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Italian bread with currents, fennel and pine nuts

dmsnyder's picture

Italian bread with currents, fennel and pine nuts

Italian bread with currents, fennel and pine nuts

May 6, 2017

David M. Snyder

When I started baking sourdough breads, Susan Tenny's “Wild Yeast Blog” was, along with The Fresh Loaf, a major source of inspiration. Susan was also very active on The Fresh Loaf as “susanfnp.” Well, sadly, Susan has not kept up her blog, but it does remain accessible and worth a visit.

In November, 2007 Susan blogged on a somewhat accidental bread (You just will have to read her blog to understand.) It was a 50% semolina bread with currents, pine nuts and fennel seeds. I was starting to explore sourdough breads with various nut/dried fruit combinations at the time, so I gave this one a try. I liked it a lot, although my wife doesn't like fennel or pine nuts as much as I do. So, I only made this bread the one time.

Today, I attended a pot luck at a home that has a very large wood-fired oven. The group is mostly Italian, so Susan's semolina bread came to mind as one they would enjoy. I have had good success with an “Italian Bread” based on my San Joaquin Sourdough, so I used that approach rather than Susan's for this formula.

Final dough




Wt (g)

Bakers' %

AP flour



Fine durum flour









Active Liquid levain



Olive oil



Whole fennel seeds



Dried currents



Pine nuts (lightly toasted and cooled)







  • I know the table above does not fit current BBGA conventions. So sorry. I hope this doesn't place my membership at risk.

  • Hydration is 73%, taking into account the levain.

  • The liquid levain is my usual 100% hydration levain made with a flour mix of 70% AP, 20% Whole Wheat and 10% Whole Rye flours. 9% of the total flour is pre-fermented.

  • I generally mix the levain late at night and ferment it a 70-76ºF overnight, and mix the final dough in the morning. If I mix the levain early in the day, I ferment it then refrigerate it until an hour or so before mixing the final dough. If it is still cool, I compensate by using warmer water for the final dough.


Procedure (using a stand mixer)

  1. Dissolve the levain in the water using the paddle at slow speed.

  2. Add the flours and mix to a shaggy mass.

  3. Cover and rest (autolyse) for 20-60 minutes.

  4. Switch to the dough hook. Add the salt and mix at Speed 2 for 6-7 minutes or until there is moderate gluten development.

  5. Add the olive oil and continue to mix. The dough will first come apart and then reform a ball incorporating the oil.

  6. Add the currents, pine nuts and fennel seeds. Mix at low speed until they are evenly distributed – 1-2 minutes.

  7. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover and ferment at 70-76ºF for 3-4 hours with stretch and folds on a well-floured board at 50 and 100 minutes. The dough should have increased in volume by half and be filled with small bubbles and feel puffy, although it will also remain a bit sticky.

  8. Refrigerate the dough 8-12 hours.

  9. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Pre-shape as balls, cover them, and let them rest for 1 hour.

  10. Shape as baguettes.

  11. Proof on a couche for 45 minutes.

  12. Bake at 460ºF for 20-22 minutes with steam for the first 12 minutes.

  13. Transfer to a cooling rack. Cool thoroughly before slicing.

This bread was very well received. Actually, they loved it. In my estimation, while the taste was really good, there is lots of room for improvement. The dough was underfermented. I haven't yet been able to adequately humidify this huge WFO when baking such a small amount of bread. My next step is to make this again, probably using the same formula, fermenting the dough more completely and baking it in my familiar home oven. Stay tuned!




BreadBabies's picture

You know how the super rich tend to wonder if people just love them for their money?  If I made your amazing breads, I'd be wondering if people just invited me places because of the bread...

Looks spectacular.  That's a gorgeous bâtard, too.

dmsnyder's picture


alfanso's picture

makes it seem like a dessert or pre-meal type of bread.  Well, that's three ingredients that I haven't baked with yet.  Curious as to why you used dry rather than soaked currants.  I believe it was you who touted me on soaking my raisins and dried figs before adding them.

Since we understand WFO baking to be another skill set entirely, had you thought about adding a steam engine to the oven deck to ensure that sufficient steam is being produced?  Perhaps you can pack up your lava rocks and pan into the travel kit.  Any thoughts on that?

Wonderful crust and crumb on the SJSD in your companion post.  It looks as though you finally have that one down :o)) .  You should send kudos to the author of that formula...

Just for the record, since we saw you last month, my Entourage email locked up permanently and I had to make an emergency switchover to Apple Mail.  And Mike had to get a new pair of hard drives after his registry became totally corrupted and unrecoverable.  His most recent backup for restore was a month old.  Ouch.  Maybe we should keep our distance from you!

dmsnyder's picture

The currents seemed moister than the raisins and figs and cherries I've used. I may try rinsing them, just to see the effect.

The WFO is really a commercial scale job. I bet it could hold 30 to 50 loaves. Besides, it is not mine to modify, although the owner and I are collaborating in solving the humidification problem. In fact, she is off to Italy next week to take an advanced class in WFO baking given by the manufacturers of her oven. She's taking a list of questions about getting steam into the oven when baking small batches.

In the meantime, I'll be working on a focaccia formula to try out when she gets back. 

I categorically deny any role in corrupting your or Mike's email. I am skeptical about coincidences though. Sounds like shared malware, but you probably know a lot more about that stuff than I. You haven't been writing bad things about Vladimir Putin on Russian social media, have you?


alfanso's picture

My email program had been phased out and unsupported for years now and exhibiting signs of a severe limp for a while when it locked up permanently.  Mike's word processing program was his culprit.  Mac vs. PC.  No software fluids were exchanged in the process.  

I try to keep the NSA out of my hip pocket when I can, so all Putin references are done on my trusty Enigma Machine.  They'll never figure that out!

Bread1965's picture

What a great combination.. you never cease to amaze me..