This bread needs to rise twice. The time it takes to rise will depend on how warm it is in your house. I usually let it rise for 2 hours each time. Every house has a "sweet spot" where bread seems to rise well- in front of a wood stove, on a sunny window sill, on top of a heating vent- try a few places and if you can't find a good one, simply wrap it up in a blanket or two.
I made this recipe many times before I started experimenting with it. This version is my favourite so far. I think it would be great with olives added in, too, though I am the only one in my house who would think so.
Herb & Garlic Egg Bread
You will need:
1 cup warm water
4 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp vegetable oil (sesame, canola, sunflower, etc.)
(or any of your favourite herbs)
Combine water, 2 of the eggs, the yolks of the remaining 2 eggs, honey and oil. Wisk together. Stir in 2 cups of the flour, salt, yeast (don't dump the salt right on top of the yeast or it will kill it) and whatever herbs and spices you choose to use. Be generous with the garlic! Dried herbs are fine, although I don't like dried rosemary because it tends to be sharp and pointy unless very finely chopped.
Let this mixture sit for 15 minutes. (I was making two loaves here, hence the two bowls).
Work in the rest of the flour. You might need a little more or less- use your own judgement. This takes practice. When it's not too sticky, dump it out onto your (floured) counter and start to work it. This will be your exercise for the day. It's very meditative.
After you've kneaded the dough for about ten minutes, it should start to feel nice and smooth. It will be tacky, but not sticky. You should be drooling from the scent of garlic all around you.
Put the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put in a warm spot for about an hour and a half, until the dough doubles in size. Wait for it to double- if you're impatient, you're bread will be too dense. Better to let it rise too much than not enough.
After the first rise, take it out and braid it, if you want. You don't have to. You could cut it up into buns, whatever you want. But you need to take it out and work it a bit, or "knock it down", and let it rise again. If you're braiding it, cut it into three pieces, stretch them out on the counter, and braid. Tuck the ends under so it looks nice. Use the egg whites from the two yolks you used in the dough to brush over the dough- this will make a nice crust in the oven. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let it rise again, until it doubles in size again.
Brush it with egg wash a second time. If you want, sprinkle with herbs, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, whatever you like. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it- your oven might be a bit different than mine. When the crust is a nice deep brown colour, it's done!
Take it out and try to stop yourself from ripping it apart right away and burning your fingers. But definitely get in there while it's still warm- it's delicious with salted butter.
If you wanted to make a sweet version of this bread, you could do that too. This version doesn't taste good as a peanut butter and jam sandwich or as french bread, because of the savory garlic and herbs. But you could put cinnamon in it instead, or crust it with sugar instead of sesame seeds. Use your imagination!