Saturday, December 17, 2011

GARLIC HERB BRAID: Homebaked Bread for the Holidays

LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW!

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we’ve no place to go,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

It doesn’t show signs of stopping,
And I’ve bought some corn for popping,
The lights are turned way down low,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!
- Sammy Cahn and Jules Styne, 1945


Will it snow this year? I find it extremely difficult to find that old holiday spirit while the rain beats against the windowpanes, as the hail clatters onto the balconies and the clouds hang low and menacing, the sky a steely gray. The lights glitter, diamonds in the shimmering black puddles, in the inky night, the branches crack and sway, the leaves spatter onto the sidewalk below as the wild wind whips the streaming rain cascading down in torrents across the square. Doors creak, we snuggle down deeper under the blankets; we love the coziness, the storms outside are romantic when one is safe inside, yet the approaching festivities call not for rain but snow! We awake to the gray, dismal morning, no sun appears at noon, and we search, alas, in vain, for that old holiday spirit.

Snow somehow adds the jolly to Christmas, the happy to Hanukkah. Slipping on the boots, buttoning up our warmest, snuggliest coats, burying our chins deep into mountains of scarf and, gloved hand in gloved hand, out we prance through the crunching white, the sun bright and cheerful and tip toe our way into town. Everything looks so sparkling clean, so lovely and festive to a backdrop of snow! The holiday songs carried to us on the wind and piped into every boutique somehow just sound merrier, the window displays more vibrant and playful, our fellow shoppers gleeful, convivial. Laden down with sacks and bags, boxes beribboned, we hurry home, noses red, cheeks rosy, giggling like children on Christmas morning, to curl up together in the corner of the sofa, hands cupped around steaming mugs to watch the snowflakes flurry in the Winter Wonderland on the other side of the icy, misty glass.


Last year furious snowstorms, tempêtes, raged across Europe; images of frenzied white splashed across our television screens for days and days on end, cars buried beneath mountains of immaculate white, families stranded on roads large and small across the continent in droves; hysteria set in as the blizzards seemed to go on forever. Europe, North America: one only had to look at the map to see just how far the fury of Mother Nature reached, every country, every city, every town. Except Nantes. It was if we were on some small, isolated island in the middle of the ocean with temperate breezes blowing gently over just our region. Around us swirled snow, snow and more snow, yet we had….nothing. Every single day all winter long I turned on the television and stared in envy and desperation, stared out the window in disappointment, begging the weather gods to bring me just a day or two of gorgeous, sparkling, glorious white flurries. And nothing. Nada. Niente. Rien.

So, this year I stare forlornly out the windows as the weather does flip flops, torrential rain gives way to a streak of milky sunshine, a flash of brilliance, then to a clatter of hail. The blue skies cloud over just as the shoes, coats and gloves are slipped on, the holiday excitement and the desire to shop flutters around us, then as quickly as it came * poof * the skies turn somber, moody, an obscure mask of grey, leaden, melancholy. This Florida girl dreams of great gusts of powdery snow, winter white that still has the power to charm. Holiday cheer is just not holiday cheer without it.


So, needless to say, we have been slow getting started on the decorating, the shopping, the meal planning. The Hanukkah and Christmas enthusiasm seems to hit us one at a time, the hearty glee overtaking our spirits like a revolving door. We hem and haw and can’t decide, one blathers on, trying to convince the others, infuse the conversation with excitement and mirth, while everyone else slides down into the cushions of the livingroom sofa and shrugs in indecision. Yet, the closer the holidays inch, as Simon’s homecoming draws nigh, as the occasional ray of light breaks through the heavy clouds illuminating our moods, the passion mounts, the holiday fervor begins to take hold, the excitement spreads little by little through the house. Like Santa’s little elves, we begin to draw up lists; like impatient children awaiting the coming of Jolly Old Saint Nick we huddle two by two behind bedroom doors, whispering frantically, getting suggestions and opinions… and I bake.

