Thursday, June 11, 2009

Easy Herb Bread

This bread is based on a recipe from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, The Vegetarian Epicure (Book Two), by Anna Thomas. As I've mentioned in previous posts, the VE books, along with Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, played an important role in my life when I was an adolescent vegetarian learning my way around the kitchen. Over the years, I've continued to dip back into them for sentimental reasons, but also because so many of the recipes are just really good. Since becoming vegan, I've found it relatively easy to revise lots of these old favorites by simply subbing margarine or oil for butter, non-dairy milk for moo juice, etc.; even eggs are pretty easy to remove from many things. In fact, someday when I have nothing else to do for an entire afternoon, I'm going to tackle that outrageously complex and delicious Wild Mushroom Crepe Cake, which required every pot, pan and dish in my then-boyfriend's parents' house, but was totally worth the trouble.

Anyway, back in the day, my go-to accompaniment for a big pot of soup was usually "an easy herb bread": in the fine tradition of hippie cookbooks, there were no capital letters in the VE recipe titles. It's a proper yeast-raised bread, but it can be accomplished relatively quickly, and yields a dense, substantial loaf that slices nicely fresh out of the oven (which is the best way to eat homemade bread, isn't it?). Adapting the original was a simple matter of removing an unnecessary egg and replacing the cow's milk with soy, so I can't really take credit for how delicious this recipe is, but I will encourage you to use it the next time you get the urge to make some soup; you won't be sorry.

Easy Herb Bread (makes one loaf)
~ 1 and 1/4 cup unsweetened soy (or other non-dairy) milk
~ 1 package active dry yeast (1 tbsp.)
~ 2 tbsp. sugar
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2.5-3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 1/2 tsp. each: thyme, tarragon, basil, oregano
~ A few grinds of fresh black pepper

~ Heat the soy milk to lukewarm (about 1 minute in the microwave).
~ Add the sugar and yeast; stir to combine and set aside about 5 minutes, until foamy.
~ In a small skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic about 3 minutes, until they just begin to color.
~ In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with about 1 cup of the flour and mix until smooth (the original says to do this with an electric mixer but I can't be bothered).
~ Add the sauteed vegetables, along with their cooking oil, and all the seasonings; mix again until smooth.
~ Gradually add another cup of flour and mix until you have a soft dough (less than 5 minutes should do it).
~ Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 5 more minutes, mixing in another 1/2 to 1 cup of flour as necessary to prevent it from sticking. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
~ Form the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, flipping it once to coat it. Cover with a clean cloth or tea towel and leave it to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes, until it has doubled in size.
~ Punch the dough down and knead again, briefly. Form a loaf and place it in an oiled bread pan. Cover the pan and allow to rise again for 30 minutes.
~ Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when you turn it out and rap on the bottom with your knuckles.
~ Allow to cool briefly; slice and serve warm with a big bowl of hot soup.

1 comment:

  1. Yum! BTW The Enchanted Broccoli Forest was important to me, too, in my formative learning-to-cook years.