Before I left for Meredith, my aunty gave me some rosemary and fine leaf thyme from her garden. Feeling a little bit homesick, I decided to bake and bring a feeling of home to Meredith. This bread is perfect for any meal during the day.
First you need to roast one head of garlic; the easiest way I’ve found to do this is to slice the head so most of the clove remains intact. After the head is off, remove as much of the outer layer as possible. Add some olive oil and pepper to the cloves and then cover in foil. Bake at 400F for 40 minutes; if they’re easy to peel, then it’s ready.
To create the dough, add one cup of warm water (it is too hot if you burn yourself), two teaspoons white sugar and sprinkle one and a half teaspoons of yeast. What I have found is that the yeast reacts better when the sugar isn’t mixed into the water — don’t kill your yeast! After ten minutes, if the yeast still looks the same, the water was too hot.
Add three tablespoons virgin olive oil into the yeast mixture and slowly add two and a half cups of flour. If you have bread flour, amazing! However, most people don’t, so for this recipe I will demonstrate what the bread looks like with all-purpose flour.
While the dough is fairly sticky, add half a teaspoon black pepper, two teaspoons dried oregano and the roasted garlic. All of these flavors are fairly subtle, so adding more for taste is understandable. However, toppings like olive oil and balsamic vinegar will enhance the umami as well.
Split the dough into two balls , incorporate the two teaspoons dried thyme into one and two teaspoons dried rosemary into the other and then let rise in a well oiled bowl until it doubles in size. Once risen, pound it down and shape the dough. The dough can be placed into a pan or on a baking sheet. Then decorate your dough any way you’d like; the best way to get a strong solid design is with a sharp knife and by cutting less than an inch below the surface.
If you don’t intend to bake your dough in a pan that will hold your dough in place, I suggest placing a large bowl over it for the second proof. That way, when the bread rises, it won’t expand horizontally and flatten.
Before you place it in the oven, glaze it with olive oil or an egg wash. When glazed with an egg wash, the bread comes out of the oven with a warmer golden brown color.
Bake at 375F for 30 minutes. Halfway through, spray the bread lightly with water. This will keep the yeast from over activating. If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can use a whisk and cup of water to flick water onto the bread. Increase the oven temperature to 425F; once the oven beeps, spray the bread again. Set a timer in intervals of five minutes and monitor the bread until golden brown. If you graze a knife over the bread, it should sound crisp. This bread is best served warm with some olive oil or balsamic vinegar.
Now go ahead and dig in!
1 head of roasted garlic
1 ½ tsp active dry yeast
1 cup of warm water
2 tsp white sugar
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp virgin olive oil
2 ½ cups of flour (bread or all purpose)
2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp dried fine leaf thyme
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
Coarse sea salt
1. In a large bowl, add the warm water and sugar; sprinkle the yeast on top. Let it sit until frothy. Add the virgin olive oil and slowly knead flour into the mix. Incorporate black pepper, oregano and roasted garlic by hand leaving the dough slightly sticky.
2. Divide the dough into two balls. Add rosemary into one and fine leaf thyme into the other. Place each ball into a well oiled bowl, cover and let it double in size.
3. Punch down dough and shape. Using a sharp knife, make designs on bread. Cover loaf again until it doubles in size. Preheat the oven to 375F.
4. Gently brush dough with olive oil, sprinkle more herbs, and coarse sea salt. Bake for 30 minutes. Spray with water. Increase oven to 425F, spray with water and bake until golden brown.
5. Best served warm with olive oil or balsamic vinegar glazed on top.
By Jeanine Carryl, Staff Writer