Baking Homemade Herbed Bread

Add herbs to homemade bread for tasty, unusual recipes.

| October/November 2011

  • Make delicious breads and butters with the recipes in this article.
    Photo by Howard Lee Puckett

I failed the first time I tried to make bread. As a matter of fact, I failed the first 10 times I tried to make bread. I was in college and had decided to give breadmaking a try in the days before classes were widely available.

Cheddar Chive Biscuits
Whole Wheat Bread with Oregano
Raisin, Rosemary and Walnut Bread 

A fine gentleman named Frank Roubicek, who owned a health-food store on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue, took me under his wing and tried to teach me the art. He sold me freshly milled flour and yeast, and gave me verbal instructions for making a simple loaf of whole wheat bread. Each time I came back to his shop, he’d look hopefully at my face for some sign of success. Nada. I’d buy more ingredients, go home and try again. And after about the eighth or ninth try, I gave up on baking bread for the next 20 years.

In retrospect, I’m guessing it had something to do with a combination of factors: rising temperature, inexperience in working with whole wheat, mixing troubles, whatever, but at the time I couldn’t figure out what was wrong or why my loaves made such terrific doorstops.

Eventually I got the hang of it. About 10 years ago, something inspired me to try again. (Was it the new, bread-crazed husband?) I found a patient and experienced teacher at the local adult-education center  and under her tutelage, turned out my first, very beautiful loaf of real bread.

Since then, I’ve made white, wheat, rye, spelt, oat, potato and numerous-combinations-of the-above breads. I’ve tried additions of whole grains, cheeses, candied fruits and various sundry herbs. I even went so far as to spend a week at the Culinary Institute of America’s campus in Napa Valley, baking artisan breads with the pros. (You haven’t lived until you’ve spent a whole week, eight hours a day, in a room with a wall full of ovens set at 500 degrees and an ambient temperature of 100 degrees, dressed in baker’s whites!)

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