Prep 3 hrs
Cook 30 mins
For ages I've been trying to successfully bake bread. I mean, I've made plenty of bread that came out okay (and plenty that were terrible) and I even bought a bread machine to do my kneading (because I suck at kneading). I've made lots of bread using the bread machine, but while they were all decent enough, I've not been able to achieve my "bread nirvana". I think every one that bakes bread has that one awesome special loaf that represents perfection that they strive for, and my desires were for a very soft interior with a nice soft crust, topped with plenty of nice herbs. I never have been able to make that moist soft bread I've wanted (my previous efforts always came out tough or spongy) until now! After doing much research on the finicky and irritating art of breadmaking, tinkering with and altering a couple recipes, and doing much trial and error, I've finally succeeded in making an awesomely delicious loaf of bread. So, enjoy the fruits of my labor!
- 1⁄4 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1⁄2 cups mashed potatoes (cooled to room temp.)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄2 tablespoon thyme
- 1⁄2 tablespoon sage
- 1⁄2 tablespoon rosemary
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1⁄2 tablespoon instant yeast
- cornmeal (as needed)
For the Bread Wash
- cracked peppercorn
- italian seasoning
- olive oil
- First off, a note on the mashed potatoes: I use instant potato flakes to just make enough mashed potatoes for the recipe. I strongly suggest using milk in place of the water that the instant potato directions call for, as it comes out much creamier. Also, make sure you cool the potatoes to room temperature - don't want to kill your yeast!
- Place all ingredients (except for cornmeal) in a bread machine according to the recommended order and use the dough cycle (for anyone wanting to do this by hand, my machine kneads for about 20 minutes, then let's it rise for about 1 hr.).
- As the machine is kneading, take a peek at the dough after about 5-10 minutes and make sure it doesn't look too wet or too dry (if it does, add some water/flour accordingly).
- Once the 1 hour rise is done, shape the dough into desired shape. I personally like a swirly bun shape (tucking the end of the dough under so it doesn't come unraveled).
- Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on a cookie sheet, and place the dough on top of it.
- Now cover the dough with a towel, and mist the towel with some water. Let it rise for 30 minute - 1hr. (however long it takes to double in size) in a nice warm place (I like to briefly turn the oven on so it's warm, then turn it off and place the dough inside to rise).
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (remove your dough first if you let it rise in there!). Place a pan with 2 inches of water on the bottom rack of the oven while it's preheating.
- Brush your loaf with olive oil, then bake it for 30 minutes. The oven should be nice and steamy.
- As soon as the bread is done, brush it again with olive oil, and then grate some peppercorns over it, then sprinkle with some salt and Italian seasoning.
- If you like a crispy hard crust, then you can just leave the bread out in the open to cool for 20 minutes. If you want it soft and nice (like I do) then cover the bread pan with tin foil (make sure the edges are sealed) and let it sit for 20 minutes before cutting it.