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Homemade Italian Bread w/ Herbs Galore

In reference to the herbs of this bread; this recipe is very simplified. You can literally add any herbs into the bread you want. Just make sure when adding herbs to try to stay between 1c to 2c added ingredients.

We've added caraway seeds, sauteed onions and garlic, roasted red peppers (make sure you add a little extra flour to compensate for the liquid from the onions, garlic, and peppers), rosemary, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax wheat germ, pesto, pine nuts.

This is a work and progress bread. You will add and take away and it may not look pretty, but it's going to be seriously delicious

I've never tried it with whole grain flour but I don't forsee why it wouldn't work. If you are going to use whole grain flour just replace the bread flour as well with the whole grain. Also you may have to add a little more yeast to make it rise. Like i said it's a work in progress, but it's still yummy.

When finished, top with a couple pieces of sliced avocado and eat away.

1 and 1/2 tsp. instant yeast (or, if you can't find instant yeast, use 1 pkg. active dry yeast and proof it first in 1 cup of the warm water)

3 cups warm water (between 105 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit)

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

2 cups bread flour

4 to 5 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour, plus more for the work surface

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. dried parsley

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced

In a bowl with the 3 cups warm water, dissolve 1 Tbsp. kosher salt. Pour this into a large mixer bowl. Add the instant yeast, 2 cups of bread flour, and 3 cups of the AP flour into the bowl. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed for a couple of minutes to combine. Stop the mixer, scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula, and switch to the dough hook. On low speed, add in 1 to 2 more cups of AP flour gradually, about 1/2 a cup at a time. Keep mixing until a cohesive dough begins to form, about 4 minutes. (It will be relatively loose and still kind of wet at this point, but it shouldn't be as soft as a thick liquid, if that's any help) IF YOU DON'T HAVE A MIXER, JUST USE YOUR HANDS. HAVE SOME FUN.

On a generously floured work surface, dump out the dough. For about 4 minutes, knead the dough firmly but gently by hand. It's okay to incorporate more flour as needed to keep it from sticking to your work surface at this point, but remember that this is meant to be a pretty soft dough. Once the dough is relatively smooth, place it into a large bowl that's been sprayed with vegetable spray, lightly oiled, or greased. Turn the dough over completely in the bowl, just once, so the bottom and top of the dough are both lightly coated. Lightly cover the top of the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap that's also been sprayed with vegetable oil, then cover the plastic loosely with a dish towel. Place the covered bowl in a warm place that's free from drafts. Let the dough rise until it's doubled in bulk. This will probably take at least an hour.

Gently dump the doubled dough out onto a lightly floured board (don't use too much flour at this point if you can help it; just enough to prevent sticking) and knead it for 5 more minutes. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts with a bench scraper or a sharp knife and place both pieces, side by side, back into the sprayed bowl (spray again if you think it's needed). Turn the dough, as before, to make sure it's lightly coated. Cover the bowl again with sprayed plastic wrap and a dish towel, and let the dough rise again in a warm spot until doubled; this may take up to an hour.

Gently dump the risen halves out onto a very, very lightly floured work surface and separate them. (The less extra flour you use now the better. Flour that gets incorporated into the dough at this point can leave ugly grayish streaks in the finished loaves.) One at a time, using your hands, shape each dough piece into a typical, Italian bread-style, oblong loaf.

Cover the loaves, on prepared baking sheet, with the sprayed plastic wrap and the dish towel. Let them rise one last time in a warm place, until almost doubled (about 30 minutes).

About 30 minutes before you'll be baking, set the oven to 500 degrees to preheat (when the loaves have risen and you're finally ready to place them in the oven, you'll immediately turn it down to 375 degrees.)

In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, dried herbs, minced garlic, and salt. Have a pastry brush ready. Once the loaves have risen, carefully score (aka slash) the tops with the edge of a sharp razor blade or a baker's lame (the lame is that little contraption pictured below, with the green handle; it's pronounced like the word "Tom"). This helps prevent the loaves from bursting haphazardly in the oven. Try not to score too deeply or you may deflate the loaves.

Brush the loaves with the herb oil, but only use half of it because you'll need to brush them again a few minutes after they're baked. Put the loaves of bread in the oven. Immediately turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Don't open the oven again for at least 15 minutes. The loaves are done when they are golden brown all over, and their internal temperature is about 200 to 210 degrees. Mine baked about 35 minutes. After the loaves are done, place them on a cooling rack, and after a few minutes brush them again with the herb olive oil mixture. This coating will be absorbed into the warm crust quickly, and it really helps make the bread what it is.

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