Almond, Citrus and Fennel Plait
This Almond, Citrus and Fennel Plait is made using an enriched dough making for a decadent treat!
My other half is the bread maker in this house. I just don’t have the patience for the mixing, kneading, proving and baking. Some loaves can take days before you get to enjoy them and that’s just too long for me to wait! That’s why, Jon (aka @beerinthesuburbs) is responsible for making sure there’s a fresh loaf of bread on our counter at the weekend. I’d be lying if I said he made one every weekend (we have a fantastic bakery just up the road from us) so when Jon does bake a loaf its a special occasion! I love hearing him singing along to the radio while he kneads the dough. And of course who doesn’t love it when the house fills with the smell of freshly baked bread. So, now that we’ve established I’m no bread baking expert…I’m going to hand over to Jon to introduce this rather special Almond, Citrus and Fennel Plait.
A few words from the expert…
Hi, it’s Jon here. Emma’s asked me to do a quick intro to my Almond, Citrus and Fennel Plait. I’ve really got into baking bread over the last couple of years and I’ve now got the confidence to progress from basic loaves to more complicated recipies.
The first thing to know is that this loaf has a bit of everything; by that I mean it’s an enriched dough, it uses fruit and spice, plus it uses sourdough starter in addition to yeast. You don’t always find all of those elements together in bread, but the result is that this loaf is packed full of flavour, and kinda hits all the bases. And don’t worry, it’s not much more difficult that baking your average loaf of bread. It actually uses techniques that you might have experience of from baking cakes or pastry.
An enriched dough is one that has extra fats added to it, like milk and butter. This helps to give the dough a lighter, more cakey texture, which is also helped in this recipie by the addition of eggs and ground almonds.
The sourdough starter does two things: (1) gives a little extra lift (enriched doughs can need a little extra help in rising) and; (2) its tangy flavour helps to balance out what would otherwise by a very rich bread. Though don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a “sour” dough, it just has a slightly more complex flavour than other loaves.
The trickiest bit of this might actually be the plait. First time I made this I messed it up pretty bad but by neatly folding what I had I managed to make something that looked pretty, even if it was slightly lopsided. The key is having three equal portions of dough, rolled into a sausage/baguette shape, that you can then twist around each other. If they aren’t equal you will end up with too much somewhere and too little somewhere else. As I said though, you can always fix it!
What I love the most about this bread recipe is the combination of flavours. This year the fennel in our garden went into overdrive. At the end of the season we not only harvested the fennel bulb but also the seeds. (I don’t think we will be buying fennel seeds again for a while…) Fennel is a strong flavour, which I happen to really like, but I know it isn’t for everyone. The amount in this recipie gives a fairly mild anise kick, but if you like those flavours then add more. The liquorice, aniseed flavour of fennel is always complimented by citrus fruit. Because this is a sweet bread, I used mixed peel which is sweeter than using fresh juice or zest. The sweet nuttiness of almonds comes in the form of the ground almonds in the dough but also the flaked almonds sprinkled on top and kneaded throughout. The flaked almonds give a lovley crunch which contrasts well with the soft dough.
The second you smell this baking in your oven you’re going to want a slice. Hold off a few minutes to let it cool but absolutely treat yourself to an end piece (or two) when it’s still warm from the oven. Its also delicious served with a cheese board or toasted and spread with a thin layer of salted butter.
Almond, Citrus and Fennel Plait
- Pre-heat your oven to 200C / gas mark 7 / 390F.
- In a large bowl mix together the bread flour, ground almonds, brown sugar, salt and yeast - trying to jeep the salt and yeast as far apart in the bowl as possible.
- Rub the butter into the dry ingredients to form a breadcrumb like texture.
- Add in two eggs (keep the other to one side), warm milk, warm water and sourdough starter and bring the mixture together into a dough.
- Let the dough rest for an hour.
- Next add the fennel seeds, mixed peel and 50g flaked almonds to the dough - kneed the dough for 10 minutes until the flavourings are well dispersed.
- Let the dough prove for 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
- Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces and roll them into long sausages.
- Sprinkle a little bit of flour on your baking tin before making the plait.
- Pinch the ends of the three dough 'sausages' together, take the right hand 'sausage' and place it over the middle one.
- Take the left hand "sausage" and place over the top of the other two 'sausages', pinch the ends together and rearrange so it looks neat and tidy.
- Let the dough prove for a final hour.
- Brush the plait with a beaten egg and sprinkle over a few more flaked almonds.
- Fill a pan with water and place at the bottom of your oven (this will create steam).
- Place your plait into the centre of the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until it is golden brown.
Want to turn this loaf of bread into something fit for a Christmas feast? Then add some dried cranberries to the dough! We use about 75 grams in place of some of the mixed peel around Christmas time. Don’t forget to listen to Christmas must while you bake as well!