This is the same dough as last time, just a couple days later. It is amazing the different tastes you can get by just changing a couple of ingredients or the method of baking. The other day I used ginger on the crust; this time I used some purple basil and sunflower seeds in the interior of the loaf, rolling it up tightly. This herb bread is pure experiment.
What made me hit on this combination? I just opened the cupboard and looked. The purple basil was sitting there. We had grown it in our garden last year, lots of it, and now we had lots of it dried and ready to use. There were a few sunflower seeds that I could toss into the loaf too, and I thought that it might give the loaf a nice crunchy texture.
On Basil in Bread
The wiki on basil indicates that the plant has been around for some time. This purple variety (not the African Blue variety, some other kind) is probably more ornamental than culinary, likely a modern hybrid rather than the original. Basil is used fresh more often than dried, where it loses much of its flavour. It would appear that the plant has many healthful benefits (antioxidant, anticancer, antiviral, and antimicrobial), but also a few possible dangers (e.g. contains estragole, a known carcinogen and teratogen, probably acceptable in small amounts)-- much like bread itself, I suppose. Of particular interest to me (given my job and my interests) I found the following lines in the wiki, which may one day be edited out because there is no citation given:
In Europe, basil is placed in the hands of the dead to ensure a safe journey. In India, they place it in the mouth of the dying to ensure they reach God. The ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks believed it would open the gates of heaven for a person passing on.
So it might kill me, or it might lead me to God Realization.
I tossed it on the flattened dough, rolled it up and set it to rise for 90 minutes.
I baked it in a casserole dish, and let it bake about 5 minutes longer than I usually do (20min cover on, 25min cover off). It is unfortunate that the casserole dish I used was slightly too small, and so the loaf became a bit misshapen. But it still tastes fine.
By baking it about 5 minutes longer than usual, the crust became chunkier, darker, and harder, with a more distinct carmelized flavour. I cut into the loaf while it was still hot (I barely had it made in time before I had to leave for work, and I needed to take some with me), and the scent of the herbs was really strong on the escaping steam. This subsided a bit over the next day, but you can still smell the basil when you bring it close to your nose (which you have to do, to eat it).
This bread tastes quite different from the ginger crust version. And yet, it is the same basic dough. The basil provides more scent than substance; and only a hint of colour. The sunflower seeds worked nicely with this dough.
I like both loaves.
Notes to Myself
- I used 1/4c each of the purple basil and sunflower seeds. I also had a bit of flour to help with rolling up the dough. I would re-think the use of flour for this purpose next time, or the amount I used: in the final bread, there are a few places where the white flour is still noticeable.
- Try adding a fine spice to any flour you might use in this way, or use the fine spice in place of the flour. What would you use, other than the ginger you've already tried? Imagine paprika, or even cayenne. What about mustard? What seeds or nuts would complement these spices in a loaf?