Shepherd’s Bread, from Beth Hensperger’s book Bread for all Seasons, is the May challenge for the Bread Baking Babes baking group.
Thank you to Karen of Bake My Day  for hosting the challenge - this bread caught my interest, seeing the beauty of
Karen's loaves and having enjoyed reading Ms. Hensperger’s book :^)
In the introduction to this book’s Springtide chapter (Shepherd’s Bread is included in this chapter as a ‘May’ bread)
the author wrote “On Memorial Day weekend, the Basques…hold their annual picnics. They are descendants of shepherds who came to the United States and settled in the agricultural communities of the California Sierras, Idaho’s Rocky Mountains, and the Nevada foothills...”.
We took a trip once to northern Nevada - I remember reading about Basque culture and the history of sheepherding there. This is a link to an old photo of an actual Basque shepherd in Nevada – the countryside looks bright and snowy, just as it was when we visited.
I imagine it must have been a hard life in that territory, raising and herding animals, and wonder what it would have been like cooking and baking ‘at camp’. Ms. Hensperger notes “Shepherd’s bread is traditionally baked in a cast-iron pan submerged in a small, ember-lined pit covered with dirt.”
This bread was baked in a cast-iron dutch oven and I baked it dark to try and emulate what might happen,
baking with coals :^)
a close-up of the crust:
Thinking the shepherds might have baked with sourdough, I made this bread with sourdough, following Susan’s (wildyeastblog) Norwich Sourdough formula ( I just saw MC’s wonderful Meet The Baker post profiling Diane Andiel  and Diane’s version of Norwich Sourdough – thanks to MC for writing about Diane and her bread, and Susan and Diane for baking it, inspiring this effort!):
The bread has a softness (olive oil having an effect?) and a sweetness; the crust is dark, but not crisp –
very pleased with the flavor and the softness of the crumb:
My husband loved this bread, and said, “Mmm, this is really good brown bread - should be having this with
some baked beans with molasses”.
Sounds like good camp food, doesn’t it?
Happy baking everyone!
Submitted to YeastSpotting  :^)