March 7, 2012

Rustic Herb Bread

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Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't need any money? If we lived in a future where people worked when they wanted to and didn't have to pay for tuition and could bake all day long if they just so happened to write a baking blog? And then this person was able to bake the most fabulous baked goods because she had all this time to perfect her recipes and she became so famous and everyone wanted her to bake for them, but she decided to use her talents to go into space and decided to make baked goods only for the Enterprise, except that turned out to be a bad idea since she just ended up spending all of her time playing with Spot and teaching Lt. Commander Data how cupcakes are the perfect food, and she didn't bake enough and people got mad at her, so she just started being depressed and hanging out with Guinan on Ten Forward, and since Guinan is all wise and mysterious she convinces the baker that she just needs to bake again and people won't be mad anymore....

Err, sorry. I think my nerd was hanging out. What was I talking about? Oh right, money. So until that golden future, I say:

Bruce Wayne, if you're out there, I'm available.

Chuck Bartowski, see above. (Okay, so Chuck isn't a gazillionaire, but he's a superspy and kind of my dream guy, so I just thought I'd put that out there.)

See Chuck/Batman, I'm a really good catch. I make yummy things like this crusty, herby, rustic bread for funsies. While I wait for their answers, how about I share the recipe with you?

This is adapted from one of those freebie recipes King Arthur Flour puts in their catalogs. They called it French Herb Bread and used Herbs de Provence in the recipe. My herbs do not come from Provence, so my bread is not French. But I like it. This recipe is pretty simple as bread recipes go. You need flour, water, yeast, sea salt, olive oil, instant potatoes, and dry milk.
For my Herbs de New Jersey mix, I wanted to get something close to the herb mix from King Arthur Flour, but I didn't want to use anything I didn't already have in my kitchen. So I went with lavender tea, basil, rosemary, thyme, black pepper and cardamom. Now I know what you're saying: Cardamom? Who has that in their kitchen? The answer is: I do. If you don't want to use cardamom, you can just use extra basil, okay? Don't freak out.
The recipe includes non-bread machine instructions, if you're brave
Now let me introduce you to my second favorite non-oven kitchen appliance (the first being Viola, of course). This is Max, my bread machine. Max makes bread making not scary by doing all the hard work for me.
See, all you do is dump all the ingredients in the bucket (I go dry first and then wet, but follow your manufacturer's instructions)...
...Put the machine on the dough cycle...
That's my finger. Hello finger! I should really take off that nail polish.
...Press Start...
...And leave it alone for the next hour and 20 minutes. It mixes, it kneads, it factors in the resting and rising times, it's seriously the easiest way to make bread dough. It can even bake the bread for you, but I like to have more control over bake times. But if you really wanted to do everything in the bread machine, I'd probably put it on Medium White. Read the instructions before you follow my advice, though.
While your bread machine is doing all the hard work for you (or while you're waiting for your dough to rise because you do not have a Max to adore), prepare your loaf pan. A light spritz of cooking spray and some parchment paper, an the bread will pop right out.
Then just dump the prepared dough into the prepared pan, cover with a dish towel, and let rise another half an hour.
You'll know the dough is ready when it's risen about an inch over the edge of the pan. Now bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. King Arthur Flour suggests tenting it with foil after the first 20 minutes of baking to keep it from over-browning, but I tent it with foil for the first 20 minutes of baking. I don't know if I'm breaking some cardinal rule of bread baking here, but I personally find it easier and safer to take foil off of a hot pan than to put it on.
 Bake until firm and well browned, and let cool on a wire cooling rack. I recommend eating while it's still warm, because, well, yum. But this also makes excellent toast, I'm just saying.

Rustic Herb Bread {Printable Version}
Yield: 1 loaf

1 ¼ cups warm water (approx. 110°)
1 ½ tsp. active dry yeast or instant yeast
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup instant potato flakes
2 tbsp. non-fat dry milk
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. fine ground sea salt
1 packet (heaping teaspoon) lavender tea, ground
1 ½ tsp. dried rosemary, roughly ground
1 ½ tsp. ground thyme
1 tsp. dried sweet basil
½ tsp. ground cardamom
¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Place the yeast in the warm water and let activate for 10 minutes (if using instant yeast, skip this step). Add the ingredients to a bread machine set on the dough cycle and start. If using a mixer with a dough hook, or mixing by hand, mix ingredients together until smooth. Let rise covered for about an hour.

When the dough cycle has finished, or when an hour has passed, lightly grease and line a 9x5” loaf pan with parchment paper. Cover lightly with a clean dish towel and let rise an additional half hour, or until it crowns about 1” over the rim of the pan. Tent with foil and bake in a 350° oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the loaf is browned.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour French Herb Bread

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