I spent a couple of days baking cookies for JP to bring to colleagues: Gingerbread Macarons, Chocolate Madeleines and Chocolate Chip Cookies, absolute piles of them. A fabulous Mile High Sponge Cake with Chocolate Whipped Topping from Abby Dodge for a review of her book The Weekend Baker on Huffington Post and a scrumptious Chocolate Meringue Pie from Nancie McDermott’s Southern Pies. And today, being once again in the mood to bake, as JP stood in the doorway, hands on hips, iron eye shifting from me to the pile of sweet baked treats piling up on the edge of the kitchen table, I decided that it was time to go savory. I pulled out my Taste of Home Baking book, which was so generously offered by Taste of Home for our From Plate to Page goodie bags, and found this Garlic Herb Bread. I knew that this would be delightful with soup for a rainy, cold winter evening meal.


And the bread was a stunner! It came together so quickly and easily – this is a wonderful bread for beginners and baking novices! And rising time was so fast I wondered if it would actually work! But the braided dough doubled in size faster than it takes to write a letter to Santa; I popped it into the hot oven and in 25 minutes I had an incredibly perfect, gorgeous braided loaf, filling the kitchen with the marvelous aroma of yeast, garlic and herbs. Slicing through the loaf revealed the perfect springy, light yet moist texture of a Challah or egg-enriched bread, a lovely pale yellow flecked with the jade of dried basil, dill and rosemary. One bite and I knew that this bread would be made over and over again, each time with a new combination of herbs or maybe chopped sun-dried tomatoes, bits of feta…or even dried fruits; the perfect loaf for either savory or sweet! Just the perfect homemade, freshly baked bread! Easy and fast, worry- and fuss-free – the ideal recipe for your holiday table!

And as you may already know, registrations are now open for From Plate to Page Spring 2012, the original, the only hands-on intensive food writing and styling/photography workshop, to be held in Somerset, UK, where I will once again be one of the presenters, leading workshops on food writing. Register now if you want to spend a weekend with us honing your skills and supercharging your creativity!


This month’s Bread Baking Day #45 – the monthly bread baking event created by Zorra, is being hosted by wonderful Cindystar and, of course, this month is the Christmas Edition. I would love to share this wonderful Garlic Herb Bread for Bread Baking Day #45! Everyone should have one or two beautiful braided loaves on their holiday table.

I am also sending it to my lovely, talented friend Susan of Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting.

And a warm and festive Thank You to Taste of Home for the kind and generous support and sponsorship of our Plate to Page Workshop – I love both this gorgeous cookbook and my red Taste of Home apron! To all of my readers: this Baking cookbook is a must have for every home baker and makes a wonderful holiday gift!


GARLIC HERB BRAID for the holidays
From Taste of Home Baking *

Yield: 1 loaf

* my changes are in italics

4 – 4 ½ cups (approximately 560 – 630 g) all-purpose flour (I only needed a total of about 3 ½ - 490 g flour)
3 Tbs sugar
2 packages (1/4-oz each / total 14 g) active/quick-rise (or traditional) dry yeast
2 tsps dried basil (I used a rounded 1 tsp)
1 ¾ tsp dried dill weed (I used 1 tsp)
¾ tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1 ½ tsp salt
¾ tsp garlic powder
¾ cup (200 ml) lowfat (2% fat) milk
½ cup (scant 125 ml) water
4 Tbs (57 g) unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg
1 – ½ Tbs (15 – 22 g) butter, melted (I used salted butter)

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (210 g) of the flour, the sugar, yeast and the seasonings (the dried basil, dill and rosemary, the garlic powder and the salt). Place the milk, water and cubes of butter in a small saucepan and heat gently to about 120° - 130°F (50° - 54°C) (I didn’t use a thermometer, just heated until the butter was just melted and the liquid was just hotter than body temperature – I could feel a comfortable heat on the back of my hand). Add the very warm liquid – not hot – to the dry ingredients in the large mixing bowl and stir or beat just until moistened and smooth. Beat in the egg (I used a wooden spoon for all the blending and beating) until smooth. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 4 – 6 minutes, adding more flour little by little if the dough is sticky. Form the dough into a ball, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes.

