Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spicy Herb & Garlic Bread Loaf

What could possibly be better than the smell of freshly baked bread?

There is just something so romantic about it.

Whenever I bake bread, I feel like I have to eat at least 56% of it when it is fresh...a mere 10 minutes after it has come from the oven.

It's like something just comes over me and I can't stop eating it.

I mean I really CAN'T. STOP. EATING. it.

It's probably because I know the truth. I know that it will never be as great as it is right now - when the crust is hard and crunchy. When I squeeze it gently I can hear that crackly sound that tells me there's soft, warm fluffy insides built beneath a crispy golden crust.

The next day it will still be very good. I'll probably toast it to get the cracklyness back. But I really do live for those first few moments when it is still in it's early stages - all innocent and irresistible.

If this hasn't convinced you to make bread yet...then maybe I should mention spicy, herb and garlic?

Ohhhh yes.

It starts with a well kneaded ball of dough made from a simple combination of yeast, warm water, flour, salt, a pinch of sugar and herbs.

Although I use instant dry yeast, which is made to a finer granulation so that it can be incorporated into the dry ingredients and readily hydrated without being pre-dissolved, I like to do it anyway. I stir it into warm water like you would for active dry yeast just to make sure it is still alive.

Bread really needs to be kneaded. Like, for a really long time. Set a clock and go for it for a solid 10 minutes. If you have a stand mixer, then you can set it and forget it while you make some tea and maybe whip up some Sweet & Salty Peanut Praline to keep you satisfied.

What you are looking for is a soft, smooth, supple but slightly firm dough. When you press your finger into it, it should hold the indentation without springing back too soon.

When the dough is ready, pour a bit of olive oil in a large bowl and roll the dough around in it so it is evenly coated. This will prevent it from drying out as it rises.

Cover the bowl loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and then lay a kitchen towel over it. Let it rise for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it doubles in size.

Gently push the air out of the dough using your knuckles. Place it on a lightly floured work surface and knead it gently a few times so that it no longer feels sticky. This helps to finely distribute the air bubbles so that you don't have huge air pockets in the loaf.

Place it in a loaf pan and let it rise again until it is at least 1 inch over the rim of the pan. This takes about 1 hour more.

Make a few shallow incisions on the top, brush with olive oil and bake until crusty and golden. It is ready when you tap on it and it sounds hollow. That tells you that it is light and airy, rather than dense and raw. This also tells you that lunch is going to be freakin' incredible. L-O-V-E.

Take it out of the pan as soon as you can handle it and let it cool on a wire rack. Don't let it cool too long in the pan because steam will build up inside and make it soggy.

I could suggest some good aged cheddar. Perhaps a few slices of tomatoes and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil....but really, all you need is a knife.

This is the good life.

Spicy Herb & Garlic Bread
Makes one 9x5-inch loaf

1 ½ cups tepid water, no hotter than 110 degrees F
½ tsp sugar
2 ½ tsp instant dry yeast
1 lb all purpose flour, plus extra as needed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried red chili flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
olive oil for drizzling and greasing
coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Stir together warm water and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and then sprinkle yeast evenly over top. Stir gently and then let stand until the mixture is foamy and frothy, 5-10 minutes.

If yeast does not foam and froth after 5 minutes, toss it and start over again with new yeast because the water was probably too hot and it killed the yeast (or maybe your yeast was dead to begin with - yikes!).

Add 1 lb flour, salt, chili flakes, oregano, garlic and black pepper. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with a dough hook and stir on low speed (not higher than speed 2) for 10-12 minutes. After the first 2 minutes, scrape down the bowl and add between 50 g and 100 g more flour as needed so that the dough does not stick to the sides of the bowl.

After 10-12 minutes of mixing, the ball of dough should clean the sides of the bowl and should not be sticky. It will be smooth, supple and pliable.

Lightly grease a large bowl with olive oil. Roll the dough in the bowl to coat it with a thin layer of oil. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and allow to rest in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

When doubled in size, place it on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand a few times to distribute air bubbles. Shape the dough into a log and place it in a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for another hour, so that it is about 1 ½ inches above the rim of the pan.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush the top of the bread lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Make 4 shallow diagonal incisions in the top and bake until golden and it pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 35 minutes. It is ready when it sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from oven, invert to release the loaf and then let cool sitting upright on a wire rack.  
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  1. oh.. that's great idea! I love making bread, and fresh bread is always taste good, your recipe is different from the other, and I'm gonna give it a try for your recipe soon :)


  2. This will definitely go on my 'to do' list... in the very near future. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I always cut off a huge hunk from the end, its my favorite! This sounds perfect for the weekend!

  4. Definitely a great treat for the weekend!

  5. Oh, this looks just amazing :) I adore spiced breads, and the more garlic the better!

  6. Oh wow, I'm in awe over this loaf, it's so gorgeous! I know exactly what you mean about eating bread straight out of the oven; it's at its peak of freshness, the flavor should be appreciated ;)
    I can't wait to make this, baking with yeast is one of my favorite things to do and your recipe looks fantastic!

  7. i get you. i totally get you. it's impossible not to eat the majority of a loaf when it first comes out of the oven.

    fantastic post + recipe :)

  8. I am making sure I have all ingredients ready. I cannot resist a recipe as perfect as this!

  9. I'm definitely going to try this out tonight...it will be my first attempt at making bread! I don't have a kitchen scale and my bathroom scale is not very precise...can you suggest how much flour I should start with in terms of cups? Thanks!

    1. 1 lb of flour is equal to about 3 1/4 cups! I'm excited for you!

    2. Thanks so much. I'm excited too!

  10. i made this bread for easter dinner, it was a big hit, so very tasty. My husband cant wait to have leftover ham made into sandwiches on the very little bit that was left

    1. Sounds like pure perfection! I hope you had a wonderful Easter!

  11. This sounds lovely. Going to give this a go. thanks for sharing this recipe.



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