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Enchanted Spice Bread

Enchanted Spice Bread

(an exercise in '''cooking magic''')

Pans needed: cast iron dutch oven – enameled iron is fine, but bare iron works best. (The pagan tradition of using a cast iron cauldron applies here.) Small pan or basin for melting butter.

The first step is to bloom the yeast and activate it. Sprinkle yeast over warm water, add sugar and stir gently. Allow yeast and warm water to rest, foam and froth for about 5 minutes. If yeast does not foam and froth after 5 minutes, toss it and start over again with new yeast.

As the yeast is activating, melt butter in a small saucepan.

Place flour in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a bread hook. Add salt and pepper. Pour in activated yeast mixture, and butter. Add thyme, chives, other herbs, and garlic. Stir on low speed, with the dough hook, for about 10 to 12 minutes. The dough ball should clean the sides of the bowl and not stick to the bottom of the mixing bowl. The dough will be relatively smooth and supple, with some firmness from the bread flour.

Place dough in a large greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in a warm place until double in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

When doubled in size, place on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for about 2 minutes.

In a large Dutch oven, add about 2 tablespoons olive oil, to coat the bottom of the pot. Place dough in pot and use a large knife to slice a fairly deep cross into the dough. Drizzle about 3 more tablespoons of olive oil atop the bread. Sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt and pepper flakes.

Cover with tight fitting lid and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees F, remove lid, and allow to make for about 15-20 minutes more.