Lightly grease a large baking sheet – or line with parchment or oven paper. Evenly divide the dough into thirds. Shape each piece into a long rope – 15 – 18 inches (38 – 45.5 cm) long and places the ropes on the prepared baking sheet. Braid (rather tightly). Pinch the ends of the dough to seal and tuck them underneath the loaf. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and then the clean kitchen towel and let rise until doubled, 25 – 30 minutes.

Before rising

Preheat the oven to to 375°F (190°C). Remove the kitchen towel and the plastic wrap and bake the loaf in the preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes until risen and the loaf is a deep golden brown. Melt the butter over low heat. Remove the braided loaf from the oven and quickly but thoroughly brush all over the top and sides with the melted butter. I allowed the bread to cool and brushed the loaf with melted butter a second time as well. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

42 comments:

WiseMóna said...

Jamie... This is beautiful ... And I can tell from looking at the photos that it tasted great! The chef makes bread daily at work and uses a recipe very similar for one of his sweet loafs (he puts sultanas in his) - it is a big seller. We got our snow yesterday so it has started to feel like Christmas although the snow has already melted and the sun shines today! Enjoy the season...

A Spoonful of Yumm said...

you weave magic in every word you write. i end up imagining the things you write. i like it that you always post rare ,classic pictures. the garlic herb braid looks fabulous...i've not baked bread till date.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I hate rainy Christmasses, but I love sunny and frosty or snowy ones... It seems that it should snow, so let's keep our fingers crossed!

That savory braid looks beautiful and must taste really good! I cannot resist non-sweet yeasty goodies.

Cheers,

Rosa

Rosie @ Sweetapolita said...

Such a beautiful post and amazing bread, Jamie. As I mentioned on twitter, if I made this beautiful bread I would be so very proud, since I've really not made much bread before. I'm intrigued--especially when you say it's good for beginners. :) You're such a lovely writer, among many other things, and I wish you a wonderful holiday! xo

Sanjeeta kk said...

Have not come out of your chocolate Madeline and here you are with yet another stunner...m baking it tomorrow!
Have been baking breads for some time but this beaded one with garlic & herbs has certainly stolen my heart..
Hugs.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

What a perfect accompaniment to soup! I would make more than one loaf and keep one in the freezer. And as to the snow? Well, none predicted for us this year, at least not before both Chanukah and Christmas have passed. I'm fine with that. Snow shoveling isn't my favorite way to spend the holidays!

El said...

There is nothing like homemade bread. I agree about the Christmas spirit/ weather relationship. It would be nice to have it snow for a week and then resume warmer weather!

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

Your braid is picture perfect, Jamie. What a treat that would be on Christmas day. My bread skills leave a lot to be desired but beautiful pictures like yours inspire me to give it a try. I love the aroma of a loaf baking in the oven. Happy holiday wishes to you and your family.

Fresh Local and Best said...

You are right, it doesn't feel like Christmas without snow. This is lovely garlic herb bread. It looks like you slaved all day to make it. I'll bookmark it as I am a beginner bread baker.

Lisa said...

What a beautiful braid - an absolute stunner of a loaf. Garlic and herb bread of any sort slays me, I could eat the whole loaf, and I'm dead serious when I say that. I can only imagine uncoiling and tearing open the braid - the scent of herbs and garlic releasing with each twist. OK, need to stop NOW.

On another note - D was singing 'Let it Snow' all night long, last night. It was stuck in my head when I woke up. Finally got rid of it and then I come here and the first thing I see is....ACKK! It's back! lol

Tickled Red said...

