Italian Herb Bread


I find very few smells as comforting as the smell of fresh bread baking, especially in winter.  I haven’t made bread in ages, so I decided to have some fun and play with the dough today instead of making plain loaves.  As I mentioned in one of my first few posts, I think it’s just as helpful to disclose mistakes as well as successes…  The first time I made this bread, it totally didn’t work.  The directions called for the yeast to be mixed with milk, water, and little bit of flour.  I did this, and the yeast didn’t grow at all.  On the second try, I mixed the yeast with water and honey and let it rise before adding the four- this worked really well.  Also, since we have a bread machine, I used it to make the whole process easier, but it’s totally doable without one.   If you aren’t using a bread machine, you can knead the dough by hand until it’s smooth and elasticy (Steps 2 and 3) and you can let it rise in a warm place for 3-4 hours (Steps 2 and 4).

Ingredients

3/4 tbsp active dry yeast
4 tbsp lukewarm water
1 tbsp honey
1 cup lukewarm water (remove 2 tbsp from this)
2 tbsp lukewarm milk
3.5 cups white bread flour
1/2 tbsp salt
1.5 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp milk (optional), to glaze before baking
1 tbsp caraway seeds (optional), to sprinkle on top before baking

Directions

1.  Mix yeast, honey, and 4 tbsp water.  Let it rise in a warm dry place (I use the oven) for 10-15 minutes.  It should be frothy.

2. Put the yeast mix, water, and milk into the bread maker pan.  Add 2.5 cups of flour.  Start the bread maker and let it run the first knead and first rise.

3.  After the first rise, turn off the bread maker.  Add the remaining flour, salt, Italian seasoning, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Restart the bread machine so it does the knead again (as if it was the first time you were doing it).

4.  Remove from the bread machine and place it into 2 loaf pans (or form into shapes as described below).  Let this rise for 3-4 hours, until the dough at least doubles in size.

5.  Optional step: Brush the top with milk and sprinkle caraway seeds on top.

6.  Bake at 400 F for 25-30 min until golden brown.

Bread Shapes

Basic shape: Roll the dough between your palms to make a rope that is ~1/2 inch thick.  You can bake these ropes to make bread sticks.

Knots: Make a rope ~6 inches long.  Loosely tie an  overhand knot.  Pull it tighter gently and trim the ends.

Braid: Make three ropes that are equal in length.  Place the three ropes next to each other and press one side of the ends together- this will be your starting side.  ***Take the left rope and place it over the middle one (making it the new middle).  Take the right rope and place it over the middle (making it the new middle).***  Repeat the steps between the *** until you reach the end.  Press the ends together.

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