One of my favorite things to do on a chilly winter day is to bake fresh, hearty, warm, rustic bread. Now, this Italian herb bread isn’t your average bread, it’s crispy on the outside, packed with flavor, and light and fluffy on the inside! The best of all bread worlds. Now, it is a bit time consuming, but if you’re like me you’ll find the kneading and watching the bread, the bread you crafted, rise with ease, there’s a feeling of fulfillment and meditation.
It’s a great thing to do on a weekend because it takes time, time to rise, all while you’re reading your favorite book, scrolling through funny videos, watching movies, or even doing the old housework. Plus, don’t worry, this bread is simple to make. I’ve never been a great baker, nope. I love throwing things together in the chaos of cooking on the stove without worrying about measurements, letting my cooking sprit take me through the ingredients and food.
But with baking,things are different. It takes a new set of attention, but sometimes my rebelliousness kicks in and I spill a little flour, hey I don’t even sift the flour most days, and despite all my poor baking practices, this bread has never failed me (except for the one time I completely forgot salt in the recipe, whoops! Don’t do that, it doesn’t work!).
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But this recipe makes two full loaves of bread and if you’re lucky, you’ll have one leftover for you to make sandwiches with, enjoy soup or salad, and just eat toasted with a little Earth Balance. But seriously this bread is just as good (if not better!) than the bread you get at restaurants, and its cheaper and not full of preservatives or other unknown ingredients!
I recently made this recipe live on Instagram using the hashtag instabake and posted all the steps as I did it along the way. I swear it’s not difficult, just takes a little bit of focus! Check out the recap of the instabake below the recipe post! Plus there’s photos if you have questions along the way!
- 1 pkg, or 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
- 3 cups warm water
- sprinkle of sugar
- 1 Tbl sea salt
- 2 cups bread flour
- 4-5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- Italian herb mix
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- sea salt, to taste
- Add your active dry yeast, water, and sugar to a large bowl, or bowl of a standing mixer. Whisk until lightly combined. Let the yeast proof, until foamy, for about 10 minutes.
- After your yeast has activated, add in your 1 Tbl of sea salt, bread flour, and 3 cups of your unbleached all purpose flour. If using an electric mixer, attach the dough hook and knead the dough for about 5 minutes until everything is well combined, otherwise knead by hand for about 7 minutes.
- The dough will be very loose and liquidy at this point. Slowly, add in your next 2-3 cups of all purpose flour to the mix ½ cup at a time until your dough is manageable and is keeping together. This dough is a little more difficult to work with, but you want to make sure it’s staying together. Add more flour as needed.
- On a heavily floured surface, knead your dough by hand for about 5 minutes. The dough is a bit difficult to work with, but since this bread is airy, you’ll want to use as little extra flour as possible to keep the bread light, but don’t sweat it too much. If it’s difficult to work with, add a little more flour.
- Now lightly grease a large bowl (I use olive oil), and place the dough in the bowl, covering all sides with the oil. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Once your dough has doubled in size, remove it from the bowl and knead again by hand this time on a lightly floured surface for approximately 5 minutes. Try not to add too much flour at this point in order to keep the bread airy.
- Separate your dough into two halves. Return the two halves to your oiled bowl and coat each half in the oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise again until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Now your two halves have most likely merged together, so separate your two halves and on a lightly floured surface, form each half into an oblong loaf, and cover with plastic wrap and let them rise one last time for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- While the dough is rising for the last time, prepare your herb mix. In a small bowl combine your olive oil, basil, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper and mix.
- After your loaves have risen, try to carefully transfer one loaf to a greased baking sheet, trying not to deflate it too much (don’t worry I always deflate it). Brush the dough with your olive oil mix, coating it, but keep in mind you’ll need to do this for the other loaf and again when the loaves come out of the oven.
- Add a little oven safe bowl or glass baking dish with a little bit of water to the lowest rack in your oven, and bake your bread for 35-40 minutes.
- Once the dough has baked, it should be crispy and golden. Brush on more olive oil mix while the bread is still hot so that it forms a crispier exterior. If you didn’t bake both loaves at the same time (I typically don’t), repeat the same process with the second loaf.
- Try to wait until the bread has cooled off a bit to slice. Enjoy warm!
- Snob Away!
There you have it! It’s simple and I know you’ll love it. Plus, your house will smell so good!