Where always have our fingers crossed for snow on Christmas but it very, very rarely happens. I am so going to makes this for our Italian Feast of 7 Fishes...it'll go perfectly :D

Barbara Bakes said...

I love how easy this gorgeous loaf is to make. I've got the Taste of Home Baking cookbook. I'm going to have to pull it out and bake this loaf soon.

mycustardpie.com said...

Fully festive here in Dubai with huge trees in the malls, massive stollen bakes, present shopping and the like....no snow of course.
Have a wonderful Christmas.
Love that gorgeous loaf....you are clever.

mycustardpie.com said...

Fully festive here in Dubai with huge trees in the malls, massive stollen bakes, present shopping and the like....no snow of course.
Have a wonderful Christmas.
Love that gorgeous loaf....you are clever.

Nicole said...

"Stunner" is right! Looks like it would feel great to sink your teeth into....
Hoping for snow as I head to Massachusetts. We have snow pants and boots at the ready. (And are very excited about them) New England girl, I am.

JavelinWarrior said...

I moved southern US (to Virginia Beach) earlier this year and I completely agree - it's tough to get into the holiday spirit without white flurries to set the mood. I don't so much need drifts of snow (that just means more shoveling), but I miss the white flakes drifting downwards :) And once again, such a gorgeous braid...

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

Mmmmmmmmmm, bread and garlic...two of my favorite things! That loaf looks delicious. I'm hoping for snow here in CT, too, but I won't complain about the oil bill!

Cake Duchess said...

"Let it snow" is just a beautiful holiday song. I dream of temps even in the 60's this time of year (it's still almost 80 every day). Your bread is fluffy and gorgeous. I'm ready for savory baking and can't wait to give this a try this weekend. xx

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That braid really is a stunner isn't it! :D And we've had the oddest weather ever here too. It's cold and we're in the height of Summer in Australia!

Ivy said...

Jamie the bread looks beautiful. We make a similar sweet bread in Greece called Tsoureki which is in Volume 2 of my cookbook. Have never made a savory one so thanks for the lovely idea.

Jill @ MadAboutMacarons said...

Jamie, thanks for such a cheery post. Feel the same about this lack of snow but quite glad for the travelling part to meet up with family, though. Loved all your photos (I have a particular love for Doris Day - she always brings a huge smile.)
Your husband and colleagues are so lucky with all of your sumptious treats - and the garlic braid is definitely crossing its dough for snow, eh? Looks beautiful. Happy holidays!

domenicacooks said...

It's been awhile since I've baked bread. Yours looks beautiful and I'll bet would be delicious accompanied by a nice bowl of soup. Nice to see a post on something savory to counter all the cookie posts out there! Wishing you a delicious holiday.

Kiran @ KiranTarun.com said...

Gorgeous bread, Jamie!! And I love looking at those classic pictures... so regal :D

Happy Holidays!!

Priscilla - She's Cookin' said...

I've grown accustomed to not having snow at Christmas, but I do miss that special festive feeling that it adds during the holidays. Lovely bit of nostalgia and your beautiful golden braid just might get me baking!

Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris said...

This is perfect for my Italian side..I love these flavors!!

Priya said...

Stunning flavourful gorgeous braid..

Deeba PAB said...

You tempt me so; so much may I add? Gorgeous bread Jamie, and the flavours...YUM! Perfectly braided too; like the way I used to braid the teens plait {no longer, sigh}. I am hungry for bread,and can see a very pleased JP in the doorway! Happy holidays my lovely! No snow here but it's bitterly cold! Brrrrrrrr...

Unknown said...

I guess I'm more a scientist than a baker, because I always puzzle over the why of a recipe's instruction; particularly when I see a certain technique being used in many recipes without any discussion of its merits.

