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Bread Challenge, Week 4: Pain des Herbes de Provence

January 23, 2012

This recipe actually started out as simple Rosemary Bread, but a search through my spice rack and pantry resulted in no rosemary. Fortuitously, my in-laws recently traveled to France, and brought me back a bag of Herbes de Provence. Since it seemed to contain rosemary (with some other herbs, lavender perhaps? Thyme? Savory? It was impossible to read the French chicken scratch on the herb vendor’s handmade label), I thought it would make a perfect substitution in this aromatic bread recipe.

Herbes de Provence can actually be a blend of many herbs: savory, fennel, thyme, basil, rosemary, lavender – or really just whatever is on hand (if you’re Provençal). The spice industry doesn’t even have a standardized blend:

  • McCormick’s helpfully lists its blend’s ingredients as “SPICES (INCLUDING ROSEMARY, MARJORAM, THYME, AND SAVORY)”.
  • Penzey’s blend is rosemary, cracked fennel, thyme, savory, basil, tarragon, dill weed, Turkish oregano, lavender, chervil and marjoram.

And I have no clue what was in the bag my father-in-law bought me. Frankly, I’m surprised he was able to make it past security with it – it was a zip-top bag with a bunch of dried green herbs and a scribbled note in French stapled to the top. French security must be très laxiste.

At any rate, this is a nice little recipe – a perfect bread for just snacking out of hand, and would probably be fantastic lightly toasted and served as canapé bread. I hope you enjoy it!

As always, my comments and adjustments are in blue. Recipe and photos after the jump.

*********************

Pain des Herbes de Provence (you can find a printable version here)

Yield: 2 loaves

 Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (105°-110°F)
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (I used half oregano and half basil)
  • 3 cups bread flour (I used 1 cup white whole wheat flour in place of 1 cup bread flour)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten (optional)

Directions

  • Dissolve the sugar in warm water in a medium bowl, and mix in the yeast. When yeast is bubbly, mix in salt, butter, 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence, and Italian seasoning.
  • Mix in 2 cups flour. Gradually add remaining flour to form a workable dough, and knead 10 to 12 minutes.

The dough is smooth and elastic after about 10 minutes of machine-kneading

  • Coat the inside of a large bowl with olive oil. Place dough in bowl, cover, and allow to rise 1 hour in a warm location.
  • Punch down dough, and divide in half.

The dough has risen enough if indentations remain in the dough after being poked

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly grease paper. (I simply used a large oiled nonstick cookie sheet. No parchment)
  • Shape dough into 2 round loaves, and place on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining herbs.

Sprinkled with rosemary, prior to the second rise

  • Cover, and allow to rise 1 hour, or until doubled in size
  • Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C)
  • Brush loaves with egg. Bake 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

Recipe makes two medium-sized loaves

Results:

  • Quite good overall. Easy to assemble, and doing free-form loaves is nice for a change. It was also nice to have such a short baking time.
  • The loaves are on the smallish side (unbaked loaves weighed about 11 ounces each)
  • This recipe would likely lend itself to the addition of any herb/spice combination you could imagine. Really, the possibilities are endless. It’s a nice basic recipe.
  • The taste: fantastic. Wonderfully aromatic, with a moist and chewy crumb. The herbs infuse every bite without overpowering the bread itself.
  • I believe the bread would make a wonderful accompaniment to some sundried tomato-olive tapenade. In fact, I know it does. Because I made some tapenade and tried it out! Tapenade recipe coming tomorrow.
Again, I’d like to mention that you can find a printable version of this recipe by clicking here. If you decide to make it yourself, please let me know what you think of the recipe and any thoughts you have about improving it.

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