2008-12-25 / Features

Bake Up A Treat For Holiday Meals

Homemade bread can make your holiday meal that much more memorable. Homemade bread can make your holiday meal that much more memorable. Entertaining is a large part of the holiday season. No matter what religious or cultural holiday is celebrated, gathering, reminiscing ... and eating are often part of the festivities.

With the influx of people dropping by and meals to be served this time of year, the wise host or hostess should collect recipes to have on hand that will help feed the crowds or just make an intimate meal together more memorable.

As an alternative to storemade breads or canned rolls and biscuits, why not try your hand at a tasty and relatively easy to make homemade bread? This herbed loaf will complement a wide range of meals and there probably won't be a crumb left over. Italian Herbed Bread (Serves 6 to 8) 21/2cups bread flour 1 cup hot tap water 3 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 teaspoon white sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 package fast-acting dry yeast* (see note below about yeast) Dried Italian seasonings, to taste Dried rosemary, to taste 1 teaspoon olive oil reserved for after baking Sprinkle of Kosher salt reserved for after baking

In a mixing bowl, combine fast-acting yeast and hot water. Let yeast and water sit for 5 minutes. Add sugar, salt, olive oil, herbs and flour. Mix until ingredients are well incorporated. (For those with bread machines, follow the directions for the machine for mixing the dough). Then turn out onto a floured board. With hands dusted in flour, knead bread for 5 minutes until dough is soft and no longer very tacky. *If using fast-acting yeast, follow the instructions for rising. Many brands require the dough to simply sit aside for 10 minutes, which will replace the first rise with traditional yeast recipes. If using traditional yeast, follow the instructions on the packet for rising and punching down dough.

When dough has sat or undergone the first rise, transfer it to a loaf pan that has been lightly oiled. Set the pan in a warm spot of the home. Let the dough rise in the loaf pan until doubled in size, roughly 2 to 3 hours.

Bake risen dough in an oven preheated to 400 F for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove bread and use a pastry brush to brush olive oil on top and then sprinkle with Kosher salt. Serve warm.

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