Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Nothing is more satisfying in the kitchen than baking your own bread. And, if you've never done it before, it's easier than you think and never fails to impress your friends! This is a herb bread, so I could incorporate some garden ingredients, but you could just as easily leave the herbs out or add any other flavourings you fancy.

I use several 'proves' (allowing the bread to rise) in this recipe, which gives the bread a lighter, finer crumb, but this isn't as necessary if you're using the recipe for a foccacia or a pizza base. Another thing I find makes life easier, is to buy a large container of dried yeast, rather than the little sachets, and store it in the freezer. Ours has kept for at least six months this way.

Herb bread

4 cups plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
1 pint tepid water
2 tbs dried yeast
2 tbs sugar
1 tbs salt

Herb mix:
A handful of mixed herbs, such as thyme, sage, rosemary, chives, oregano, etc.
2 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)
1 pinch of crushed dried chillies
3 tbs olive oil
1 pinch salt

Make a well in the centre of a pile of flour. Carefully pour the water into the well and sprinkle over the yeast, sugar and salt.

Use a fork to work the flour into the water, continue til the dough comes together, so your hands don't get gooey when you stick them in.

Knead the dough with your hands, turning and pushing it into itself and adding extra flour as needed, til your ball feels smooth and silky and springs back when you poke it. This should take about ten minutes. Form it into a neat ball and score a cross in the top with a knife.
Place the ball in a large, floured bowl, cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place. Leave to prove for 45 minutes to an hour, til the ball doubles in size.

While the dough is proving, tear your herbs and place in a mortar and pestle with the garlic, chili, salt and oil. Pound to combine (you can easily remove the garlic skins once the cloves have been crushed), until the oil takes on the vibrant green of the herbs.

Remove the dough from the bowl and 'knock it back', meaning punch the air out of it. Knead in the herb mixture til well incorporated and, again, form into a neat ball, score the top and leave to prove til it doubles in size again.

Knock the dough back once more and halve it. Shape each half into a loaf (I plaited one and left the other plain) and place each in a floured loaf tin. Leave to prove again for another 20 minutes before baking in a hot oven for around 30 minutes or until the loaves have browned lightly and sound hollow when you tap them.
Serve with good butter.

From the garden: herbs, garlic.


  1. That sounds like a good keeper recipe. I will have to try that one. Back in my working life I was a bakery assistant, and I loved the herb and cheese loaves. If you want a very shiny, crusty top, spray with a very fine water mist just before going in the oven.

    They also had a gorgeous sunflower and honey loaf which I'll have to try making again one day.

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. I love trying new ones out.

  2. Thanks Chris. I'm still learning all the little tricks - Aldrum just taught me that one about misting the loaf. He was the baker round the house before I was. A sunflower and honey loaf sounds fantastic!