The Fresh Loaf

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Golden Saffron and Fennel Loaf

Danni3ll3's picture

Golden Saffron and Fennel Loaf

I was looking for something different and I stumbled on this recipe: I had saffron sitting in a cupboard so this was a good opportunity to use some up. I expected my dough to be bright yellow like in the original recipe but that did not happen. I wonder if it was because I’ve had the saffron for a while. 


The one departure from my usual method is that I decided to score these loaves so final proof was done seam side up rather than my usual seam side down. 



Makes 3 loaves


700 g strong bakers unbleached flour

200 g freshly milled Kamut flour

100 g freshly milled rye flour

3 large pinches of saffron

700 g water (divided)

2 tsp fennel seeds

22 g salt

30 g whole milk yogurt 

250 g levain (procedure in recipe)


Extra unbleached and wholegrain flour to feed levain 


The day before:

1. About 8 hours before bedtime, take 2 g of refrigerated starter and feed it 4 g of filtered water and 4 g of wholegrain rye flour. Let sit in a warm spot. 


The night before:

  1. Mill the Kamut and Rye berries if using, on the finest setting of your mill or measure out commercial whole grain rye and whole grain wheat flour if you don’t mill your own.
  2. Place the required amount of each freshly milled flour in a tub and add the unbleached flour to it. Cover and set aside.
  3. Feed the levain 20 g of water and 20 g of wholegrain flour. Let it rise at room temperature for the night.


Dough making day:

  1. Feed the levain 100 g of filtered water and 50 g of wholegrain flour as well as 50g of strong baker’s flour. Place in a warm spot. Let rise until doubled (about 4-5 hours).
  2. In the meantime, boil some water and soak the saffron threads in it. Let cool. 
  3. About two hours before the levain is ready, strain the saffron water into a stand mixer’s bowl and add enough filtered water to measure 700 grams. Add the flours, and mix on speed 1 until all the flour has been hydrated. Let this autolyse for a couple of hours.
  4. Once the autolyse is done, add the salt, the yogurt, the fennel seeds, and the levain to the bowl. Mix on speed one for a minute to integrate everything, then mix on speed 2 for 9 minutes. 
  5. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place in a lightly oiled covered tub. Let rest 30 minutes in a warm spot (oven with light on).
  6. Do 2 sets of coil folds at 30 minute intervals and then 2 other sets at 45 minute intervals, and then let the dough rise to about 40-50%. It should have irregular bubbles visible through the sides of the container and quite a few large bubbles on top as well. 
  7. Tip the dough out on a bare counter, sprinkle the top with flour and divide into 3 equal portions. Round out the portions into rounds with a dough scraper and let rest 30 minutes on the counter.
  8. Do a final shape by flouring the top of the rounds and flipping the rounds over on a lightly floured counter. Gently stretch the dough out into a circle. Pull and fold the third of the dough closest to you over the middle. Pull the right side and fold over the middle and do the same to the left. Fold the top end to the center patting out any cavities. Finally stretch the two top corners and fold over each other in the middle. Roll the bottom of the dough away from you until the seam is underneath the dough. Cup your hands around the dough and pull towards you, doing this on all sides of the dough to round it off. Finally spin the dough to make a nice tight boule. Let sit for a few seconds to deal the seam. 
  9. Sprinkle a mix of rice and all purpose flour in the bannetons. Place the dough seam side up in the bannetons. Let rest for a few minutes on the counter and then put to bed in a cold (38F) fridge overnight. I try to keep this between 10 and 11 hours. 


Baking Day

1. The next morning, heat the oven to 475F with the Dutch ovens inside for 45 minutes to an hour. Turn out the dough seam side down onto a cornmeal sprinkled counter. Score your loaves. Place rounds of parchment paper in the bottom of the pots, and carefully but quickly place the dough seam side down inside.

2. Cover the pots and bake the loaves at 450 F for 25 minutes, remove the lids, and bake for another 22 minutes at 425 F. Internal temperature should be 205 F or more.



Not bad for a newbie scorer. 


JonJ's picture

Hi Danni(elle?)

Fabulous looking loaves as always. That is my favourite score (I call it the small X). Saffron is quite an inspirational choice. Thinking about making a loaf with saffron, walnut and caramelized onion (perhaps) this weekend.

See that you're always adding yoghurt. What does it bring to the bread? For the crust and crumb?

Also, your repeat comments about not overdoing the fridge retard always make me jump out of bed in the morning.



Danni3ll3's picture

Danielle, but a few friends called me Danni so when I needed a nickname for the net, Danni it was and it stuck. Now it’s Danni in real life too which is better than the mispronunciations of Danielle. 🙄

As to the yogurt, it’s there to soften the crust up. It’s not much but it does the trick. 

Your combo of walnuts, saffron and onions sounds amazing! I’d love to see a picture when you make it. 

A trick to get an extra hour of sleep in the morning is to load the pots in the oven and set the timer the night before  to turn on the oven. Then when you get up, the pots are nice and hot for your bake. 😉

Floydm's picture

Wow, that sounds like a really interesting combination.

May I feature this on the homepage for a bit? I'd swap out your Dark Chocolate Porridge Sourdough with this one.

Danni3ll3's picture

Thank you for the honour!


Benito's picture

I love the yellow showing through the crust in the scores Dani.  The saffron really adds to the yellow of the Kamut, very very nice.  Congratulations on the front page feature for this loaf.


loaflove's picture

You've inspired me to use my saffron in the pantry.  Would have loved to see a crumb shot for the color 😉. 

Danni3ll3's picture

The loaf we kept for ourselves because we hadn’t cut into it after two days. So that will have to wait until we do eat it. I think it would be pretty good in a Panzanella salad. 

CarolinesChef1477's picture


Congrats on the front page feature! These loaves of bread look incredible. 

I am far from a saffron expert, but I have struggled to obtain that golden color while making saffron rice-based dishes. I've found that the rice obtains a golden color and maximum saffron flavor when the saffron is first cooked for a few minutes in the water that I will later use. For example, boil the saffron for a few minutes in the water that you will use to cook the rice. 

I would imagine that the same principle will apply here to give your dough (and crumb) a deep, golden color. Let the water cool completely before using.