Herbed anniversary bread

Herbed bread

This is a lovely time of year at The Ordinary Estate. Each evening after dinner we walk through the balmy flower-scented air, sipping glasses of fine wine. We wend our way down tree-lined lanes, to inspect our fields and vineyards. Ha ha! Our yard isn’t big enough for one tree, let alone an entire boulevard of trees! And we’d be drinking two-buck chuck! And our boys would have dug some kind of small pit in the yard that we would trip in and twist our ankles! We live in an 1850s industrial-style house, attached on one side. Our whole town is like this, and we all have small, connected gardens. Here’s ours…

Our backyard

That’s it! That’s the whole thing. But, we have a beautiful tiny herb garden, and I’m completely smitten with it. Here it is…

Herb garden

And as you know, if you’ve been paying attention, I’m very fond of the idea of making a wild mix of herbs and greens that I combine in a sort of patchwork quilt of surprising flavors in tarts, or soups, or potatoes. Well, yesterday I made a special meal for our anniversary, and I made this bread. I shaped it in a ring to symbolize our marriage (but you could make any shape you like). As I think about it, herbed bread is a nice metaphor for marriage – sustaining, comforting, but full of flavor and surprises. As I ate it I thought the flavors were wonderful, all together, but it’s hard to pick out any one thing that makes it so. The work of growing the herbs, and kneading and shaping the bread is wonderful, fun, fulfilling work, just like a marriage.

This bread has a nice crispy crust and a very dense crumb. (I love saying things like “a very dense crumb”!) I used a combination of dried herbs and herbs from our garden – sage, rosemary, marjoram, tarragon, basil, oregano, thyme. All lovely!!

At our wedding, instead of a band or a DJ, we made mixed tapes (yes, cassette tapes, children) and played them on a boom box out of a window. The dancing was divine!! Here’s one song we had…Parliament I Been Watching You. We cooled it down with a slow number!!

1/2 cup warm water
1 t yeast
1 t sugar
3 cups flour
2 t salt
black pepper
A mix of herbs, fresh or dried – as many as you like, about 1/2 to 1 t of each. I used marjoram, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, tarragon and summer savory, and it was a dynamite combination!!
3 T olive oil
about 1/2 cup extra warm water.

Mix the water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl and set it aside to get foamy.

In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, pepper and herbs. Make a well in the center and add the yeast/water and the olive oil. Stir everything together, and then bring it together with your hands, adding just enough water to make it kneadable. Knead for about 10 minutes, till it’s smooth and elastic.

Put a small dollop of olive oil in a bowl and roll the dough around so it’s all coated. Put it back in your large bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and leave to rise till double in bulk, about 2 hours. Fold it over itself a few times to deflate it. Let rise again for about an hour.

Roll the dough into a sort of snake, and then press it flat. Roll it up along the long side into another snake. Then, seam side down, coil it so that it’s eating its own tail. Seal the seam as best you can. Set it on a baking sheet and press it flat again, and slash it across with a knife, shallowly every couple of inches, to make “rays.” Let it sit for half an hour while you preheat the oven to 500.

Brush the bread with water, and sprinkle a little water on the floor of the oven. Do this two more times, every couple of minutes. Then just let it bake till it’s brown and crispy. A half an hour should do it. It will sound hollow when you tap on the bottom.

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One thought on “Herbed anniversary bread

  1. Congratulations on your 16th wedding anniversary for yesterday. The recipe for yesterday looks delicious, but what you’ve written here has really given me the warm and fuzzies.

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