It’s been an interesting week, what with Paczki Day/Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday and V-day all in one week. This means that baking was at a low since goodies were at an all time high. My mother got the cookie/cupcake bug and a paczki is good enough for a month, really. On the cooking side, well, I just had no inspiration and it happens but it means that a weekly post was left to the last minute.
I decided on a bread for today. The house has been sorely absent of homemade bread for a while (sometime my family likes on a weekly basis) and I’ve been dying to try a crusty bread or something like it. So I dug out my official Game of Thrones cookbook (which if you don’t own and love period recipes, you need to!) and flipped open the crusty white bread recipe for some tips. I didn’t go off of that recipe per se, but it was rather helpful.
My recipe started out with the basic ‘farm’ recipe we use for white bread. I like it because I can do it off the top of my head and have made it successfully more times than I can count on my hands and toes. It’s a great, fluffy base and I know what it tastes like so I know how to play with it. Thankfully, the yeast was behaving (I had some bad yeast for a while and boy does it make a difference!) so I had this lovely, fluffy dough.
I added a good palmful of rosemary and thyme into the mix because I really like those flavors with a good strawberry jam or just butter. It adds a little something to the usual white bread. On top of it, I thought I’d play with some lemon juice to punch it up and put about a teaspoon in before the flour. I like it. It’s subtle and there’s a little something else to the flavor than just the herbs. I wouldn’t add more unless you’re going for a lemony flavor bread (which sounds fun by the way).
The tip, per the book, to the lovely crust was to place a baking dish under the pan with your dough while it bakes to crust it up. It works pretty well, though my oven bakes a LOT faster than their suggested time, so I almost ended up with blade loaves. I grabbed them out just in time. The result, because I didn’t use their recipe, was a lovely, semi-hard crust (which works for my family. I adore a good, thick crust, but they don’t). The inside was still the fluffy white bread I know from the farm.
On the plus side, it does look rather impressive on a plate and if you’re entertaining, isn’t that half the battle?
1 -2 tablespoons of dry, active yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup warm milk
1-2 tablespoons sugar and honey (about one of each or two of one)
4 tablespoons butter
pinch of salt
rosemary and thyme to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice
flour enough to make dough
Mix up your yeast, water, milk, sugar and honey and set in warm place to foam. Then mix in egg, butter (melted), salt, herbs, lemon juice. Once mixed, add in flour little at a time. I usually find that 3-4 cups works out. Knead lightly until dough is formed. Then, in separate, buttered/greased bowl, place dough in warm place to rise until dough its size. Punch down and split into loaves. Grease and dust the baking sheet with butter and flour. With a sharp knife, split the top of the loaves (I like ‘X’s’). Let rise again for 20-40 minutes. Bake in moderate to hot oven with baking dish of water (approx. 2 cups) below it. When crust is brown and sounds hollow to tap on it, then your bread is finished! Enjoy with whatever toppings you like!