I was a little girl when I first tasted my Great-Aunt Mary Kristofferson's herb bread. If I remember correctly, we had gone to her home for a family Easter brunch. I don't remember who was there, but I do remember she served poached salmon (which, at the time, I did not like!) and this delicious bread (which I devoured!). I've had the recipe for many years, but not being an avid bread baker, have only made it a couple of times. I think my husband is now convinced that in spite of having "plants" in the dough, it's pretty darned good, so it will now be added to my "tried and true" rotation of favorites.
As far as the origination of the recipe, that's up for debate. My mom has it on a recipe card in her mother's (Mary's sister, Mardie) handwriting, so it may well be Mardie's Herb Bread and not Mary's. I'm sure if I Google "herb bread," I'll discover that it's neither sister's, but that would only spoil the family history, so please don't correct me.
Mary's Herb Bread
3 cups water, lukewarm
2 Tbsp. sugar
4 tsp. yeast
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. basil
1 tsp. marjoram
8 cups flour
In a large mixing bowl, combine water, sugar, yeast and salt.
Let stand for 5 minutes.
Add oregano, basil and marjoram.
Gradually add flour.
Knead 8-10 minutes until smooth.
Cover with dishtowel and place in warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled.
Knead lightly for 1 minute.
Divide into three portions. Shape into loaves.
Place in greased and cornmeal-sprinkled bread pans.
Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size.
Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes.
When cool, slice.
Mix some herb seasonings into soft butter and spread on slices. (Optional)
Ready to heat and serve.
Can be frozen in foil and heated for large party.
I measure out the flour into a separate bowl, so I don't lose track of how many cups I've used. I also add the herbs to the flour mixture before gradually adding it to the yeast mixture.
I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a bread hook and don't pay attention to the time it takes to "knead" the dough. I simply add the flour one cup at a time until well mixed.
I transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl that has a little bit of vegetable oil brushed on the surface so the dough won't stick.
I grease the bread pans with a little vegetable oil (as I did for the large mixing bowl), but skipped the cornmeal step.
I removed the finished loaves from the bread pans, brushed the tops with a little bit of butter, and allowed the loaves to cool on baking racks.
I don't bother with an herb flavored butter, but the herbs in the bread are very subtle, so I may increase those amounts next time around.
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