As I mentioned before, I get a lot of inspiration for bread baking over at The Fresh Loaf Forum.  Browsing through their huge collection of recipes, one made me quite nostalgic, thinking about our good times living in France.  I absolutely had to make it: a “boule” loaded with herbes de Provence!  It cannot possibly get much better than that.   The recipe comes from Floyd, The Fresh Loaf’s host and a very accomplished bread baker. He got his inspiration from a recipe found in  Bernard Clayton’s Complete Book of Breads.  My copy, by the way, sits patiently at home, waiting for our return…   😉

I cut the recipe in half to make it easier to bake in my small Breville electric oven, but I’m posting the regular version, which will produce a larger loaf.  The dough requires an overnight poolish, but is very simple and straightforward to make.    Don’t be alarmed by the amount of herbs, they perfume the bread with just enough intensity to make you fall in love with it more and more at each bite.

(adapted from Floyd’s recipe)

for the poolish (made 8 to 18 hours before the final dough):
1 cup bread  flour
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

for the dough:
All the poolish made the day before
2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup Herbes de Provence
1 + 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier (I substituted orange juice)
1/4-1/2 cup water

The night before baking, make the poolish by mixing together 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of water, and 1/2 teaspoon of yeast to make a batter. Cover the container with plastic wrap and set aside for 8 to 18 hours until you are ready to make the final dough.

To make the dough, combine the remaining flour with the remaining yeast, salt, and herbs. Add the poolish, the liqueur, and 1/4 cup of the additional water. Mix the ingredients, and, if necessary, add more water or flour until the proper consistency is reached .

Mix by gentle kneading, and leave it undisturbed for 20  minutes in a lightly greased bowl.   Do three more cycles of gentle kneading (or folding)  every 30 minutes.  At the end of the last kneading (a little less than 2 hs of bulk fermentation),  let the dough rise undisturbed  for a full hour.

Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a ball or long loaf. Cover the loaf with a damp towel and allow it to rise again until doubled in size, which takes between 60 and 90 more minutes.

While the loaf is in its final rise, preheat the oven to 450F, with a baking stone inside, if you will be using it.   Just prior to placing the loaf in the oven, score the top of it with a sharp knife or razor blade.

Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 20 minutes at 450, then rotate it 180 degrees and reduce the oven temperature to 375 and baked it another 25 minutes. The internal temperature of the loaf should be around 200F.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least a half an hour before serving.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Of all the spices present in herbes de Provence, lavender is the one that I detect first and foremost.  I once visited that part of France at the time when the lavender fields were in full bloom, and the smell everywhere is simply unforgettable.   I thought the amount of herbs in the dough could be a bit excessive, but reading Floyd’s remarks about it gave me the reassurance to make it exactly as he did.  The aroma of the herbs is evident from the moment you mix the dough, but once the bread is midway through baking, you cannot wait to try the first slice.

The crumb is light and airy, and the bread is quite unique for its delicate herbal tones.  I have a special sandwich in mind for this bread,  but that is a story to be told another time…   😉

I am sending this to Yeastspotting….

ONE YEAR AGO:  Golspie Loaf

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