Honey, I Forgot the Bread (simple sage thyme stuffing bread)
I think we can all agree that it isn’t Thanksgiving without the family’s variation on stuffing. It also isn’t Thanksgiving without someone in the family forgetting a vital ingredient after all the nearby stores are closed. This year that person was me. I was so excited about a particular stuffing recipe and had spent an entire month talking it up to every guest of the two Thanksgiving feasts for which I was cooking. So when I realized that I had no stuffing bread after the one bakery in town had closed, I had two options. Curse myself loudly and succumb to the failure of a no-stuffing Thanksgiving. Or give myself a pep talk and commit to a little bit of extra work for homemade bread. I actually ended up realizing that the ‘curse myself’ and ‘give myself a pep talk’ bits were not mutually exclusive, but I refused to ruin Thanksgiving. Or Fakesgiving, as Amanda, I and our friends called Thanksgiving Take II.
Since Wednesday night was already jam-packed with steps for various Thanksgiving recipes, tackling a fussy, overcomplicated bread recipe was not an option here. Especially considering the fact that I was just going to drown the product in cream and cheese and stuff it into a pumpkin. No, I needed simple, flavorful and fail-proof bread. And all of that from my first attempt at making a standard bread loaf. I’ve done all sorts of breads, starting with pizza dough a couple years ago and working my way up to asiago ciabattas and the everyday bread recently. That said, I’ve never attempted a plain Jane, normal sandwich bread, despite the virtual stack of tempting loaf recipes in my bookmarks list.
This recipe hit my inbox at just the right time. More important than the minimal steps, it called for only 9 ingredients – at least 7 of which are in most pantries at all times. Sometimes I’ll read things claiming that toasted wheat germ or canned coconut milk are common pantry items, and I get the urge to close the cookbook and chuck it in the trash can. But I feel pretty comfortable saying that flour, salt and eggs are standard. I feel even more comfortable saying that this bread is a great way to use those items up.
I had set the bar pretty low for this recipe. As long as it came out resembling something bread-like and didn’t taste like cardboard, I would have come out feeling like a success. Especially if it didn’t derail my chaotic mess of a cooking schedule in the process. Well lo and behold, the bread was perfect – and not just for the pumpkin recipe. It turns out, this bread is the perfect vector for Thanksgiving leftovers. Too much cranberry sauce? Toast some bread and throw it on top. I hear some of you have turkey for the holiday. What’s that all about? But anyway, leftover turkey meat? Make a stuffing bread sandwich! Don’t know what to do with that assorted vegetable take-home package your host handed you on the way out? Eat the vegetables and scoop up all their buttery sauces with stuffing bread. Or, as some of us did, just eat the bread by itself.
Simple Sage Thyme Stuffing Bread
Adapted from Serious Eats
1 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 tablespoon honey
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh sage and thyme, chopped (can substitute dried if necessary)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Mix water, yeast and honey together in a large mixing bowl until foamy (about 10 minutes). Add bread flour and egg. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough comes together in a shaggy mess. Add salt, thyme, sage and olive oil and mix together. Turn out onto a well-floured surface, using your floured hands to bring the dough together into ball form. Knead for 3-5 minutes, flouring as necessary.
Alternatively, you can do all the above in a food processor if you don’t already have your food processor reserved for 2 of the 5 other recipes you’re working on. If you use the food processor, process for 30 seconds after adding the flour and egg and an additional 45 seconds after adding the olive oil and seasoning.
Drizzle the dough ball with olive oil and place back in the mixing bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled. This should take an hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare your 9×5 inch loaf pan by sprinkling some cornmeal in it. Use the same floured work surface as before to form your dough into a log about 8 inches long. Place dough back into pan, seam-side down. Cover with a towel and let rise for an additional 30 minutes.
Bake until brown on the surface – about 40 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when flicked. Let loaf cool in pan for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. Try to cool at least two hours before slicing. I was both very excited about the bread and very excited about the new bread knife I received as a birthday gift, so I might have been a little impatient on the 2 hour wait. I won’t tell anyone if you cut in a little early as well.