Kitchen Gardens for Serious Cooks

Thursday, March 5, 2015

"Any serious cook should grow her own herbs in a kitchen garden" was a piece of advice I read recently in my current favorite cookbook, A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorrisson.  And to that sage bit of advice I would add, "Any serious cook should grow potted herbs on her kitchen window sill to be used year-round." The flavor of freshly picked rosemary or thyme, whether sprinkled over foods as a garnish or used for cooking and baking serves as an instant enhancer to almost any dish - like this bread I mixed up on a whim with a handful of herbal sprouts tossed onto the dough before baking.

Speaking of bread, here is a delightful recipe I borrowed from Geneva Schlabach's blog for bread baked in a Dutch Oven. It really is the easiest bread recipe I have ever tried.  If you have a sturdy mixer, like a Kitchen Aid, and a Dutch Oven of sorts you are good to go!  It's the perfect thing to make when you don't have hours to spend in the kitchen, and it will keep in your pantry for several days if sealed in a plastic bag.

Dutch Oven Bread

4 1/2 cups bread flour (I use King Arthur)
2 tablespoons yeast (or two yeast packets)
2 tablespoons white or raw sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 cups very warm to hot tap water

Use the dough hook attachment for your mixer. In the bowl, put the water, yeast, sugar, salt and a sprinkling of fresh herbs.  Whisk it once or twice to get the ingredients moving, then let rest for about 7 minutes to let the yeast get nice and foamy.

Turn your oven to 400 degrees with the baking rack set on the middle level.

Get out your Dutch Oven and brush a light coat of olive oil all around the inside bottom and sides of the Dutch Oven as well as the inside of the lid.

When the yeast is foamy in the mixer, turn it on low speed and start adding the flour one cup at a time until you get to the last half cup.  Add a spoonful at a time for that last half cup of flour, because you may not need all of it.  When the dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl you will know you have added enough flour.

Let the dough mix on low to medium low for about 7 minutes. This takes the place of hand kneading so let it mix away and do the hard work for you.

At the end of 7 minutes, remove dough from bowl and place on a floured surface, forming it into a ball.  Then place it into your Dutch Oven, garnish with more fresh herbs, cover with the lid and let it rise until double in size (maybe an hour, depending on the warmth of the room).

Bake in oven with lid on for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake an additional 5 minutes uncovered.  Then turn your oven to Broil (be careful, you have to stay there and watch it or you'll have burnt bread) for  2 - 3 minutes until the top of the bread gets a nice toasty golden color.

Remove from the oven, carefully remove from Dutch Oven, and let it cool on a baking rack.  Slice and eat!  Yum!

Store leftovers, if you're lucky to have any, in a tightly sealed plastic bag and keep for up to 3 days.  And if you still have leftovers (highly doubtful) sprinkle some crumbs outside for the winter birds. They will love you for it.

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