Have you harvested your herbs yet? The unseasonably warm weather this fall means that many of our beloved herbs are still flourishing, but they won’t be around for too much longer. At Fiesta Farms, we are always looking for ways to benefit from the bounty of our gardens, and we hate to see any fruit, vegetables or herbs go to waste.
Herb butters, pestos, flavoured vinegars and oils are a wonderful way to save the summer, and making a few loaves of delicious herb bread is another great way to do just that. Or you can always just pick up some herbs at the store. When we buy fresh herbs from the market for a specific recipe, like a herb butter, it often happens that we end up with an excess of herbs in the fridge. This is a great way to use them up.
Pureeing the herbs with a little oil and some aromatic onion and garlic makes the base for an incredibly delicious bread that you will be tempted to hunker down with a loaf all to yourself that you can slather with butter and eat in one sitting. Sliced thick and served warm, it makes a great alternative to Yorkshire pudding or mashed spuds with your pot roast or roast pork, and it also makes for possibly the best hot roast beef sandwiches you’ve ever had.
When making herb bread we like to use a variation of Martha Stewart’s French baguette recipe and make 2 large loaves rather than the six smaller baguettes, the bread is easier to roll up-like a jelly roll-when shaping the loaves, and of course you end up with big, beautiful loaves perfect for cool autumn or cold winter days. And the aroma of these loaves baking is heavenly.
For this recipe we used parsley and dill with onion and garlic, but you could use your favourite combos just as easily; rosemary and garlic would be great with leg of lamb and cold lamb sandwiches the next day, or dill, tarragon and lemon balm with a pot of chowder…the possibilities go on and on. But we suggest you start with the tried and true, dill and parsley work wonderfully in this bread.
makes 2 large loaves
For the herb pesto
1 bunch dill,
1 bunch parsley
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
season with kosher or sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil over med-low heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally until onion is translucent but not browned. Rough chop the parsley and dill so it fits in food processor and add the garlic and onion mixture. Pulse until paste is smooth but not liquid. Season to taste and set aside.
2 packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ¾ cups warm water
7 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
Proof the yeast in ¼ cup of warm water sweetened with the sugar until doubled in volume, about five minutes. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl, add 2 ½ cups warm water and mix. Add the yeast mix and blend into a dough. Turn out dough onto a floured board and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
Put dough in a large bowl and place in a warm location, cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in volume, at least an hour. Punch down dough and let rise again until doubled in bulk. Punch down again. Cut dough in half and turn dough, 1 sponge at a time onto floured board. With your hands, flatten the dough until it is about ½ inch thick and shape it into a rectangle about 9”x13”
With a tablespoon, evenly apply half of the herb pesto to the dough, leaving a perimeter of about an inch around the dough uncovered. Roll the dough toward you lengthwise and seal the bottom and both ends by gently squeezing together. Make sure you have a good seal as you don’t want the filling leaking out as it rises or bakes.
Repeat process with the second sponge. Place both loaves seam down on a large baking sheet a few inches apart, cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F while loaves are rising.
Slash the top of the loaves with a sharp knife, avoid cutting into the herb mix. Place in preheated oven and bake about 25 -30 minutes, spraying with water 2 or 3 times during the baking process. Note! Be careful not to spray your oven light if it is on, as it might break!
Remove loaves when they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on bottom. Cool on racks.