Savory bread

Once my daughter brought a friend home for the weekend, who saw me baking bread. A few days later her friend sent us a lovely thank-you note with a watercolor view from our kitchen window and her grandfather’s recipe for oatmeal herb bread (typed on an antique manual typewriter). Almost every time when I try out a new bread recipe and ask my husband whether he likes it, he says, “It was good,” or “It was great,” only to add, “but I still like Claire’s bread the best.”

Claire’s bread is the reason why I started to grow summer savory, an herb I rarely use in cooking. I grow savory from seed until it’s strong and bushy and about to bloom, then I cut it down all at once and dry it. By late winter, the savory supply is gone, so my husband has to wait until mid-summer for more of his favorite bread. Even my son, until now a member of the Wonder Bread lobby, said it was good.

I made a few changes to the original recipe, including honey instead of molasses, whose flavor I don’t like; whole-wheat flour plus gluten for a lighter texture; more savory and no dried parsley. Like all bread, it should cool completely before cutting. This is not easy to enforce if you have a bread lover lurking in the kitchen, just waiting for you to turn your back.

Whole-Wheat Herb Bread

2 scant tablespoons active dry yeast

1/3 cup lukewarm water

2 tablespoons soft butter

½ cup dark honey

3 cups whole-wheat flour (preferably King Arthur white whole wheat flour)

3 cups bread flour

2½ teaspoons salt

4½ teaspoons gluten

2 cups hot water

1 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon finely crumbed dried crumbled basil

½ teaspoon anise seed

2½ teaspoons powdered summer savory

½ teaspoon finely crumbled dried thyme

1 egg

1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and let stand 10 minutes until foamy.

2. In the meantime mix the butter with the honey in a small bowl. Mix the flours with the salt and gluten in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the hot water and mix briefly.

3. Add the yeast mixture and the butter-honey. With the kneading attachment of the electric hand mixer, or with the stand mixer with kneading hook set on low, knead until a smooth dough forms. If the dough is too dry, add a little warm water; if it’s a little tacky, don’t worry and please don’t add more flour, otherwise the bread will be too dry.

4. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it. Turn the dough over once so it is evenly coated and cover with a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

5. Reserve 2-3 tablespoons of the oats and work the rest into the dough together with the dried herbs until well incorporated.

6. On a floured surface divide the dough into two equal pieces. Place them in greased loaf pans and cover with a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm, non-drafty place for 45 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

8. Mix the egg with 2 tablespoons cold water and brush onto the tops. Sprinkle with the reserved oats.

9. Place a jelly roll pan the lower rack of the oven. Fill it two-thirds with boiling water from a water kettle.

10. Bake 40 to 50 minutes until browned on top. If the bread makes a hollow sound when you knock on the bottom, it’s ready. Remove from the pan and let cool on a cake rack.

Makes two loaves

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