Italian-Style Herb Bread from "The Bread Bible"
After some trepidation, I finally attempted the Italian-Style Herb Bread from Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible. The hubby and I are avid picnickers and my parents had just gotten me a snazzy portable picnic table I can't wait to try out tomorrow.
Several things made me nervous about this bread:
1.) The only other cooked stuffing bread I'd attempted prior to this was onion rolls (also from BB; it's the only bread book I have) and they turned out well, but the filling didn't quite blend as well as I'd like.
2.) I'm not a fan of sun-dried tomatoes, so I knew I was leaving those out. I considered adding more olive oil to the sausauge, onion and garlic stuffing, but decided against that and instead drizzed just a touch of trufflle oil (a gift from a neighbor I gave the grilled flatbread I tried last week) to over it before it cooled.
3.) I've never baked a bread with the herbs directly in the crust.
4.) I was forced to make substitions: Chambord for the anise liquer that went into the stuffing and fresh chervil instead of dry.
So, with all that in mind, I began. I'll let my photos tell the story of the journey.
There's quite a bit of prep for this loaf, between chopping the onions and mozzarella, etc., but that's the time I let the herbs soak in olive oil.
The next step was to combine the slurry with the herbs, wine and salt and "beat until foamy."
That did confuse me a bit, but I beat hard using a whisk until there was indeed a layer of foam on the top.
Next I added the flour, kneaded, and while the dough rose worked on the filling. Again, I substituded Chambord for the anise (we don't drink, and I had some on top of the fridge I was given as a gift forever ago) and truffle oil for sun-dried tomatoes (also a gift):
The next sequence is the baking:
The next part, folding, flipping and scoring, made me especially nervous:
Unfortunately, then I failed miserably....instead of making 1" cuts on an angle, I made them vertically. At first, I tried to fix it, but that wasn't working, so I simply pressed on.
One thing that would've been extremely helpful, however, is to know how long across the loaf the cuts needed to be. I'd never had this kind of bread before, so I wasn't even really sure how it should look.
And -- as is often the case with my breads -- somewhere in the oven things went wrong. When I pulled out the loaf, it was all I could do not to cry. I might be edible (I'll wait until it cools to try it) and maybe we can even take it on our picnic with us, but I think it's took dark and doesn't seem right somehow.
The third "arm" I took off to get a better image of the filling, which did bake into the dough well, so that's good at least.
The crust is definitely on the "extra crispy" side, which isn't great either.
Well, I'll try it again. In retrospect, I should've known better than to let it go for the full 40 minutes as my oven runs hot and often I have to cover the top of my white bread loaves with foil. Lessons learned, I guess.
On the brigth side, the crumb looked and tasted marvellou! I was surprised at how well the pepper and sausage came through. So that's good.