my opinion. I have used them interchangeable in rye breads.


cafe-moi's picture

Caraway, fennel, cumin, anise, dill seed, carom (ajwain), lovage, celery etc are all in the same Umbelliferae family.  Caraway has a stronger flavour than fennel.  Fennel is sweeter. Rye bread does not have to have either seed in them.  Most of the rye breads that I've had in Germany do not have caraway.

I use caraway in cooked cabbage or cabbage and potato soup, but I don't like it in my bread.  I do like fennel in my bread.  There are actually two types of fennel commonly used.  The larger, less sweet foneculum vulagaris is the one most often found in the US.  There is a smaller, darker green and sweeter foneculum vulgaris dulce that is available as well.

You try buttering a piece of plain rye bread, then sprinkling a few caraway seeds on one piece and a few fennel seeds on another piece and seeing which taste you prefer.

xaipete's picture

I think the taste test is a great idea. It lets you see what you prefer without potentially spoiling the flavor of a whole loaf.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Bag idea.  Unless you soften the seeds first.  They can be very hard.  I use both seeds in my bread along with Coriander.  They are crushed first.  I prefer more caraway to fennel 3 to 1 to be specific.   Toasting the seeds lightly can bring out more flavour.  

Warning:  Keeping a jar of mixed spices around can lead to spice sniffing, that is, opening the jar often just to get lost in the aroma.  Those who have been there, know what I mean.

The Majority of Austrian Rye Breads add a mixture of spices.  After reading above about the German ryes not using "spice" it is no wonder that so many Germans buy Rye loaves in Austria to take home with them!   These spices complement the flavours in Rye and I wouldn't bother to make a high percent rye loaf without them.


cafe-moi's picture

I didn't say that German rye breads don't use spice, only that the majority of the ones I've eaten there did not have *caraway* in them.  Many others contain ground coriander or coriander and fennel.

Where are you buying your seeds that they are so hard?  We routinely chew a spoonful of fennel seeds, or fennel, coriander and cumin after meals.  They are no more difficult to chew than sesame seeds.  I'm wondering if you are getting old stock?

Paddyscake's picture

I do love both and will often do a mix in my rye or as a topping on bagels. Fennel has a mild licorice like flavor. Of course, if you are unfamiliar with either I would do a taste test as suggested above.



Janknitz's picture

so I've been thinking of trying celery seed. Thnaks-- it doesn't sound too outlandish now :o)

cafe-moi's picture

Fyi, fennel, anise and caraway are sweeter in case that makes a difference to you.

You might like the fennel flavour in your rye.  I find caraway a bit overwhelming in bread.

Yumarama's picture

And do each with a different seed in them. Then you'll have the authentic "baked in" characteristics: somewhat softened by the dough, heated and aromatic, the flavour somewhat dispersed in the bread, which you wouldn't truly get by just sprinkling on toast.

And if you asked me, I'd say "Caraway, please!" 

Try caraway on roasted potatoes. Yum.