Herbs – LA

Posted on December 13, 2012

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2012-12-06 22.24.42-1 2012-12-06 22.24.20Whole wheat herb bread.  Warm, from the oven.  Slathered in olive-almond-sage tapenade.  You’re welcome.

Erin, my lovely friend in San Francisco, seemed to always be making these fantastic breads.  Cheese bread, olive bread, cinnamon buns and more.  She made it look easy to just show up at brunch with a warm loaf of bread.  I wanted these magical powers.

Turns out that her magic could be learned in a book.  While there’s something to be said for Tartine’s 26-page bread recipe, who has time to read that (let alone, try to recreate some of the world’s best bread)?  Enter Erin’s real life solution: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Its minimalist approach will probably make purists dry heave.  That’s fine.  More bread for me.

This recipe makes three to four small loaves.  You can premix, and let it sit in your fridge for up to two weeks.  In fact, I think the bread tastes best after it’s had a chance to develop some nice sourdough notes after about a week.

With this particular loaf, I mixed in dry herbs.  I love the French thyme and Bohemian Forest Rub from Savory Spice Shop in Costa Mesa, CA.  But, the beauty of this bread is that you can do so many things with the dough.  Cook it in a skillet with butter for naan flat breads.  Roll some olive oil and caramelized onions into the loaf.  Flatten, stuff with sauce and cheese, and make a calzone.  I can keep going, but then again, I’m not Tartine.

I want to give a shout out to my pizza stone, without which, none of this would’ve been possible.

Whole Wheat Herb Bread

Makes four 1-pound loaves.  You can double or half this recipe.  Adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.

  • 3 cups of lukewarm water
  • 2 packets of active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt
  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 4 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • about 3 tablespoons of dried herbs

1. Mix the yeast, water and salt in a bowl.  Note: you can mix the dough by hand, in a mixer or in a food processor.  Make sure that you have the proper dough attachments.

2. Mix in the dry ingredients without kneading.  Yes, you read that correctly.  No kneading necessary.  Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature for two hours (until it rises and collapses).

3. Dough can be used immediately or stored in the fridge for two weeks.  When storing, make sure the container is not airtight.

4. On baking day, cut off a 1-pound or grapefruit size hunk of dough.  Place on a floured surface.  I like to work right on the pizza peel.  Flatten into a round circle.

5. Sprinkle the dough with dried herbs (about 1 1/2 tablespoons).  Loosely roll the doll so that there is an herb swirl in the center of the loaf (like you’re rolling a stromboli).

6. Put the seam on the bottom.  You can either re-shape into a round ball or leave it as is.  Allow it to rest for about 40 minutes at room temperature or on the warm stove top.  Cover loosely with a wet paper towel or plastic wrap.

7. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place an empty roasting pan on the lower rack.  Your pizza stone should be on the upper rack.  Allow the oven to preheat completely.

8. Before putting the bread in the oven, sprinkle the top of the bread with the remaining herbs.  Slash the top in a couple of places with a knife.

9. Slide the dough off the peel and onto your pizza stone (or baking pan).  Pour a cup of water into the roasting plan and quickly close the door to trap the steam.

10. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until deeply brown and firm.  Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

BONUS: Recipe for olive-almond-sage tapenade.  In a mini food processor, pulse the following ingredients: pitted, good quality olives, almonds, olive oil, lots of fresh herbs (sage) and lemon juice to taste.  Feel free to add garlic as well or grated cheese.  Stores well in the fridge for up to a week.

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Posted in: baking, cooking, recipe, savory