Saturday, June 24, 2006

Italian Aromatic Herb Bread

Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, Thyme. Aromas fill the summer with flavor and zest. Just the mention of these herbs invokes thoughts of savory roasts and fun filled evenings cooking delicious meats and fish on the grill. To compliment these great sensations what could be better than bread that brings these flavors together to balance a roasted chicken?

It is not clear where Pane alle Erbe, or Herb Bread, has its origins but it is widely used in Liguria, Tuscany and the Marche. It is a great favorite at dinner parties and very easy to prepare. Herb bread can be prepared well in advance and will be the perfect carbohydrate addition to any savory entrée. Sliced and grilled it is a perfect addition to before dinner Pinot Grigio to get the appetite going. Herb bread is a necessary element for any true Italian cook. Amaze and stupefy your guests, try this bread!


1 package active dry yeast (7 gr.)
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (200 gr.) Biga (you can substitute 7 gr. of yeast for biga)
3 ¾ cups (500 gr.) all-purpose unbleached flour
2 ½ teaspoons (10 gr.) salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon Rosemary (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon Thyme (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh Basil (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon Oregano (finely chopped)
3 tablespoons Olive Oil


Stir the sugar in the warm water. Dissolve the yeast in the water and let sit for 10 minutes until creamy. Place the biga in a large bowl. With a spoon, stir the yeast mixture.

In a small bowl quickly beat the egg with a fork. Stir in the chopped herbs.
Mix the all-purpose flour and the salt. Pour the flour mix into the bowl with the biga and mix for about 1 minute, just enough to get the flour and liquid together. Add the egg and herb mixture and the Olive Oil. Mix for about 3 minutes.


Knead on a floured surface for about 10 minutes.

First Rise:

Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Allow to rise about 2 hours, until doubled.

Shaping and Second Rise:

Place on a lightly floured surface. Divide into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Let the dough balls sit, covered with a moist towel, for 5 minutes.

Roll each ball into a log about 18 inches long.

Place the three logs next to each other about 1 inch apart. Take move the first log over the top of the middle log. Take the third log and move over what is now the center position. Continue working the logs into a rope the entire length. Push the two extremities under the end of the rope closing the knots at each end

Cover with a heavy slightly humid towel and let rise for at least 1 hour, until doubled.


At least 30 minutes before baking, turn the oven on to 450 degrees. Five minutes before baking dust the top of the dough with flour and delicately dimple, with your fingers, the top of the dough. The dimples will disappear when baking but will allow the dough to rise evenly. Place in the oven. After 10 minutes reduce the temperature to 400 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes. If using a baking pan, remove the bread from the pan and place the bread directly on the oven rack. Continue for another 15-20 minutes.

Cool on a rack.


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Blogger Leigh said...

Oh, the bread of life indeed. I can smell this bread, even before it is baking.

7:59 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Diva Leigh - this is really a great bread, fantastic with a glass of Prosecco before dinner or an afternoon treat.

7:01 AM


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