Happy New Year- 2015!
Herbs and garlic bread When we turn the pages and move into a brand New Year with a lot of expectation, I have decided to push behind, sorrow, grief, laziness and walk into optimism and happiness mixed with a lot of love to greet it!
Let me start 2015 with a basic food-Bread!
There is nothing comforting than warm bread freshly baked to perfection! These days, I make more bread at home and enjoy the house diffused with its pleasant aroma. The best part of baking is to have its smell lingering on and cheering me up from all kinds of gloom.
I have a bad connotation associated with bread. It is silly that I have linked bread with the sick and convalescent. In olden days, when I was young, (oh..that is such an oxymoron) we used to carry a loaf of bread when visiting people recovering at the hospital. I do not know how it can help them except being easy to eat! Maybe the spongy texture assures them they would bounce back to life! Anyways, my connection with bread has grown from considering it as a humble, recovery food to a versatile tool in the hands of gourmet chefs.
Baking chemistry has always intrigued me. So I did some research to comprehend and make better breads. There are 4 main ingredients to bake any bread.
- Flour – All-purpose flour invariably
- Water to activate the yeast – more water makes the dough stickier, flat loaf with fewer holes and less water restricts the expansion of the dough ending up in a dry, hard loaf.
- Yeast – Instant yeast (also known as Bread machine yeast) or Active dry yeast, feeds on sugars in the flour and produces air bubbles(CO²).
- Salt – adds taste and controls the fermentation of yeast.
Any other ingredient added improves flavour and variation to our breads.
Kneading – the main process in making a good bread. It releases and aligns a protein in flour called gluten into strands. These strands trap air released by the fermenting yeast in irregular pockets. So do not tear or cut the dough while kneading. The best way to knead is to squish and roll, again and again with a little pressure. Continue for 8-10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth, elastic and silky (quite a workout for your hands).
Rising – it is a time consuming process. Warm temperature is important for rising and it also depends on the amount of yeast used in a recipe. In an hour, the activated yeast and gluten developed should rise the dough to double its size. Allow the rising in a greased bowl with a towel covering the top to save it from drying. Some recipes include punching and another rise before shaping the bread for baking. An additional hour of rising helps the yeast work further to develop better flavour. The dough will double in size after being punched down.
Baking – In the first few minutes in oven, yeast acts faster giving the dough a good rise and then it is deactivated by the increasing heat. The dough then starts cooking to reach its final destination.
This fundamental understanding of bread making helped me get a steady grip on this process. My first, Bread machine white bread here.
Now, I had to put all my learning to use…so I baked a special bread with additional ingredients. I love the herbs used in Mediterranean cuisine and a bread that incorporated its distinct taste was my best bet. After consulting some recipes on Rosemary garlic bread, I have adapted this recipe with added extra ingredients like chilli flakes and oregano. Oops, this bread seems to have more water! Will correct it next time!
- 2 tbsp active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water (80-90°F)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2½ cups bread flour/all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp dried rosemary
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp red chilli flakes
- ¼ tsp pepper powder
- spray bottle with water
- Olive oil to brush
- Take a cup of warm water, add yeast, sugar and salt.
- Mix well and let it stand for 10 minutes to foam.
- In a large bowl, take all purpose flour and add garlic powder.
- Add foaming yeast, olive oil and knead well for 10 minutes (or transfer to a stand mixer or bread machine on dough setting for kneading).
- When the dough comes together and is elastic add rosemary, oregano, black pepper and chilli flakes.
- Knead until everything mixes and the dough is still a little sticky.
- Transfer to bowl and cover the bowl with a towel.
- Let it do the first rising for an hour.
- Keep it in a warm place until it is doubled (allow it more time if the room temperature is low).
- When dough is doubled, transfer to a lightly floured surface and punch it down.
- Shape it into a round loaf and coat it with olive oil.
- Put it on an oiled baking tray and make cuts on the top using a sharp knife.
- Invert bowl over dough and allow it to rise a second time.
- When it is doubled in size (1 hour) gently brush top with olive oil
- Sprinkle rosemary and red chilli flakes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and bake bread for 12 minutes.
- Spray water on the top of the bread and increase temperature to 400°F.
- After 5 minutes open door of the oven and spray water again on the baking bread.
- Bake until top is a pleasant golden brown (15 minutes more).
- Place the baked loaf on a wire rack to cool.
Serve it warm or store it in a closed container and reheat it for a later use. The smell of this bread is amazing and eating it warm is a lovely experience. This hearty and garlicky bread with the Mediterranean herbs is a welcome change to ordinary plain bread. A dip made with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and ground pepper will add more flavour to this bread. It is very appetizing and you will love it just like me!