(Originally titled Italian Onion Herb Bread, however, much to the horror of my sister-in-law, Beth, I personally omit the onion step)
*This recipe make 2 loaves and also freezes well*
2 T vegetable oil
1/3 cup finely chopped onion *optional*
1 cup milk
1-2 T dried Italian herb seasoning (use more or less to taste)
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 T brown sugar
2 tsp salt
5 1/2 to 6 cups AP Flour
Optional Onion Step: Heat 1 T oil in skillet. Add onion. Cook until onion is translucent but not browned. Remove skillet from heat. Add remaining 1T oil, milk, and Italian seasoning. Stir to mix. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
Where I begin: Pour milk into a microwaveable measuring cup. Heat on high for roughly 45 seconds until warmed (roughly 110 degrees). Add 2 T oil and Italian seasoning. Stir to mix. Set aside.
Combine yeast, warm water and a pinch of the brown sugar in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Let stand 10 minutes or until foamy.
Combine milk mixture with the salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir to mix. Stir in yeast mixture and the remaining brown sugar.
Add 2 cups of the flour. Mix thoroughly. Add 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add as much of the remaining 1/2 to 1 cup flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, as needed to make a stiff dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until dough is smooth, shiny and slightly tacky. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. (You can use your mixing bowl once it's rinsed or just grab another one.)
Cover with a dish towel and let rise in a warm place about an hour or until doubled. I like to let my dough rise in a warm oven (turned off after warming).
Punch down dough and knead in bowl for a minute. Form dough into 2 long loaves [if you are cooking both immediately] and place on greased baking sheets. Let rise 30-45 minutes or until nearly doubled.
If you only want to cook one loaf and save your other dough half for the next night, then double wrap the dough in plastic wrap, place in a container and refrigerate. The next day, remove the dough from the fridge, let it come to room temperature, shape into a loaf, and let it rise as stated above.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees (make sure you dough that is rising is NOT in there). Bake loaf for 15-20 minutes or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from baking pan and let cool on wire rack. Brush with butter if desired. Yum!
*Note: I place it on a wire rack after removing from the oven and brush with butter, so that the baking sheet I already used catches the butter drippings rather than my counter. And, yes, I learned that the