A loaf of sliced bread from the grocery shelf is uniform, convenient, and will stay edibly soft longer than one made at home. Since it is manufactured, not individually baked, it will never surprise you. And because a slice of it can be compressed into a ball the size of a walnut, the grocery loaf has provided entertainment as well as a vehicle for jelly and peanut butter to generations of American children.
Homemade bread, on the other hand, is not exactly predictable. Weather and the human touch are always liable to affect the end result. Home bakers produce not only the good, but the bad and the ugly, too. But although the big commercial bakers routinely use words like ‘baked fresh’ and ‘artisan crafted’ to describe their processed wares, it is only accurate to use those terms to describe breads turned out by home ovens or a small local bakery.
While a loaf of the bad is the unavoidable risk of making real artisan bread, the ugly and the good varieties of it may combine to give you the excellent…which is something a standardized factory brand never can do.
Rustic Folded Bread with Herbs and Garlic (makes 2 – each divides into 8 wedges)
Note: To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon: Print & PDF.
Note from the diplomatickitchen: The dough recipe for this bread was tested on multiple occasions, but one reader of the blog wrote to me saying that she had tried it and the resulting dough was too ‘liquid’. Flour, yeast and altitude can make quite a difference in doughs. I used an unbleached bread flour and a French yeast (SAf Instant Yeast, which is available in the United States). Another technique for firming up a moist dough is to refrigerate it, covered, in a large bowl. An additional note: European and American wheats are quite different. I now use European flour exclusively in our kitchen. There are online sources for ordering it in the United States, where we are now located. (We use a French flour: Francine Bio.) The quality of anything made with European flour is vastly better. Also, it is healthier. Pesticides and artifical processes that are used on wheat in the United States are not allowed in Europe.
- 2 teaspoons of instant dry yeast
- a pinch of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
- 1 and 1/2 cups of warm water
- 4 Tablespoons of olive oil to make the dough and 2 Tablespoons of olive oil to drizzle on it—and a little more to oil both the bowl in which the dough rises and the pizza pans (if they aren’t lined with parchment paper)
- 3 cups of white, unbleached flour
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 2 Tablespoons of parsley, chopped
- 2 teaspoons of dried or 1 Tablespoon of fresh oregano
- 2 bowls: a small one for mixing the yeast and water and a larger one for the dough’s rise
- a pastry board and rolling pin
- 2 pizza pans
- Parchment paper to line the pans if they are the sort with holes in them
1. In a small bowl, mix the yeast with 3/4 cup of the warm water and a pinch of sugar. Set it aside until the top is covered in a foamy froth, the color of Crayola crayon taupe. Add the 4 Tablespoons of olive oil:
2. Scrape the foamy yeast into a larger bowl. Add the salt, the remaining 3/4 cup of warm water and the flour.
3. Stir the mixture until it begins to form a dough. Then, flour your hands and finish forming the dough by hand, pressing it together and kneading it. Once the mixture forms a coherent ball, turn it out onto a floured pastry board and continue to knead it until it is soft and elastic.
4. Oil a bowl with a little olive oil, place the dough in it and cover it with a piece of plastic wrap. Let it rise for about an hour (or longer, if the room temperature at which the dough rises is very cool). The dough is ready when it has doubled in size–but it is not of the high rising sort.
5. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Oil the pizza pans if they are not lined with parchment paper.
6. Divide the dough in half. Roll the first half into a 12-inch circle.
7. Place the round of dough on one of the pizza pans, drizzle it with 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil…
…and fold it in half:
10. Transfer the loaves to a rack. Cover them with a cotton towel if they are not being served right away. The bread reheats very well and is better warm. It cuts naturally into wedges for serving.
A Note: Rustic Folded Bread with Herbs and Garlic is served along with the First Course and again with the Salad of the Menu: Dinner in Early Spring. Each folded bread divides into 8 wedges and a wedge is served to each guest alongside the first course of soup and another with the salad.
A Second Note: If another herb combination sounds good to you, probably it will be good sprinkled on this dough. Adding a grated cheese, such as Taleggio or fresh Mozarella, is an option, too.