Herbal Encouragement Bread Recipe

Several years ago, a generously spirited Benedictine monk baked bread for the masses, by means of public television and the printed word. Both the popular television series and the book series of the same name, Breaking Bread with Father Dominic, proved to be excellent instructional vehicles for valuable life and culinary lessons. From bread, we receive strong nourishment for life; bread blesses us with sustenance, strength, and comfort.

And inspiration.

Baking bread is an offering of hope, an act of faith whereby simple ingredients are blended, until becoming fully cooked loaves of accomplishment. There is much solace to be found in the refuge of warm bread. To share bread is a generous expression of kindness. In times of trouble and difficulty, sharing bread is to lend comfort and support.

And gratitude.

Father Dominic Garramone created a recipe for a special bread that would properly express this sincere compassion for others. Father Dominic’s,”Herbal Encouragement Bread,” is a braided bread, representative of the many difficult, chaotic, and confusing entanglements of life that often become interwoven with our various sources of reliance and support. This recipe contains several symbolic ingredients to further illustrate the sentiment. The positive utilization of something that has spoiled is reflected by the use of sour cream, painful tears are represented by minced onion, and thyme (because of its often environmentally harsh agricultural conditions) symbolizes courageous endurance.

Survival.

In order to refresh and renew body, soul, and vision, sometimes a temporary cessation from the hectic everyday is necessary. Taking pause, in order to appreciate and nurture all that is personally precious. From time to time, we must determine what maintenance is to be done for the proper care and nurture of those things that are most important to us. Those things of the soul. Otherwise, we risk losing the passion once felt, prompting unfavorable sacrifices of self to soon follow. We need to refresh and renew and return to the everyday, with an even greater purpose.

It’s been one of those weeks, one of those seasons, but as with all seasons, time passes and we begin again. I have never before baked bread by hand, having instead in my mother’s kitchen, used her bread making machine to produce generic, oddly shaped loaves. Today, I have made the attempt to bake bread by hand, offering some encouragement to those in need. Baking this bread has reinforced hard lessons of patience, for I am not a patient woman. Throughout the process, the dough commands time to pause and ready itself for its task. Slowly and quietly, I am learning the patience gained from the effort. And, my efforts have produced a warm, although somewhat unattractive, loaf of peace.

In breaking this bread, I offer humble appreciation for the varied trials that each of us must endure, while taking our personal journeys. To all of my constant sources of strength and support, I break this bread in gratitude and respect. May it nourish me, so that I may also be a source of strength and support.

Herbal Encouragement Bread
(recipe courtesy of Breaking Break with Father Dominic)

Ingredients:
1 package of Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast
1/4 c. lukewarm water
1 8 oz. carton sour cream
1 egg
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. minced onion
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
4-4 1/2 c. all purpose unbleached flour, divided

Dissolve yeast in warm water in small bowl. Let stand 10 minutes, or until foamy. Heat sour cream in a saucepan or microwave oven to 110 to 120 degrees. Pour warm sour cream into medium bowl. Add egg, oil, honey, baking soda, salt, onion and thyme; stir until thoroughly mixed. Add yeast mixture; stir to mix. Add 4 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently 1 minute. Let dough rest 10 minutes; this resting period helps the dough to firm up. Knead 4 minutes, adding small amounts of remaining flour as needed to keep dough manageable. The dough will be elastic but slightly sticky. Rinse and dry bowl, then oil surface of dough and place dough in bowl. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place about 1 hour, or until doubled. Punch down dough. Knead briefly to expel large air bubbles. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into an 18-inch rope. Braid the ropes to form a loaf; tuck the ends underneath. Place loaf on lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise about 30 minutes, or until doubled. About 15 minutes before end of rising time, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaf 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from baking sheet and let cool on wire rack 15 minutes, then brush top and sides of loaf with melted butter, if desired.

Yields: 1 loaf. (I used 1 full tsp. of thyme for this recipe.)

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