One of my favorite lazy weekend activities is making bread. After mixing the ingredients and kneading any stresses away, you get to sit back, relax, bake and then enjoy. The smell of fresh baked bread wafting through the home brings back memories of childhood or of fabulous vacations past. This simple bread uses herbs, either fresh or dried and the easy technique of baking in the oven with a pan of simmering water yields a thicker crust much like a loaf you’d find in the hills of Tuscany or the back streets of Paris.
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup (235 mil) warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil or 2-1/2 teaspoons fresh basil (or dried Italian herb mix can be substituted)
1-1/2 teaspoons dried parsley or 2 teaspoons fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried or fresh chives
3 cups (410 g) flour plus more as needed
Mix yeast, warm water, and white sugar together in a large bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes until mixture starts to foam or become bubbly.
Stir in olive oil, salt, herbs, and gradually mix in the flour, stirring to incorporate. Dough may be somewhat sticky. In this case, gradually add more flour to stiffen dough.
Knead dough about 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, and turn to cover the surface of the dough with oil. Cover with a damp dish towel. Place bowl in a warm place and allow to rise for one hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Punch dough down to release air. Add a few tablespoons flour and knead lightly. Shape into a loaf- either oval or round. Place onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet and allow it to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven for 15 minutes to 400 F / 250c. Fill a shallow baking dish with water and place in bottom on oven- either on oven floor or lowest rack.
Using a sharp knife dipped in flour, score top of loaf making a few slices diagonally. Turn oven down to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake for 35 minutes. Bread should be golden bread and emit a hollow sound when you tap the top. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing.