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Mom's Herb Bread

This bread will fill your house with a fresh, wonderful aroma as it bakes! The recipe is time-tested and versatile. You can make fluffy loaves, dinner rolls, baguettes, twists, focaccia, and more!
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Total Time: 3 hours

Yield: at least 6 small loaves or a dozen rolls

Source: Adapted from Herb and Onion Bread--The Vegetarian Epicure, by Anna Thomas (1972)

Ingredients:

Steps:

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Whisk lightly. Note: The following images depict the recipe doubled.
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  3. Scald the milk and whisk in the sugar, salt, and olive oil; cool this mixture while the yeast rises. Place the inside of your wrist against the side of the bowl. If the bowl feels warm, almost like you want to hug it, the milk is cool enough, or almost lukewarm.
  4. Once it has cooled, add the yeast to the milk mixture and whisk well.
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  6. Add 4 cups of the flour one cup at a time, beating well after each addition until the batter becomes thick and smooth.
  7. Spread the last cup of flour evenly over a smooth, flat surface where you will knead the dough. Next, put the batter straight onto the countertop, scraping any remaining dough from the sides of the bowl.
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  9. Gather the wet dough into a floury lump and knead lightly, adding more flour as you go. Work the batter into a pillow-like round of dough. Once you start to reach this stage, add just enough flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the countertop.
  10. Knead for about ten minutes once the batter comes together as dough. Stop kneading when small bubbles start to spread across the dough's surface as you work and it feels smooth and elastic. Alternatively poke a hole into the dough. If it poofs back, the dough is ready to rise.
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  12. Set dough aside. Coat the sides of a large bowl with about 1 tbsp. oil. Turn the dough into the bowl, making sure the oil also coats the entire surface (this helps lock in moisture as the bread rises). Lightly place plastic wrap or a tea towel across the top of the bowl. Set dough in a warm place, away from direct sunlight, to rise for about 45 minutes. It should double in bulk.
  13. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and form it back into a round.
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  15. Divide the dough in half and place onto a countertop dusted with flour.
  16. Flatten one half into a rough circle, like biscuit or pizza dough. Spread the herbs across the center and press them down into the dough. Fold the dough over and knead for a few minutes to thoroughly incorporate the herbs. Repeat (if desired) with the other half.
  17. Shape as desired. You can make baguettes, mini loaves, twists, rolls, and more! We lightly greased 6 mini loaf pans with shortening and had extra herb dough to form into twists. These went onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.
  18. Let shaped loaves, rolls, etc., rise for 30-45 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Bake in 375 degree F. oven for about an hour. Place on a rack to cool and spread a little shortening or butter over the loaves to color and soften their crust.
  19. Enjoy!

Note: We doubled this recipe, but not its herb proportions. This is because we chose to make about half of it plain, like simple French bread, and half of it savory. If you want to make all the dough savory, feel free to add the herbs to the liquid ingredients (step 2) before stirring in the flour.

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