Simple Artisan Herb Bread

Simple Artisan Herb Bread

Two days into recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, and I’m already antsy! The doctors orders say; do not engage in activity that will increase pain and swelling; keep operative site elevated, whenever possible, BUT weight-bearing activity as tolerated is permissible for short spurts. Hmmm, sounds like the new bread making method I’ve been playing with might be just what the doctor ordered!

This bread baking technique is truly a revolutionary no-work, no-knead method. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice bread baker, or you’re a master bread baker. With very few ingredients it serves up great flavor with an amazing crust. This is foolproof, given you have the right supplies. And your family will LOVE it! It doesn’t require the attention that your every day bread making recipes demand. You can ignore it for hours. Which is why I could even think about making it two days post surgery. I probably have 20, hands on, here and there minutes, not all at once, in making this bread.

With careful planning ahead you can have beautiful, delicious artisan bread coming out of your home oven that looks and tastes like those expensive loaves from fine bakeries…at a fraction of the cost!

Considering I’ve been baking bread for 40 years or so, I don’t know how this new technique of baking bread in a dutch oven passed me by. It was at our Halloween gathering, when Marcia, my friend (and our daughter’s mother in-law) came in with this crusty rustic bread! A taste of her irresistible loaf and I was inspired. Down to the library I went to hunt down a bread baking book! And I’ve been playing with recipes from the book My Bread, by Jim Lahey ever since. By the way, it’s a great gift idea for a budding or seasoned baker.

What do you need? An oven that heats to 475 degrees F, a medium mixing bowl, parchment paper and a 4 1/2 – 5 1/2 quart dutch oven with a lid.

Our summer herbs from the front porch took up residence on my windowsill. They come in handy for culinary fun through the winter. Rosemary and Thyme infuse this bread, creating a fragrant, tasty loaf.

This recipe is adapted from the book My Bread, by Jim Lahey. The original uses 2 1/4 cups of white flour and 3/4 cup whole wheat. The herbs were my addition. Either the original recipe or the herb rendition would be great to whip up this coming holiday weekend. I started the dough at 8:15 pm. It’s so easy and comes together quickly without the need to knead 🙂 It rose all night and I reshaped it for a second rise @ 9:30 am. We enjoyed it for lunch at about 1 pm.

So you see, you can plan ahead, giving it enough time to rise while you’re out and about. Returning home, bake it up and serve this humble loaf up to your family and friends with a hearty soup. They ‘ll feel like royalty!

Simple Artisan Herb Bread (serves 6)

2 cups unbleached white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1 1/3 cups cool water (55 to 65 degrees F)

coarse salt (optional)

Directions:

In a medium bowl, stir together flours, salt, herbs, and yeast.

Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet sticky dough, about 30 seconds.

Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface has bubbles and the dough has more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.

When the first rise is complete, generously dust your surface with flour. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece.

Using lightly floured hands, or a rubber spatula, lift the edges of the dough in towards the center. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round. Place a tea towel (not terry cloth) on your work surface and generously dust it with flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down.

If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with flour. Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft free spot to rise for 1 – 2 hours.

The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat oven to 475 degrees, with a rack positioned in the lower third, and place a covered 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 quart cast iron pot in the center of the rack.

Using pot holders, carefully remove pot from oven and uncover it. Line pot with parchment paper. Unfold the tea towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up. You will be tempted to reshape the loaf but it’s best to leave it as is. Please use caution here, the pot will be very hot. I like to spray water on the top of the dough and sprinkle with coarse salt, but this step is optional. Cover pot and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove lid and continue baking until the bread is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more. Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly.

And now, back to icing my knee..

Bon Appetit!

Amy

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11 Comments on “Simple Artisan Herb Bread”

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  2. Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is magnificent, as well as the content!

    1. Thanks so much! I’ve been blogging for a year and a half and it’s been fun, but quite the learning experience. WordPress will change things up and I have to figure things out all over again. I’m not very good at this computer stuff 🙁 But it’s a great way to share my forever love of cooking real food. Thanks again for your comment and for stopping by. ag

  3. I made the artisan herb bread recipe the other day. I now have TWO bread recipes I can successfully make. Thank you! It was easy AND delicious! In fact, I’m making it again for company tomorrow night. Thank you for sharing your creative and fabulous recipes. PS the pictures are very helpful 🙂

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