2 cups real Ale (you can use anything from Pale Ale to Guinness Stout)
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup black strap molasses
2 packages dried yeast (4 ½ teaspoons)
3 cups rye flour
2 ½ cups bread flour
3 tablespoons candied orange peel (chopped)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh fennel
1 tablespoon dried fennel seeds
For the glaze
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon of salt to sprinkle
1. Warm the beer, salt and butter in a saucepan over a low heat until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add the molasses. Cool until tepid, sprinkle the yeast on the top and leave for 15-20 minutes.
2. In a large mixing bowl combine 1 ½ cups rye flour and ½ cup bread flour. Pour in the beer mixture, and then using a wooden spoon or an electric whisk, blend well for 2 minutes. You should have a thin, yeasty batter.
3. Add the rest of the rye flour, fennel, seeds and orange peel. Beat for two minutes. Then add the rest of the bread flour a little at a time. The dough will be a fairly wet one. The secret now is to knead the dough until it is manageable and yet add as little extra flour as possible. If you are kneading by hand put only a sprinkling of flour on the table and just keep lifting the dough as you knead to incorporate as much air as possible, which will help the dough to become workable without adding too much flour which could make the bread heavy. Or, if you are using a stand mixer, use the dough hook and set to low. Knead for around 8 minutes which ever method you use.
4. Place the dough in a greased bowl and leave to rise in a warm place for around 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size.
5. Set the oven to 400 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper
6. Gently remove the risen dough from the bowl and knead a little on the table. Cut the dough into two equal pieces and press each piece out with your fingers to about 10 x 12 inches. Roll this up from the longest side and place seam side down on the baking sheet, tucking in the ends. Cover with lightly greased cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size- about 45 minutes
7. Prick some small deep holes in the loaf with a fine toothpick to stop the top of the loaf rising and cracking. Place in the oven for 30 minutes.
8. Now mix together water and molasses for the glaze and after the 30 minutes cooking time, remove the loaf from the oven and brush on the molasses mixture then sprinkle with salt. Turn the oven down to 325 and place loaf in the oven for another 40 minutes.
9. After the 40 minutes, remove the loaf from the oven and brush with another coat of glaze. Place in the oven for another 5 minutes.
10. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.