Saffron Fennel Bread

For the past 6 months, I have had a little golden packet of a special spice called saffron staring back at me from my kitchen cabinet. Saffron has a complex flavor that is often used in French bouillabaisse, Spanish paella, Milanese risotto, and many Middle Eastern dishes. I called it a “special” spice because not only is it quite pricey, but a little goes a long way when it comes to Saffron’s audacious effects on the palette.


Good news for all you natural remedy lovers out there! According to my girl Oprah, a 2008 study found that 76% of women who took daily saffron supplements reported a 50% drop in PMS symptoms like mood swings and fatigue (your welcome, in advance to the men in our lives). The spice has also been linked to the alleviation of mild to moderate depression. According to another study, saffron supplements were as effective as a common antidepressant in reducing symptoms related to depression.

This taste tantalizing and feel-good spice met its maker last weekend when I decided to dust off my dutch oven and get back to my bread baking roots. It all started because I realized I was in need of some bread to accompany two upcoming recipes–my meatless Monday Sweet Potato Bean Burgers with Maple Chipotle Mayo, and my slow-cooker Tuscan Lentil, Barley, and Kale Soup. Rather than running out to the store for a pre-made loaf, I got out my flours and yeast and got to cooking. I’ve been enjoying the bread for the last week and saved half in the freezer for when my schedule gets hectic with work travel. Give it a go and add a little something “special” to your sandwich or soup entree.

Saffrom Fennel Bread

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 tbs active dry yeast (or one packet)
  • 1 tablespoon raw cane or coconut sugar
  • 2 cups unbleached, bread flour (plus a little more for kneading)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tbs kosher salt
  • 1 tbs whole fennel seeds
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal (for coating)

How to Make It:

  1. In a large bowl, mix water, yeast, and sugar. Add 1 cup of bread flour and stir until blended.  Wait 5 minutes.
  2. Once the mixture is slightly foamy, add salt, fennel seeds (crushing them lightly in your hand as you sprinkle them in), and saffron, and stir to blend. Add remaining cup of bread flour and all the whole wheat flour, little by little.  Mix the dough until it is too stiff to stir with a spoon.
  3. Place your dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead with your hands, adding additional bread flour when the dough gets too sticky. Knead until dough is smooth and consistent in texture, about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size (approx. 1 hour).
  5. Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal. Punch down the dough while still in its bowl, then form it into a firm ball and set on baking sheet. Cover with a dry cloth and let rise again until doubled in size (approx. 1 hour).
  6. About 40 minutes into the second hour, preheat the oven to 400°F with your dutch oven inside.
  7. 20 minutes after preheating, give your dough a good coating of cornmeal allover, then place it in the center of your (hot!) dutch oven. Bake bread covered for about 35 minutes, then uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown. Set on a rack to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.