My Year of Adventurous Eating

Honey, I’m Home! And Herb Cheese Bread January 5, 2012

Filed under: Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 2:03 pm

Did everyone have a good Christmas?!?

I sure did. The holidays whooshed by in a twinkle-light-tailed blaze of glory.  It was a week and a half of family get-togethers, birthday parties and impromptu gatherings and I thank my boss for kindly giving me the time off to enjoy it! How any of you all found time to enjoy your holidays, get sleep and maintain a blog all at the same time I’ll never know. Props.

And yes, I did say birthday parties. I’m surrounded by Christmas babies! I myself had my oldieth birthday just a week ago. I’m old years old and am finally trying to act my age.  Sort of.

That is to say, I vowed to see a dentist at least once this year. And I bought myself some gummy vitamins.

In any case, I’m back (finally) and carefully considering the next step of my food adventure.  I think I can’t continue to put it off.  Now that the holidays are over I’ll need to bite the bullet and schedule the next one.

I’ll get back to you.

I may have cheated a bit and sneaked a little eggs benedict during my time off.  I loved it!  Poached eggs are a revelation. They outshone the cream cheese hollandaise  ten to one on my Tuscan-themed eggs benedict at Snooze (the trendy new brunch place that just opened up on Pearl Street here in Boulder…). Cooked to perfection, the whites were tender and cooked through while the yolks were still velvety and creamy enough to run into the white bean and kale ragu beneath. Sheer decadence!

I had my first go at making poached eggs myself this morning and mostly ended up with a pot full of stringy, cooked egg whites and two soft boiled yolks. It is apparent that some practice is in order!

Anyhoo, after a couple of weeks of being pampered and fed by others, I’ve made it back into the kitchen with a new slew of inspirations and recipes to try!

As I write this I’m letting dough for my new favorite bread recipe rest in the kitchen. This bread is virtually fail-proof and comes out flavorful and delicious every time! It’s a very rustic loaf, with a crunchy thick crust and dense, herb-infused crumb. I like to knead some cheese into it to make it extra delicious!

Start with 20 oz (by weight) of bread flour.

The recipe tells me you could make this with all-purpose flour. I haven’t tried it that way yet, and don’t know if there’s any extra special treatment you would need to give the dough if you did. Any advice?

Hello. I am Phobicfoodie, and I am new to baking.

Anyways, dump two teaspoons of salt into the flour and stir it around a little.

Next, melt 4 ounces (1 stick) of butter and mix in some chopped herbs.

I’ve tried it with Rosemary (just a couple tablespoons of fresh or a teaspoon or two dried nicely minced gives it an amazing fragrance and flavor!), with dried dill (not my favorite permutation so far) and with 1/4 cup chopped green onions. They’ve all been pretty darn tasty options!

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast over a cup of luke warm water

and let it sit for a minute or two before stirring to combine.

Now dump all the ingredients into a stand mixer, pop the dough hook into place, and turn the thing on low to get things mixed up.

If the dough looks particularly dry and ragged, pour in up to 1/4 cup more water just a bit at a time until all the dough comes together.

You can do this by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer, but to be honest I have no idea how long it would take! With the stand mixer on low, let the dough knead for about 10 minutes, or until you can gently stretch a small portion of dough out until it becomes translucent without tearing.

On a side note, I really should start kneading my bread by hand to offset some of the calories I consume by eating it. Food for thought, I guess.

Dump the dough into a bowl and set it in a warm spot to rest for about half an hour. It won’t rise much during this time. When the dough is good and relaxed, knead it for about two minutes more to redistribute the yeast. Now’s when you’d want to knead in any other mix-ins, like cheese (which I highly recommend doing. It’s ridiculously delicious!).

Form the dough into a round loaf.

Oil a heavy, oven proof pot (I use my cast iron dutch oven) generously with olive oil and place the loaf into it, seam side down.  Pour a little more oil over the loaf and use a pastry brush to make sure the whole surface is coated.

Sprinkle some coarse salt over the top…

And make a large ‘X’ in the top so it can rise while baking.

Let the loaf rest for another hour or so (again, not a lot of noticeable rising during this part. I just think it results in a slightly lighter, more tender finished loaf).

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450°. Make sure the knob on the lid to your pot can withstand that temperature. If it is plastic you will want to remove it before you begin baking your bread.

When the oven is thoroughly preheated and the bread is nice and rested, pop the lid on the pot and put the whole thing in the oven on the center rack.

Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and bake it for at least another 30 minutes.

During the baking time, I highly recommend you step out of your house for a minute or two and then come back in and inhale deeply. You may pass out from pleasure, but it’s worth it!

Dump the baked loaf out onto a cooling rack (the top should be a nice golden, chestnut color. It may seem too dark and overdone, but that deep brown is where all the flavor is!).

Let it cool completely before slicing into it!

This is important. It’s virtually impossible to do, but trust me on this! The bread will continue to bake even after you pull it out of the oven. If you slice into it while it is still hot the first two slices will be divine, but the rest of the loaf will become doughy, dense and disappointing!

Anyways….Herb Bread.  Comforting, home-made deliciousness in a loaf!

(You’ll note that none of these pictures are of the herb cheese bread.  This could be because I’m a nerd face.  It could also be because the version with lots of pockets of melty, delicious cheese was our favorite and we devoured it before I could figure out where I’d left my camera the last time I’d used it.  I’ll let you guess which story is true.  Anyways, the moral is, Herb Cheese Bread is exponentially tastier than Herb Bread.  Make it.)

Here’s the recipe!

Herb Bread

20 oz. (by weight) bread flour

2 teaspoons salt, plus extra for sprinkling

4 oz. melted butter with chopped herbs

8 oz. luke warm water, plus up to ¼ cup extra if needed

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

Olive oil

8 oz. cheese (such as cheddar, swiss or Colby jack), diced (optional but highly recommended!)

Sprinkle yeast over 1 cup water and set aside for a couple of minutes while you measure out the other ingredients.  Stir before adding to stand mixer with the flour, salt, butter and herbs.  Turn the stand mixer on low.  Add up to ¼ c. more water if needed to bring dough together.  Knead dough until you can gently stretch a small portion of it out until it becomes translucent without tearing, about 10 minutes with the mixer.

Let dough rest for about 30 minutes, then knead for 1-2 minutes more.  At this point also gently knead in the diced cheese if you are using it.

Form the dough into a round loaf.

Generously oil a cast iron pot and place the loaf in it seam side down.  Brush the top of the loaf with more olive oil and cut a large ‘X’ in the top so the bread can puff up and rise while it is baking!

Preheat oven to 450°.

Let the dough rest for another 30 minutes to an hour (it won’t really rise during this time), then cover the pot and place on the center rack of the preheated oven.  Bake with the lid on for 30 minutes, then remove and bake for another 30 minutes.

Remove bread to cooling rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Eat and be happy!



6 Responses to “Honey, I’m Home! And Herb Cheese Bread”

  1. Malou Prestado Says:

    Wow, this looks very good! I’d love to try this too.

  2. PhobicFoodie Says:

    I hope you do! I figure if I can bake a loaf of bread without messing it up the recipe is probably pretty fool proof. It’s really delicious too!

  3. Eggton Says:

    Gosh, the way it splits open on top is just gorgeous. Well done!

  4. Happy oldieth! Ahem, I mean youngieth. This bread looks wonderful.

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