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Fennel Grissini & French Bread

I have ventured away from my sour dough this week and made some French bread and Grissini sticks, not instead of but as well as sour rye bread of course, I can’t neglect my sour dough baby growing in the fridge! I seem to be eating more bread since I received my Bread Bakers Apprentice book for Christmas, it is just as well that the surf has been good this week so we have managed to take plenty of exercise to burn it off. And if you saw the West Coast where I live you would understand how much exercise one gets paddling out on a board. If you look in the tourist brochures it is called the West Coast Wilderness because of it’s rugged coast line and perilous sea, which stretches from the North to the South Island on NZ, I must post some photos soon for you all to see.

Anyway, back to the bread. I have made French bread before but always been disappointed with the results, the key seems to be in the slow fermentation of the dough, a process which stretches over two days. The recipe below is from The Bread Bakers Apprentice and makes 3 French sticks but I made two and used the other part of the dough to make this grissini. The bread had a thick crunchy crust, one like I have not tasted since we where in France last year, it brought tears to my eyes and inches to my waist after consuming the lot between P and I in one day!

Day One: For the pre-ferment (pâte fermentée):

  • 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (7 ounces) water, at room temperature


  1. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl until the dough comes together and knead until it goes from a sticky mess to a smooth ball.
  2. Let rise in a sealed container for about 1 hour at room temperature or until it expands to 1 1/2 times its size.
  3. Knead lightly for about a minute and return to the sealed container. Keep in the refrigerator overnight. The pre-ferment will be usable for up to 3 days.

For the final dough:

  • All of the pâte fermentée
  • 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (7 ounces) water, at room temperature


  1. Take your pre-fermented dough out of the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for about 1 hour to take off the chill.
  2. Cut up the pre-ferment into small pieces and mix with all of the above ingredients for final dough.
  3. Dust a work surface with flour and knead for about 10 minutes by hand (6 if using a machine).
  4. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap, ferment at room temperature for about 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
  5. divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and use 2 to make the french bread and one to make grisini.
  6. Shaping the baguettes; Lift and pull the dough gently to required length. Crease the dough down the middle and fold like a letter, pressing the seal crease against the counter top of form surface tension. Gently roll the baguette to desired length (it may have shrank back slightly). This website has some good photos of the process and suggested videos
  7. Proof the shaped baguettes with the seam side down at room temperature for 45 to 75 minutes or until it expands to 1 1/2 times its size. I did not photograph the process but recommend you visit the above site for visuals of proofing the baguettes to achieve a tubular shape.
  8. Preheat your oven to 500°F with a steam pan, preferably cast iron, in the bottom of the oven.
  9. Transfer the proofed baguettes onto parchment paper on a sheet pan.
  10. Score the baguettes. by using a very sharp knife to create incisions about half an inch deep that overlap and run parallel to the  center of the loaves.
  11. Place the sheet pan with baguettes into the oven. Pour 2 cups of boiling water onto the steam pan and immediately close the oven door.
  12. Lower the oven to 450°F and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the loaves 180 degrees and bake for another 10 to 20 minutes until the crust turns golden brown.
  13. Place the baguettes on a cooling rack for about 1 hour.
  14. Shaping the Grissini. Roll out dough to desired thickness.
  15. Cut off individual sticks.
  16. To seed, roll unbaked sticks on a wet towel and then in a bed of  ground fennel or other seeds.
  17. Allow the sticks to proof again to double their size.
  18. Follow the same process above for baking, the only difference is the Grisini will only take 10 minutes to bake.
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I haven’t made Grissini sticks, meant to make it a long time ago. These look great with slender shape and lovely colour.

    January 30, 2010

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