In honor of this week’s preparedness item–flour–I’m going to show you how to make one of my family’s favorite foods, Braided Herb Bread. It’s a lovely white bread chock full of savory herbs. I think it’s especially good with soup or a hearty salad. If you are already thinking that you could never make anything like this, you are wrong. I started making this before I’d ever successfully made a regular loaf of bread. As long as you have good yeast you should be fine. This bread is very forgiving.
(see that writing on the side of my bread machine pan? When I find a recipe that I love and make all the time, I write it on the side with a sharpie, that way I don’t have to get out my cookbook. That is just way too much work. I have recipes on all four sides of this pan.)
You will then roll each of these sections into a long, thin snakey-looking shape about 20-24 inches long (14-18″ if you’re making two smaller loaves). You can roll it out any way that catches your fancy, just don’t try to pull it that long; it will rip. Once you’ve made snakes out of all three sections of dough, pinch the ends together tightly on one side only.
Now we’re going to braid your bread! This will feel so blissfully domestic your head will almost explode. Feel free to call everyone around to admire your handiwork. (Remember to pinch the other end of your braid when you’ve finished!)
At this point you will pick up one end and gently tie the braid in a knot around itself, tucking the ugly ends underneath. This sounds complicated but it’s not. Promise.
Gorgeous! Now you’ll put your loaf on a cookie sheet and let it rise in a warm place until the dough has almost doubled in size (about 30-45 minutes depending on how warm the yeast is). Preheat your over to 350º and move the shelves around so there is plenty of room for your bread to grow. This sucker is going to get pretty big.)
Bake the bread for about 30-40 minutes until it’s done. But how are you supposed to know when it’s done exactly? Some people suggest turning the loaf over and tapping it to see if it sounds hollow. But who wants to touch 350º bread? Plus I don’t think bread really sounds all that hollow. Here is the way to tell if your bread is done: Get out your thermometer again. Bread is perfect when it’s 190º. Stick the thermometer into the middle of the loaf after 30 minutes and see what it says.
Remove your bread from the oven and slide it onto a cooling rack. Get a chilly stick of butter out of the fridge and unwrap it a bit. Rub the butter all over the loaf so it’s nice and shiny. I serve my Braided Herb Bread on a platter wrapped in a clean tea towel. Since it’s got such a lovely taste (and since you just rubbed butter all over the outside), it doesn’t really need to be served with butter. I just let everybody tear off a piece and pretend we’re French peasants. This bread definitely looks amazing, but it also tastes amazing. People will love you for this!