Guest post by Susan Belsinger from Grit.
Susan Belsinger talks about why you should bake up herbal breads for the smell of home to warm you in fall and winter.
Bake up Herbal Bread Recipes
• Homemade Biscuits With Chives and Parmesan Recipe
• Maple Scones With Lemon Verbena Recipe
• Skillet Cheddar Cornbread Recipe
• Steamed Bread Recipe
• Rustic Savory Wheat Bread Recipe
• Indian Naan (Leavened Bread)
During the fall and winter months, we turn inward, seeking comfort and contentment in the warmth of our homes. We want heartier seasonal foods, and life revolves around the warmth of the kitchen. So turn on your ovens and treat your family to some good old-fashioned aromatherapy – bake up herbal breads for the smell of fresh-baked bread. Capture the essence of savory and sweet herbs in your bread, fill the house with mouthwatering scents and savor the flavor of these easy-to-make breads. Even the staff of life can be enhanced with the flavor of culinary herbs.
Bread dough and batters are ideal for capturing the aroma and flavor of herbs. When herbs are combined with other ingredients and baked, the resulting breads are infused with herbal essence. Fresh herbs will provide the best aroma and taste – they have a bouquet that dried herbs tend to lose. However, dried herbs do work well in baked goods. It is good to reconstitute them a bit by adding them to the liquid in the recipe and letting them infuse while you are getting the rest of the ingredients ready. The recipes linked above call for fresh herbs; if you are substituting dried herbs, use about one-third to one-half of the amount called for. For example, if the recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil leaves, you would use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of dried basil leaves, and crumble them into the liquid.
Yeast breads take a little more time to make, since they have to rise once or twice, but this easily can be done in between indoor or outdoor chores, fixing meals or during your daily routine. I often mix up a batch of dough at night and let it rise slowly overnight in the refrigerator. Then, the next day, I remove it from the fridge, punch it down, let it rise again as it comes to room temperature and it’s ready to bake. Most of the quick breads can bake while lunch or dinner is being prepared. Scones and biscuits are so quick and easy to make, my girls or I often will whip up a batch for breakfast or if friends drop by for tea.
Think about using your favorite herbs the next time you make biscuits or muffins or get ready to use your bread machine. The combinations and variations are infinite, and using herbs to flavor your breads, whether they are leavened with yeast, sourdough, baking powder or baking soda, will be a never-ending taste experience.
Foccacia Rosemary Bread Recipe
Makes one 10- by 15-inch foccacia.
This recipe yields enough dough for one thick foccacia; I often double it and keep one in the fridge to bake a day or two later, or freeze the dough to thaw before using at a later date.
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water, 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, divided
3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour, or use all white flour if desired
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh minced rosemary
Dissolve yeast in about 1/4 cup warm water and let proof for about 10 minutes.
Mix flours and make a well in them. When yeast has proofed (yeast begins to foam), pour it into well with about half remaining water. Gradually stir water and yeast into well. Add olive oil, salt and rest of water and stir to blend. Turn dough out onto pastry marble or board dusted with flour. Gather dough and knead it, adding flour if necessary. Sprinkle chopped rosemary over dough, fold dough over, and knead rosemary into dough. Dough should be soft and lively after 7 or 8 minutes.
Let dough double in bulk in lightly oiled bowl. It is ideal to do this first rise in the refrigerator overnight, but it is not necessary. Punch dough down and pat it into rough rectangle with your hands. Let rest, covered with towel, on lightly floured surface for 20 minutes, or until dough is at room temperature if it has been refrigerated.
Stretch dough gently with your hands on a baking pan sprinkled lightly with cornmeal. Let dough rise in warm place, covered, for about 15 minutes, before topping or filling and baking.
Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, with a baking stone, if you have one, on bottom rack.
Once foccacia dough has risen on baking sheet, take your fingers, spreading them wide, and gently press down on dough to make indentations all over top of foccacia.
2 cloves garlic, minced
About 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 generous tablespoon fresh minced rosemary
1 medium onion, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
Coarse sea salt
About 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, optional