Saturday, February 23, 2013

Heavenly Herb Bread

I love herbs. And I love bread. Put them together and it’s a sure recipe for love at first smell. Yes, smell. The fragrance of yeast mixed with all these incredible flavors is overwhelmingly intoxicating.

I always try to make this bread to accompany spaghetti. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to create your own little slice of heaven. Warning: allow at least 2 and a half hours to make this. (This includes times for the bread to rise.)

The dry ingredients don’t look too exciting… but I do wish you could scratch the computer screen and sniff. Even at this early stage, it smells so good. It must be the yeast.

As I explained in my first post about homemade bread, the trick really is in the temperature of the water when added to the yeast. It needs to be hot enough to activate, but cool enough not to kill it.

These are the herbs. Don’t underestimate them. Each one has a unique flavor, and combined, they’re like the Intergalactic Federation of Superheroes – totally unstoppable. Their names are Caraway Seed, Oregano, Parsley, Thyme, and Rosemary.

The dough is pretty wet until you add the flour. But this bread dough doesn’t even have to be kneaded. The original recipe recommended using a hand mixer, but we tried that and it just got stuck. It’s too thick to be beaten, but it’s not that hard to mix with a spoon (or with your hands if you really want to). 

P.S. Don’t neglect to add the last cup of flour. I accidentally forgot it once, and it was torture smelling the wondrous aroma of the spices but tasting gummy uncooked dough.

Then it goes for a little rest in a nice warm place so it can grow and rise. We place the bowl on a cookie cooling rack, over a pot of hot water, which helps it to rise.

It’s a pretty thick dough. After being transferred to the bread loaf pan, it gets to rest and rise again.

After smelling it rising for several hours, then in the oven for half an hour too, waiting for it to cool a bit can seem like torture to the old olfactories.

But when your nose just can’t take the waiting any longer, it’s time to slice it up and serve it with an Italian meal like spaghetti!

Herb Bread (recipe adapted from All Recipes)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1 (.25 oz.) pkg active dry yeast
1¼ cups warm water
2 tbsp. applesauce
3 tsp. dried parsley
½ tsp. oregano
1 tsp. caraway seeds
½ tsp. dried rosemary
¼ tsp. dried thyme

  1. Combine whole wheat flour, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Stir in the water, applesauce, and herbs. Mix until thoroughly combined.
  2. Stir in remaining cup of all-purpose flour; mix until smooth. Scrape batter from sides of bowl. Cover and let rise in warm place for 35-40 minutes.
  3. Grease a 9x5” loaf pan. Stir down batter by beating about 25 strokes. Scrape batter into greased pan; cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Bake until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, 40-45 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

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