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The Practical Baker
Wednesday, December 29, 2010 • Posted December 29, 2010

Herb Bread, or "A Tale of Three Breads"

Original recipe courtesy Sugar Hill Inn

It was a dark and stormy night. Sheila was working a jig saw puzzle, and I was working the kitchen. I had a new recipe to try, and was pretty excited at the prospect. The original recipe called for using a food processor to whip up the dough for this bread. I, in my haste to "get on with it" failed to realize that the author of the recipe wanted the baker to add the ingredients to the food processor in gradual steps. So, on Bread #1, I dumped all the stuff into the processor and let it whirl until I had what resembled a dough ball. I quickly realized that all was not right with this ball of dough, but went ahead and put it in a warm place to rise. I went back and read the recipe again and realized my mistake. Since I had everything in the kitchen covered with flour already, I decided to try it again, declaring this to be Bread #2, but this time using the recipe as it was originally intended. The resulting dough ball was not much better than the original, but I set it out to proof for an hour. After considering what I had seen with the first two breads, I determined that the problem lay in the fact that the food processor was beating the dough a bit too aggressively, so I decided to make a loaf (that would be Bread #3, if you’re counting) the old fashioned way: by hand, in a bowl, using just a big spoon to mix it all up. Turns out that this was the hands down, going away favorite. Bread #1 was a bit dense; Bread #2 was less dense, but just didn’t taste quite right; but old #3 pleased us both, so that’s the one I’m presenting to you.

Herb Bread (#3!)

Ingredients:

3 cups flour (divided)

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon herbs (parsley, thyme, basil, oregano – any or all)

1 cup hot water (110 degrees)

Process:

Put 2 cups of flour, the salt, yeast, sugar, oil and herbs into a large mixing bowl, and blend with a fork. Add enough water, slowly, mixing steadily, to form a ball. Add the remaining cup of flour and mix in thoroughly. Now add more water, gradually, until a dough ball forms again. Check the dough by pressing your finger into the dough ball; the dough should bounce back and should not be sticky. If it’s too dry, add a small amount of water; if it’s too sticky, sprinkle in a bit more flour.

Put the dough ball out on a lightly floured work surface and knead for 6-8 minutes, until dough is soft and supple. Place this dough ball into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm area of the house until it doubles in bulk (45-60 minutes). Divide the dough into 2 long loaves, and place the loaves on a baking sheet that you’ve greased, covered with corn meal, or covered with parchment paper. Make ¼ inch slices on the top of the loaves and brush with olive oil. Cover, set aside and let rise for another 45 minutes or so, until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place loaves into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, turn the baking sheet completely around and bake for another 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove loaves from baking sheet and place onto wire racks for cooling.

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