Basque Sheepherder Bread

Here in southern Idaho, the Basque culture has won well-earned respect and recognition. Even though the days of new immigrants herding sheep are pretty much past (if they haven't left the business, they tend to own their own bands of sheep now), they hold wonderful culture events. There is dancing, singing and the most amazing food.


I was at a fundraiser about ten years ago, and a dear lady contributed this recipe for Basque bread. It sold for $400! I asked her for the recipe. It makes a huge, light as a feather loaf with a delicate crust that is lightly crunchy like good pastry.

Baked in a Dutch oven, a slice still hot from the oven, with a bit of butter and jam, can send me into dizzy raptures. Did I mention it was really good? And it doesn't take all day to make, either!


  • 3 cups cups of warm water (104-115 degrees F)
  • 2 packages of yeast or 2 tablespoons of yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 - 5 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup shortening


In a large bowl dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in sugar. Let stand in a warm place for 10 minutes.

Add the shortening that has been melted and cooled. Stir in flour one cup at a time using a whisk. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the flour in until you have a stiff dough. Turn out on a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.


Place in a greased bowl; turn to grease the top, and let it rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down. Shape into a smooth ball. Put it into a greased cast iron Dutch oven (5 quart size). Cover with lid that is greased on the inside. Allow it to rise in a warm place until doubled in size until dough reaches lid. Watch closely - you don't want it to stick to the lid.

Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees F. for 10 minutes. Remove lid and bake 35 minutes longer. Turn out on rack to cool.

Makes one very large, light loaf. Don't worry if your Dutch oven has a ring marking inside it. It will make this mark on your bread, which is typical of Basque bread.

Source: My late friend, Olga.

By Coreen Hart from Rupert, ID

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May 21, 20090 found this helpful

Hi, which shortening do you recommend?

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May 30, 20090 found this helpful

I do not have a dutch oven - can you suggest an alternative for baking? Stoeber70 AT

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