My questions for today:
- what is the benefit of a wooden spoon for mixing? A kneading hook seems to do a so much better job of developing the gluten.
- why the obsession with warming ingredients for a yeast dough? It makes the dough rise more quickly which means less flavor development and a smaller window of time for baking before the dough is over-proofed. I always use room temperature or even cold ingredients - I prefer the results, though they require a bit more patience.

Jamie said...

@Unknown: Your visits, comments and questions are welcome although I am neither a professional baker nor a chemist. Practice is my teacher and just doing this over and over again helps me understand enough of the why's to be able to succeed more recipes.
- wooden spoon... I meant that I use a wooden spoon instead of a stand mixer with a bread hook or a food processor simply because I have neither and a good old fashioned wooden spoon is my happy and workable alternative. Which proves one can get excellent results without fancy equipment or appliances.
- Personally I find that yeast rises much more predictably with warm liquid. I have had much better luck. And this is one recipe that is great BECAUSE it pulls together, rises and bakes so fast and easily!

German Perez Diaz said...

very good, nice bread, is very good for your part to encourage people to cook his own bread. In england a single slice of normal bread have 1g of salt, it´s very important back to the basic ans tasty breads. thanks and merry christmas!

Lisa said...

Totally agree with SNOW making the Christmas. Last year we went to see the Nutcracker and after the show, outside it had just begus to snow. A light layer of the white magic lay on the car and ground. It was such a beautiful magic feeling.

Anh said...

what beautiful bread! Delicious!

Nuts about food said...

We have been waiting for snow as we are about to head off to the mountains. It looks like our wish was granted. Up until a few days ago it was totally green there, unheard of this time of year. This looks like a perfect beginner recipe for me!

Helene Dsouza said...

u have hail over there? I havent seen those for ages I actualy remember only once hail in my childhood. It seems like snowing in the alps, got some snow now in france? I am actualy glad that I am not in the cold.
I love garlic herb breads and your braid looks adorable. I wish I cut have a slice or 2.

Fahad Khan said...

The bread looks beautiful,Jamie.Nothing is more soul-satisfying than a toasted slice of herb bread(Or braid,in this case!) with butter on a cold winter evening.With soup,even better!
I have a little question - why do we start with 1 and 1/2 cups of flour and add the rest later on?Why cannot we use all of it in one go?Just asking.:-)
Thank you!

Jamie said...

@Fahad Kahn: Thanks so much! And the initial bit of flour is used in the sponge in which the yeast activates and begins to work. The rest is then added to create the dough which then, in turn, is left to rise.

Junglefrog said...

I can still remember that from last year; we all had snow, even our little country that never gets any was buried in snow and we had a white christmas.. Which had been years and years since that last happened! And I also remember we tweeted quite a bit about you not having any. God it seems like such along time ago already and here we are having another christmas. No snow whatsoever here unfortunately this year. I do agree that snow makes it all so more festive and pretty.. *sigh* Your gorgeous bread however looks beautiful!

Fahad Khan said...

Oh,I see - it is used for activating the yeast!How silly on my part!Hehe.
And Jamie,you make me giggle,every time you write 'Khan' as 'Kahn'.LOL,hehehe.

Jamie said...

@Fahad Khan - oops ha ha ha... wonder why I do that?

Mairi@Toast said...

Well there is no chance of snow in Auckland...but we have grey, wet & wild to ring i 2012...happy that decided on cocktail party rather than BBQ! It also means the perfect day for baking & this bread sounds a real treat.

Cindystar said...

amie, your bread looks gorgeous!
Hope you had a great holiday time, no snow here as well and a few on the mountains, ski lovers are very disappointed ... I heard yesterday on TV news that in Paris the temperature raised 14° ... unbelievable! :-)
Wish you a sparkling 2012, full of joy and serenity, bbd recap will be on-line soon, I am working at it! :-)

p.s.: I registered for Somerset ... hope to be lucky to come!

Jamie said...

@cindystar - Une très bonne et belle année à toi - auguri - and I was very excited when I saw your name on the P2P list!

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