I don’t regret that many things in my life, but if I could go back to the period  that I lived in Paris, I’d take some time to travel to Belgium.   I was so close to that beautiful country, but never saw it in person… it’s a shame and it’s sad. Plus, I’ve never met a person from Belgium who wasn’t super-nice!  All my Belgium friends have a great sense of humor, a great appreciation for the fun side of life, and many positive things to say about their home country, that excels in so many things.  Two of their special delicacies are chocolates and beer!  The very best of both are produced in small quantities and not exported,  but some excellent Belgium beer makes it all the way to the US, examples being Chimay, Leffe,  and Hoegaarden, the latter of which is a beer that brings fond memories of my days as a single woman in Paris…   😉

I don’t drink beer anymore, but I still like to cook with it, or include it in  breads- for a quick flash back, click here.  So, when I saw this post not too long ago, I changed all my baking plans for the weekend, to accommodate a little Hoegaarden sourdough, and take the Bewitching Kitchen on a virtual trip to Belgique!

(adapted from Fab Food Blog)

For the sponge:
120 g 100% hydration sourdough starter
60 g bread flour
45 ml Hoegaarden white beer

For the final dough:
235 g bread flour
65 ml Hoegaarden white beer
40 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Mix all the ingredients for the sponge in a small bowl, mix well and leave it overnight at room temperature.  It should be very bubbly and more than double in size.  If it rises too much and collapses, it’s fine.

Next morning, place the sponge, flour, beer and water in a large bowl. Mix for a few minutes until barely combined, then let it sit for 20 minutes undisturbed. Add the salt, fennel seeds, and rosemary, and mix by gentle kneading.  Let the dough rise for 30 minutes,  knead again (20 seconds cycle),  let the dough rise for about 40 minutes.  Do one more cycle of quick kneading  and let the dough rise for another 40 minutes.  Knead one final time and let the dough rise undisturbed for 1.5 to 2 hours, until almost doubled in size.  Shape as a ball, and place with the seam side  up inside a well floured banetton type container.

Let it rise undisturbed for 2 hours.  Heat the oven to 450 F with baking stones or tiles inside. Invert the dough on the tiles, quickly score the surface, and bake with initial steam. If covering the dough, remove the cover after 30  minutes, reduce the temperature of the oven to 425 F and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until golden brown.    Cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

This recipe makes a  small boule, so if you want to serve it in a dinner party for several people, consider doubling the recipe and baking two loaves.  The bread smells wonderful during baking, and fennel is the dominant flavor.   As to the beer, it would be interesting to bake two loaves side by side, substituting water for beer in one of them – I imagine that there will be a slight difference in sourness and complexity of flavor, but it’s hard to know for sure with the competing taste of fennel and rosemary (which, by the way, I increased a bit from the original posted recipe).   In my experience, fresh rosemary has a tendency to lose its punch once it’s incorporated in bread dough, so I now use it with more abandon.

Fennel lovers:  pair this delicious bread with some hearty Italian type sausage, for a double-fennel kick…   Don’t like fennel?  Simply omit it, the bread will still be delicious with a nice crust and moderately open crumb.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event… stop by and visit her weekly showcase of breads.

ONE YEAR AGO: Ancho-Chile Marinade: Pleased to meat you!

TWO YEARS AGO:  The Handmade Loaf (the book that got me into sourdough baking!)

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