One of my cooking goals for myself is to eventually reach a point in which I am making 99% of our bread at home from scratch. Homemade bread is cheaper and — more importantly — nearly always tastes better than store-bought bread. So one of my (many, many) baby steps towards reaching this goal was to try Pastor Ryan’s Bloomin’ Herb Bread from the Pioneer Woman’s website. I wanted a showy, delicious bread to serve for dinner when having company (although this bread is so good, I plan to make it regularly whether we have guests over or not). I must thank my sister-in-law, Kalyn, for first recommending this recipe to me.
Still being new to bread making, I wanted a practice run before serving the bread to guests. So the weekend before our small dinner party, I made my first attempt at the herb bread. I decided upon fresh rosemary for the herb, so I snipped the leaves from about 5 sprigs and stirred them into the melted butter. I used active yeast that, as the recipe recommends, I sprinkled over the water (which I had warmed to about 100 degrees). I let the yeast/water mixture set for 10 minutes or so before pouring it into the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer along with the rest of the ingredients.
It was a chilly fall day when I made the bread, so the inside of our house was chilly, as well. I ended up helping the dough along as it rose by pouring boiling water into a 9 x 13 pan and then setting the bowl with the dough on a wire rack above the pan of steaming water. I did this twice in the course of the afternoon, and within 3 hours the dough had nicely doubled in size.
I followed the baking instructions on the recipe, removing the lid from my Dutch oven after 30 minutes and allowing it to bake another 15. A fairly hard crust formed on the exterior of the bread, and it was very dark, even black, in spots. While the inside of the bread was soft and absolutely perfect, I wanted the exterior to be perfect, as well. Therefore, when I made the bread again the following weekend, I left the lid on the Dutch oven for all but 5 minutes of the 45 minute total bake time. Doing so prevented the dark spots on the bread from forming and saved the crust from becoming as hard and crunchy. Next time, I may tweak the procedure yet again by lessening the overall time in the oven by 5 minutes.
When John and I ate the herb bread the first time, we pulled off a chunk of bread at a time. For company, I sliced the bread before serving it, which was slightly uncomfortable to do, as the bread was still very hot from the oven. I arranged the slices back into the original shape of the loaf in the Dutch oven (now lined with a clean cloth) so that the “blooming” feature of the bread would not be completely lost.
Even with the hard crust, this bread was a 4-star winner. I highly recommend using fresh rosemary as the herb, as it was utterly fantastic. I want to experiment with other herbs in this loaf, but I have a feeling that rosemary will remain my top choice. While the bread was best on the first day, it continued to be soft and tasty for several days afterward. John especially enjoyed the leftover slices as the bread for a ham and cheese sandwich.
Blooming Herb Bread
20 oz. weight (about 4 cups) bread flour
8 fluid oz. water
4 fluid oz. melted butter with chopped herbs of choice (such as chives, rosemary or thyme)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp active or instant yeast (if active, sprinkle yeast over the water to let it start to work before mixing it in)
1. Combine all ingredients together in a stand mixer with a dough hook for about 10 minutes (it can be done by hand–it just takes longer).
2. Allow the dough to sit out with plastic wrap over it for 1-4 hours to double in size.
3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
4. After the dough has doubled in size, it should be kneaded for a minute or two so that the yeast can redistribute. Form the dough into a dome and place in a covered cast iron pan after coating it with olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Cut a large ‘X’ into the surface of the bread dough so it can bloom.
5. Bake on the center rack of your oven for 30 minutes with the lid on, them remove the lid to finish it off for another 15 to 30 minutes.
Yield: 8 servings