Wow, I made some yummy bread last night if I do say so myself.
I used to have a zillion bread recipes but lost ALL of my recipes when I lost my hard drive a few years ago. Long story − my fault, but with extenuating circumstances.
Anyway, I wrote down a few recipes before the hard drive crashed because my printer wasn't working at the time and one of those bread recipes that I use most often is a modified 'Bill's Favorite Italian Bread' that I got from an internet recipe group long ago. Sorry, Bill, I can't give you proper credit because the information was lost.
Last night, I had the urge to do something different so I opened up the spice cabinet and added a bunch of herbs to the recipe.
First of all, I haven't had rye bread for 6 years − :-( − so I thought that if I added a bunch of caraway seeds, I could pretend it was rye. ;-) Then I just started looking around and dumped a bunch of other things in there, too. The results were fantabulous so I thought I would share them with you.
As usual, I have to give a bunch of explanations:
I use my bread maker to mix, knead, and rise the dough because it's just so much easier, but then I always shape it by hand, do the final rise in a barely warm oven, and then bake in a hot oven. The bread machine can handle the double dough recipe if I'm not going to bake it in the machine. As much as I love my bread machine, I really think that there is no comparison with hand formed and baked versus machine baked. And, of course, if you are a purist, you could make the entire recipe by hand.
You could really use any combination of herbs or seeds that you like. In total, I used about 1/3 cup of herbs and seeds and the flavor wasn't overpowering at all − it was just right.
The first numbers in the recipe are for approximately a 1 1/2 pound loaf (.68 kg.) so the numbers in parentheses would give you about 3 pounds of dough (1.36 kg.).
I made two long Pullman loaves (13" x 4" pan; 33 x 10 cm.) with the double recipe. I usually make free form baguettes and/or rolls. You can get 4 smallish baguettes or about 2 dozen rolls from the double recipe, depending on the size you make them. If you use a regular 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" (22 x 11 cm.) bread pan, you might get two loaves plus a few dinner rolls. Sorry I can't be more exact. I wasn't thinking of blogging about it until it turned out soooo good. The dough should fill your pans no more than about half full.
For baguettes or loaves I use a modified Julia Child method of forming the loaves. These photos from her 6-page French bread recipe might be helpful if you can enlarge them as it was hard to explain. I use a modified method because I can never remember all eleven steps and usually don't bother to pull out my "The Way to Cook."
To slash or not to slash: I like to slash the loaves before baking but just don't seem to have the right tool or knack for it and usually end up deflating the loaf instead − not a good thing.
So what I do is slash before the last rise, which really doesn't do much of anything so I don't know why I do it at all. These loaves split open while baking, so if you are a slasher, it might be a good idea. I like the rustic look of loaves that split open but you might not. I hope you can read Julia's comments about slashing in the photo. She was pretty funny.
If you are a bread baker, then you know how the dough should feel. If you aren't, pat it and poke it a little. It should feel like a baby's butt and should not be sticky. If the dough sticks to your fingers, add enough flour to remedy that situation. Maybe it is because of the humidity here, but sometimes I have to add up to an extra cup of flour.
The cornmeal just makes the bread a little crunchier. You don't have to add it.
La Gringa's Homemade Herb and Seed Bread
Makes about 1 1/2 lbs. of dough (or about 3 pounds)
Two long loaves or about 24 dinner rolls
1 1/3 cups water (2 2/3 cups)
2 tbsp. olive oil (4 tbsp.)
3 1/2 cups flour (7 cups)
2 tbsp. cornmeal (3 tbsp.)
2 tsp. salt (same: 2 tsp.)
2 tsp. instant yeast (same: 2 tsp.)
2 tbsp. caraway seeds (3 tbsp.)
1 tbsp. dried bouquet garni (2 tbsp.)
1 1/2 tsp. dill weed (3 tsp.)
1 tsp. celery seeds (2 tsp.)
1 tsp. thyme (1 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. poppy or sesame seeds
Add all ingredients except herbs and glaze ingredients to the bread machine in the order recommended by your machine manual. Set machine for 2 lb. loaf and the dough cycle.
Add the herbs at the beep (or during the last knead cycle if your machine doesn't beep for adding ingredients).
When the dough cycle completes, turn on the oven to 350°F (177°C) for two minutes, then turn it off. Dump the dough onto a flour-dusted pastry board and punch down to remove the large air bubbles. Dust the dough with flour, knead it a little, and roll it up into a neat, smooth ball, cover with a clean towel, and let rest for 5 minutes to allow the gluten to relax. The dough should not be sticky. Knead in a little more flour if necessary.
For baguettes, cut the dough into 4 pieces. For long loaves, cut into 2 pieces. With the sides of your hands push the dough in the center to flatten it into a short rectangle. Fold the long ends in to the center and and push and pound it into shape. Repeat trying to get the same thickness at the ends as you have at the center. Do this two or three times, each time the rectangle will get longer, until your loaf is as long as your pan, folding the short ends in if necessary. This step really does make a difference in the texture of the finished loaf.
Then fold the dough in half lengthwise and pinch the edges to seal. Place the loaves seam side down in or on the lightly greased pans.
If a glaze and/or seed topping is desired, beat the egg with 1 tsp. water and salt. Brush the tops of the loaves with egg mixture and sprinkle with seeds. Pat the seeds into the egg glaze to make sure that they stick well.
Place the pans into the oven, making sure that it isn't too hot. It should feel just barely warm, about 85°F. Leave the door open and wait a minute or two if it feels too hot. Cover the loaves with a clean towel and let them rise about 25 minutes, maybe longer, or until they have increased in size at least by half. (Hey, bread making is an art, not a science!) Don't let them over-rise as they will deflate and the texture won't be good.
Remove the loaves from the oven, keeping them covered with a towel, while you preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Place the loaves in the preheated oven. Spritz the inside of the oven with water. This step is optional, but the steam helps to make a crispier crust and can be repeated 2 or 3 times during the first 5-10 minutes.
After 15 minutes or when the loaves or rolls have started to turn golden, reduce the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C) and continue baking until the inside temperature of the bread is 200°F (93°C), about 5-10 minutes more for rolls or 15-20 minutes more for loaves.
I always freeze bread if I'm not going to use it the same day. I find that if I let it thaw in a towel lined basket and then microwave it for just a few seconds (still in the basket and covered with the towel) it tastes just as good as fresh from the oven. Since this bread has no preservatives, it only will be at its best for at most one day unless you freeze it.
This bread had the nicest, crispy crust while still being really soft and tender inside. Just the way I like! And the flavor? Delicioso!
I hope you'll let me know if you try it.