Kate originally developed this whole-wheat Italian herb bread many years ago as a bread machine recipe. I tend not to use a bread machine, at least for baking. (The dough setting, however, with its ability to keep dough warm when rising, is great.) So when I found her 20-year-old notes for this bread, I decided to rewrite it as a standard recipe.
One of the changes I made was to use a pre-ferment, or “poolish.” This is where you let the yeast and flour and liquid start activating several hours before adding the rest of the ingredients. This process adds a tangy flavor, somewhere between a plain bread and a sourdough. We also use Italian seasoning; our specific blend works beautifully, but store-bought will taste fine as well.
And I’ll be perfectly honest here: You don’t have to do the overnight ferment if you don’t have the time. The recipe will still work, and still taste just fine. But, if you remember in the evening, “oh, I should start Italian herb bread for tomorrow,” you won’t regret it.
Like most yeast breads, you may need to adjust the relative amounts of liquid and flour, as well as the time involved in each rise, to account for various environmental factors. If it’s hot and humid, it may require less milk and time than when it’s cold and dry. The big differences are how long it’ll take to rise, how hard you’ll have to work to knead it, and how dense it’ll be when it’s done.
1 1/4 cups Whole milk
1 1/2 t Active dry yeast
1 cup Bread flour (150g)
2 cups Whole wheat flour (320g)
1 T Sugar
1/4 t Garlic powder
1 T Onion flakes
3/4 t Salt
2 t Olive oil
Up to 1/4 cup Additional milk, as needed
- In a medium or large mixing bowl, make the pre-ferment by mixing together the milk, yeast, and bread flour. Loosely cover and let it rest in your refrigerator for 4-12 hours, preferably overnight.
- To begin making the bread, whisk together the whole wheat flour, sugar, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, onion flakes, and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the olive oil and, using a rubber spatula, add the pre-ferment from the refrigerator.
- Using the dough hook attachment, knead for 5-10 minutes or until it comes together. If it looks too dry, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue kneading until you get a smooth, slightly tacky ball.
- Cover with a loose cloth and let rise in a warm place for 2-4 hours, until doubled in bulk.
- Punch down the risen dough, and flatten it out on a board or clean counter. Fold it in thirds, like a letter–this will help give it a good spine so it will rise upward. Tuck in the ends, and turn the loaf over so the seam is on the bottom. Gently tug the dough from the top to the bottom, forming a shape to match your loaf pan.
- Coat the loaf pan with cooking spray, then place the dough inside. Loosely cover and let rise again in a warm place, for 45-90 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C). If you were letting the loaf rise in the oven, make sure you take it out first!
- While the oven is preheating, dust a pinch of bread flour on top of the loaf, then cut a slit across the top with a sharp knife.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until the crust is dry and it sounds hollow when knocked.
- Remove from oven. Let cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, then tip the loaf out of the loaf pan. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing and eating.
Tip: If it’s a chilly day in your kitchen, put the loaf in your oven with a pan of hot water on the rack below. This will not only help keep the dough warm, but also moist.
If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can of course knead this by hand. Because it’s already a fairly dry loaf, though, I don’t recommend adding any additional flour to your kneading board. If it’s sticking, try using a little more olive oil on the board instead.
Keywords: bread, whole wheat, Italian