The aroma of freshly baked bread is a slice of heaven, but the same bread day after day can get a bit boring. Change up the flavors with herbs, spices, fruits and nuts in the dough or sprinkled on top and that bread takes on new character. Many bread recipes make two loaves. Bake one sweet and one savory by splitting the dough after it's risen the first time and adding different flavors to each one.
Herbs and Spices to the Rescue
Instead of spreading the bread with garlic butter and sprinkling it with marjoram, incorporate those ingredients into the bread itself. Freshly ground black pepper adds a bit of bite to the bread. For a sweet bread, sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice or mace and a bit of brown sugar. Rosemary and lemon zest is one combination. Use basil, oregano and fennel seeds for a touch of Italy. Chop all herbs finely so they distribute evenly throughout the dough.
Different Flours Different Flavors
Boost the flavor of the bread by using more than just white flour. Try rye flour for a somewhat pleasantly sour taste. Whole wheat has a nutty flavor. Pumpernickel combines all three flours -- white, rye and whole wheat -- with molasses for an earthy tone. Sourdough bread uses a starter from fermented white or wheat flour for that distinctive sour aroma and flavor.
Seeds Add Crunch
Artisan breads often have whole seeds throughout the bread and as a garnish on top of the bread. Try fennel, sesame, poppy, celery, flax, sunflower and pumpkin, sometimes called pepitas. Use the seeds whole or grind and replace some of the flour in the recipe with an equal part of ground seeds. Brush on slightly beaten egg whites on top of the loaf right before you're ready to bake. Sprinkle on the seeds on top of the loaf. The egg white acts as a glue to get the seeds to stick to the dough.
Nuts and Fruits for Sweetness
Dried fruits and nuts add sweetness to the bread dough. One option is to work the fruit and nuts into the dough with the flour. As you knead the bread, the fruit and nuts disperse throughout the dough. The second option is to let the bread go through the first rising. Then, roll it out in a rectangle about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Sprinkle on the fruits and nuts and roll up like a jelly roll. Let it rise again and then bake.
Cheese, ham, bacon, pepperoni, onions, scallions, jalapeno peppers and tomatoes all add a savory flavor to breads. Chop or grate finely. Squeeze out extra moisture from the tomatoes. Add no more than a cup to a cup and a half of savory tidbits to a bread recipe that makes two loaves. Otherwise, the bread won't rise properly. Roll out the dough after the first rising, then sprinkle with the cheese, ham or other ingredients and roll up.
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