Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fantastic Herb Bread

I wasn't going to post so soon, but I came into the house from the garden and decided brunch was just what I needed. I have been out since 6 AM, with nothing but my water bottle for company. The mornings have been crisp and cool. A preview of what is to come. We are having another warm up this weekend.

Even though we are in the mid west, we felt the fury of IKE. There is massive flooding, even deaths because of the storms. We are very lucky because we are nestled on the east side of an old mountain (now a hill). We are at the head of a valley.We can see for what seems forever.

Back to the brunch. Being Eggs are fast and available (remember I just pick them out of the coop) they are usually the first choice for a quick meal. I decided, maybe, scrambled or served up as a fried egg sandwich. When I went looking for bread I realized the only bread available was the "Old Fashioned Herb Bread" that I had made two days ago. I had baked them in flower pots, their shape when sliced, did not lend them to sandwiches. I decided toast with scrambled eggs would fit the bill. When I bit into the toast I knew I had made the right choice. The taste of the fresh hot sage was delightful. While eating it I thought, I wrote in blog I would post divine recipes. This one fits the bill.

This recipe comes from a cookbook published in 1974 by the Culinary Arts Institute (Chicago). It is "The American Family Cookbook".

This is a yeast bread, that adds to its appeal by being super easy to make.

"Old Fashioned Herb Bread"

1 pkg dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water 
1 teaspoon sugar 
3/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sugar 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
3 Tablespoons fresh sage (Dry ground sage use 3 teaspoons). corection:  I made the bread today and 3 is too much on the dry herb.  Use 2.
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. 
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour
1 large egg
1 tablespoon of oil (for oiling the rising bowl)
caraway seeds (for sprinkling on top)

One pkg dry yeast (I have the bulk bakers dry instant yeast and I use 1 1/2 Tablespoons) If you bake a lot or a little the yeast comes in 1 lb vacuumed packed package from Sam's Club (Cosco and other places probably have it too.) When you open the package pour it into a canning jar and screw a lid on it and place in the door of the refrigerator. I have had a package last more than a year. It is a big savings over the individual packets or the jar sold at the grocery store. The Quart Jar is large enough to accommodate a Tablespoon, too. No need to wash the spoon each time you use it.

1/4 cup warm water + 1 teaspoon sugar stirred in(the original recipe doesn't add the sugar but I have found the yeast is more responsive when you do)
1. Sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and stir in. Set aside to proof. For those who are new to yeast baking, proofing gives the yeast a chance to grow and bubble up before you add it to your recipe. BTW, if it doesn't bubble up, you have yeast that is no longer alive. Pour out the mix and start over with a new packet. (It takes about 10 minutes for the yeast to grow and double if it is set in a warm location.)

While the yeast is proofing do the following:
1. 3/4 cup whole milk heated very hot in the microwave. (the recipe says scald, but in this day and age of pasteurized milk it is unnecessary)
2. Place 3 tablespoons butter in the mixing bowl, with 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (if you use salted butter only add 1 1/4 teaspoons salt). For new bakers, do not leave out the salt. Salt is necessary to control the growth of the yeast and for flavor.
Pour the very hot milk over the above and mix until everything is dissolved and incorporated.

3. You will be using a total of 3 to 3 1/2 cups flour. All purpose flour works but bread flour works even better. (Since I started using bread flour I have had a more consistent finished product.)

Stir 1 cup of flour into the milk mixture. Mix well.
4. Beat 1 large egg in a cup. (the egg should be room temperature.) Chop fresh sage very fine use 3 Tablespoons. (Dry sage from the store works well too, use 3 teaspoons). You need 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Stir these ingredients into your beaten egg.
5. If your milk mixture has cooled to about 115 degrees or very warm to the hands (Not hot you'll cook the egg), beat in the egg mixture into your milk mixture.
6. When well incorporated add your bubbling yeast. Mix well and start adding the last 2 cups of flour. You will have a very sticky dough (unless you live in a real arid part of the country where your flour is naturally drier right out of the bag.
7. Sprinkle the last 1/2 cup flour on your table or board. Brush the major amount over to the side leaving a heavy film on the table. Scrape your dough out of the bowl onto the flour. Start kneading the dough in the flour adding a coating on the ball if it is too sticky to work with. This is a very soft dough and you do not want to work it till it is a firm dough. If you add too much flour you will have a very dense loaf.
8. Place a tablespoon of oil in the bottom of a large bowl. Roll it around till the sides are coated. Put your dough ball in the bowl and then turn it over, you will have greased the ball to keep it from drying out. I cover my bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to double in bulk. (It seems to take longer to double than most yeast doughs.)

9. While your dough is rising you can do clean up duty and grease the pan you will bake it in.
I have used a large ceramic baker (looks like a souffle dish) I grease it with Crisco and then sprinkle corn meal on the bottom. Yes I know what they say about saturated and trans fats. But I have tried Pam, olive oil and other forms of fats and have had very unsatisfactory results with the bread sticking.

I have used the 9 inch pie pan the recipe suggests. It makes a low round loaf. I prefer the higher loaf of the ceramic baker. It looks like a chefs hat when finished.
I have also used loaf pans. Makes a great sandwich loaf but doesn't have the flair of the pie pan or the ceramic baker when served.
This last time I made the bread I used some glazed flower pots I have that were made for cooking. (only use flower pots you know do not have clay or glaze that contains lead.) I don't know if you could foil line some pots and make them safe to bake in or not. Anyway, the results were fantastic. It made 4 (4 inch) pots. Each resulting "roll" that easily serves two or you can if you are really hungry eat one by yourself.
10. When the dough has doubled, punch it down and let it rest in the bowl 10 minutes. Then take it out and give it a quick knead and shape into a round ball. Place in the middle of the container you will be baking it in and let it rise till double in bulk. When you see it is near completion of rising, preheat your oven to 400 F degrees.
At this time you can take a beaten egg white and brush the surface of the dough and sprinkle it with caraway seeds. (This is totally unnecessary but if you are serving to company is a nice touch.) If you are not using the seeds then it is unnecessary to brush the dough with egg white (the crust is darker if you brush it with egg white).

11. Place in the 400 degree oven for 10 minutes and then lower the heat to 350. (the recipe book says 375 but I have found this is too hot in my oven.) bake 25 minutes more. This loaf is very dark on the crust. (I have found the loaf Pan does not need this time and fiddling with the temp.   I bake the loaf pans a 375 for 25 minutes. Just like I would bake a similar white bread loaf)
Note: the book says you can add 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds to the dough when you add the sage. I never have tried this. I imagine you could use other herbs instead of the sage but why this is so fantastic.
This bread served with homemade tomato soup WOW...BTW...tomato soup home made is just about as easy as opening a can of the canned kind...and so much more satisfying.  This is my version of a quickie tomato soup:

Other blogs by me:
Where I have stories of my cats and other pets
a blog about my courtship with my husband,
and a blog about my most embarrassing moment.
A "Soap box" blog where I do air my opinions.

blogs about the wildflowers on our farm
Organic methods we use, some cooking and some poetry,
blogs about Seed sprouting, insects, and garden pictures
Blog about an endangered beneficial beetle

Blogs about our pair of pitbulls.

All recipes, pictures, and writings are my own.
I give credit for items which belong to other people in my blogs .
Please do not copy without permission 

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