spring harvest bread
It has been an exceptionally long time since I’ve been up out of bed and able to cook. Don’t get me wrong, if I could cook in bed I would, but as I learned this week while down with a nasty flu, I cannot write papers in bed without falling asleep nor can I cook if I can’t make it to the kitchen.
The last thing to recover have been my taste buds, which is really a shame. It’s Easter tomorrow so of course I was planning on stockpiling chocolate this weekend, but no, I might as well be chewing on chalk for all I can taste. But I’ve been feeling better and better throughout the day and I’m still just putzing around the house to avoid the cold rain outside, which is ideal for bread-baking. So I decided to get my hands back in dough and knead myself some comfort food.
This braided herb bread was perfect for a wet April afternoon, and I could even smell the soft buttery smell of browning bread wafting through my congested nose! There’s nothing like breaking into a loaf of fresh bread, fluffy and light on the inside and chalk full of herbs fresh from the garden. Spring harvest for me is the first time I get to use my newly grown herbs in my little urban garden, and is a moment for pride and pleasure to bake it into a fresh loaf.
Loading on chunks of cheese or simply slathering it with butter is the best cure for a flu, right?
Spring Harvest Bread
Makes one loaf
- 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoons of sugar
- 1 1/4 cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or sub all-purpose)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of corn starch
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- 2 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 teaspoon of fennel
- 1 tablespoon of oregano (or 2 tablespoons of fresh, chopped)
- 1 tablespoon of flax seeds optional
- 1 tablespoon of poppy or sesame seeds for topping (optional)
Put 1/4 cup of the warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast and sugar over it, stirring to dissolve. Add the remaining cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.
Leave the yeast and water to sit for a few minutes. In a separate bowl, combine any fresh herbs you’re using (I used rosemary and thyme) with the 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour, 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, and the corn starch. Slowly add it to the now slightly bubbling yeast mixture, mixing well with a wooden spoon until it is a sticky ball.
Keep another 1/2 cup of flour accessible to dust a clean counter for kneading. Knead for about five minutes, using the flour as necessary, until it is smooth and elastic.
Oil or butter a bowl, and put the dough in, turning it to coat. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size, 60-90 minutes. Prepare a cooking sheet with parchment paper or cooking spray.
Once it has risen, punch the dough down and knead in the remaining dry herbs and flax seed. Break the dough apart into three pieces and roll them into long ropes at least one foot long. Arrange them on the greased cooking sheet and braid, tucking the ends in on each side. Cover again and let rise for 40-50 more minutes, until it has doubled in size again.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. When the bread has risen, coat it with the remaining melted butter and top with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake for 45 minutes, until just slightly golden and it makes a hollow sound when you tap it on the bottom.