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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  1. Oh, what a success! That is one good looking loaf. Must be the beer giving ‘rise’ to that gorgeous, rustic appearance, and… I’m quite intrigued by the fennel and rosemary – yummm! Thanks Sally.


  2. Sally, I hope that one day you’ll get the chance to come back around here and visit!;-) I’m delighted that you liked my recipe and happy you can easily find some of our most famous beers. Cheers!


  3. Spectacular looking boule Sally !

    I love this beer, it’s one of my favourites. Can you taste the coriander and orange peel along with the fennel and rosemary?. What a rich taste that must be! I think you should definitely pop back to Belgium one day and explore their beers and chocolate some more. I am not a big beer drinker, but I make an exception for Belgian brews 🙂


  4. Hello Sally; I am leaving a comment on your blog only tonight (however, I am reading on regular basis updates of your blog). Slowly, life starts to be normal here – I started a new job (duties, tasks, no time). I believe it will allow me to leave comments on my favorite blogs more often…and to come back to blogging on regular basis…

    Beer from Belgium is great (fortunately, since 2-3 years available in Poland). Chocolate too…but for me also Belgium is a taste of French fries 🙂

    Kind regards, all the best to you 🙂


    • Magdalena, great to have you around, particularly with great news on your life!
      For those who have never visited her blog, Magdalena makes traditional Polish food and I learn A LOT every time I visit her site – a must-bookmark place!


    • Not sure why I stopped drinking beer, but all of a sudden I just did not care for the taste anymore. When I drink now, it’s a glass of white or red wine, that’s about it. Such a boring lady I became….

      Well, I still like a Cosmopolitan every once in a while 😉


  5. Sally, estive uma unica vez na belgica, e para mim foi inesquecivel, especialmente no quesito gastronomico, jamais me esqui de um prato de frutos do mar que degustei naquele país.maravilhoso. seu pão ficou fantastico.bjs


  6. I was in Belgium for a few nights after college on my tour through Eurpoe. The two things that I remember the most are the architecture and the food. The food was amazing!!! I had heaping (and I mean heaping) platter of fresh seafood.
    This bread looks amazing!!! We had a beer bread the other day and it was fantastic – especially with grilled meat. I may have to try this one soon. I’m feeling a little less intimidated now (just a little – ha). 🙂


    • Thank you, Sasha – I really like baking the bread under an inverted roaster to create steam, the difference in the crust is pretty amazing, compared to any other method I tried.


  7. OMG! I have to make double just for myself! I’m not a beer drinker but have used beer in recipes in the past. The bread just looks amazing, love the crusty exterior. You lucky lady to have lived in Paris! One of these days I truly hope to visit!!


    • Paris is a must-see place, indeed. I’ve had my best and my worst times while living there, but the best times won the competition by a looong shot! That’s what counts!


    • Frankie, I hope it will turn out as the bread of your dreams, but I cannot take any credit for the recipe, Fab is the one who gets the prize 😉 His recipe is a winner, definitely


  8. Wow, that is one phenomenally gorgeous loaf! I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for that beer. It’s funny, I have cooked and baked with beer, but never actually had any to drink, lol.


    • I stopped caring for the bitter taste of beer, not sure why, because I tend to like sourness to some extent – limes, lemons, vinegar. But drinking beer just doesn’t do it for me anymore.


    • Actually, Maggie… we considered that name, but there was another blog with a very very similar name, and we went with Bewitching instead. oh, well – too many food blogs out there, isn’t it?


  9. Hi Sally, the photo of that bread makes me want to ripe off a hunk and dip it in something. If you get a chance, you must go to Belgium. The photo that appears with my comment was taken in Brugge, Belgium. Everything about it was wonderful.


    • For some reason your photo did not post… 😦
      I would LOVE to see Brugge, as well as Liege – my dear friend who got me hooked into Hoegaarden was from Liege, and kept insisting I should go. I bet those cities are amazing


  10. Pingback: Weißbierbrot – Plötzblog

  11. I was predisposed to love this bread and it was wonderful! I halved it, used Shock Top white beer, and roughly ground the (dried) spices in a mortar and pestle. I was a bit worried because I was unsure about the kneading directions. After mixing the main dough and letting it rest, I kneaded for about 10 minutes. The gluten strands were definitely underdeveloped at that point, but was no longer a shaggy mass. Across the 20 second cycles (was this in a stand mixer? I kneaded lightly for about a minute), the gluten formation progressed nicely. As it was quite warm (90F+ outdoors), I then worried about overproofing. For the second fermentation, I threw it in the refrigerator after an hour. It sat there for 15 minutes before I baked according to directions. I’m not adept yet at recognizing the perfect proofing (I need to get in the habit of the finger/poke test) and while I was really happy with the oven spring, it was probably a bit underproofed. But this is a keeper – can’t wait to make it again!


    • Thanks so much for letting me know! It is a wonderful bread indeed, I should make it again…

      I am not at all comfortable with the “finger poking” method, I’ve been trying to do it with every bread I bake, but to be completely honest, I just don’t “get it” – oh, well – what matters is that most breads are turning out good enough to eat! 😉


    • Great question, and I must confess I don’t know the answer – I suspect that if you keep it in the light range there won’t be much change. I would not use a stout for this bread, though. But, as a friend of mine says, bread is just water, flour, salt and yeast – why not experiment, right? Although in this case, there is also beer!


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