I was looking for more bread recipes to extend beyond my normal cycle of spiced rye, Italian rosemary, black spice rye, choco-cherry bread, and of course the Saturday baguettes. This recipe is adapted from the French Herb Bread recipe I found on allrecipes.com. The original can be found here: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/7065/french-herb-bread/ I’ve transcribed it here with a few changes; the recipe takes 2-3 hours, start to finish, and makes one bâtard.
The basic bread is pretty similar to any white sandwich loaf; the fun comes with pushing out the dough into a thin rectangle, spreading it with the onion and fresh herb mixture, rolling it up and allowing it to rise again. When cut, it forms an intriguing spiral… and tastes absolutely fabulous, whether eaten plain, with cheese, or as savory French toast. Give it a go!
6-7g (1 Tbsp) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons white sugar
250g hand-hot water
125g levain at room temperature – levain is sourdough starter
8g (1 tsp) kosher salt
450g (generous 3½ cups) all-purpose flour – I used 225g bread flour, 225g all-purpose flour.
250g (1 cup) milk – I use plant milk
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar – one good dollop
60g (1⁄4 cup) unsalted butter or vegan margarine
One small to medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Tbsp minced parsley or other fresh herbs, such as marjoram, chervil, sage, chives
30g (2 Tbsp) unsalted butter or vegan margarine
In a medium mixing bowl, combine 250ml (1 cup) hand hot water, yeast, sugar, and the levain. Stir, then set aside in a warm place for five minutes, until the mixture is bubbly.
In a small saucepan, gently warm the milk or plant milk with the butter and vinegar until the butter is just melted and the mixture is hand-hot – 110°F or 38°C.
Whilst warming the milk use a smaller mixing bowl and electronic scale to measure out the flours – I used 225g bread flour and 225g all-purpose flour, with 8g kosher salt.
Add the warm milk to the bowl with the yeast and levain; use an electric beater (or a stand mixer) to beat the two together for a minute. Add the flour mixture and beat again until you have a wet, sticky dough. If there is extra flour in the bottom of the bowl, use a scraper and a bit more boiling water to incorporate the flour. You should have a consistent sticky dough.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap sprayed with Pam or oil and pressed down into the top of the dough; set aside in a warm place for 20 minutes to rest or autolyze.
In a small, heavy pan, melt the second 60g of butter/margarine, then add the onion and sauté gently until the onion is soft and beginning to color. Add the garlic, and sauté for another two minutes. Add the fresh herbs – and put in more than you think you’ll need. Set aside to cool.
After the dough has rested – it should be warm and a bit puffy – sprinkle your countertop with flour and dump the dough onto it. Wash and dry the mixing bowl! Using a dough scraper as necessary, knead the dough with enthusiasm for about five minutes until the dough is coherent and doesn’t pick up any more flour. Place back in the bowl, cover with that same piece of plastic wrap, and set in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in bulk.
[One hour later…] Sprinkle the countertop with more flour, and punch down the dough before spreading it out. Gently push and pull the dough into a rectangle about 8” x 16”. Spread the onion and herb mixture evenly over the dough. Starting with the 16” side, roll the dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Place the bread seam side down on a piece of parchment, cover with the plastic wrap (again) and set aside in a warm place for an hour or until it’s doubled in size.
Twenty minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400°F / 205°C. If you have a pizza stone or baking stone, put it on the middle shelf, with an old cast iron pan in the bottom.
When doubled in size, use a peel to place the bread on the baking stone (or slide onto a baking sheet if you don’t have a stone). Bake about 30 minutes until the bread is golden brown and a tap on the bottom sounds hollow.
Allow to cool on a baking rack; it will slice more cleanly if you let it cool 100% before cutting. On the other hand, this bread is absolutely fantastic sampled while warm! Once it is fully cool, it will store well for 2-3 days at room temperature in a loose bag or a paper bag.
You can double wrap in plastic and freeze this bread for up to three months.
Tip: This makes wonderful French toast sprinkled with strong cheese like Stilton or Manchego.