Is it already December????!? How is it that sometimes when the days can feel so long, time in large increments can go tumbling past like weeds. Before I know it I'll be toasting to the New Year. We'll be taking our annual family portraits (meaning Mark and I pose for photos with our lovely kitties), as we do every year upon returning home from ringing in the New Year. And then before I know it, it will be spring and I'll be planning the holidays all over again.
I spent the better part of the year dreaming up the holiday breads and cookies I'll be making this month. I imagined myself making each of my friends a bread and at least three types of cookies, if not five! I thought maybe I'd have a cocktail party, and one or two dinner parties as well. And then there are the treats just for me. There are five types of bread I wanted to make for myself, and they would have to be housed in my freezer... but wait, there are already five different breads living in my freezer. Oh bother. I should probably eat those first, right?
So I made a decision. I've pared my holiday breads down to one very fancy bread which I've never tried before. If it turns out as I hope I'll be sharing it here with you (cross your fingers - she's a doozy!). It's so so very decadent that I can't even imagine anyone would miss the cookies. But they'll get them anyway. Cookies are for the family and we'll be having our standards: ladyfingers, jam thumbprints, ruggelach, peanut butter kisses, and maybe some sables or shortbread just because I love them so.
No cocktail party, because I always get grumpy hosting my own parties and worrying about the food and the fun and booze and fun... and suddenly I've had too much booze, I sware! Maybe one dinner party instead, because I can't resist. Maybe the vodka themed party I've been promising Mark for so long.
Most importantly though, I've called a moratorium on bread-making. No more for December! This was a heavy decision, a decision I was sad to have to make. Bread is my weekend salvation. It's what the days off smell like. Baking bread. However, it was a decision my freezer will thank me for. What decadence that I can make so much food I can't possibly eat it all! It's not a fact I'm proud of, but it is a fact. What's also a fact though is that I always give away half of the bread I make, so perhaps that balances out the decadence a wee bit.
So this weekend I made my last savory bread for the season (my fingers are crossed behind my back - I can't promise). I had one person to thank before I packed in my rye and my whole wheat in exchange for sweet things, so I made him a bread. It was such a surprise, this bread. I thought it would be tasty. Obviously I wouldn't have made it if it didn't sound alluring. I thought it would be tasty, but I didn't think it would be so heady with spice... so savory and bold, kind of a noble and masculine bread. My only regret is that I don't eat sausage, because if I had some it would be divine with this bread. However, I will be making all manner of grilled cheese sandwiches with this bread, dipping this bread in soups, toasting this bread just to fill the house with it's smell again. It's a very easy bread to make and an even easier bread to love. I recommend it before you pack away your selfishly savory treats for the holidays.
Pane alle Erbi
Adapted from Local Breads by Daniel Leader
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
350 grams (1 1/2 cups) water, 70-78 degrees
2 tsp instant yeast
400 grams (2 1/2 cups) bread flour
100 grams (3/4 cup) rye flour
50 grams (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 - 2 1/2 tsp sea salt
Combine the fresh herbs in a small bowl and set aside. Pour the water into a mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon mix it together with yeast, flours, olive oil, ground coriander and salt.
Once combined knead it. By hand knead for 10-12 mins. If using a stand mixer with a dough hook knead it on medium speed for 8-9 mins. Add the herbs and knead for 2-3 mins more.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container with a lid. Cover and leave it to rise 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half and form each piece gently into a boule. Cover with plastic and let rest on the counter for 15-20 mins.
Put a lidded cast iron dutch oven into your oven (or whatever other method you use to steam your bread). Heat your oven to 450 degrees.
Pat your dough out flat and form each piece into a tight batard. Place the loaves on parchment or on a heavily floured couche, seam side down. Cover with plastic and let proof for 30 mins to an hour. When you press the dough with your fingertip it should spring back very slowly.
Just before putting the loaves in the oven score them by slicing them lightly right down the center, not very deep at all. Place a loaf in a dutch oven and cover (or make your steam in your preferred method***). Put the breads in the oven and turn the temperature immediately down to 425 degrees. After 15 - 20 mins uncover the dutch oven so the loaves can brown. Bake for about 10 minutes more. For the last 5 mins crack the oven door open to allow steam to escape, giving the breads a crispier crust.
***Read the comments section for my recommendations for my favorite steaming methods.
For a list other fantastic breads check out Yeastspotting at Wild Yeast!