Herb Bread (Yeast-Risen)

Whole grain bread

Whole grain bread

By Cat, November, 2007; revised August 2008; updated May 2014 (Photo, right, from Univ. of Maryland)

Includes: 1. Herb Bread, original version; 2. Herb Bread with Overnight Sponge method; 3. Testing, including a sprouted flour version

See also: 1. Bread Basics (Yeast-Leavened Breads); 2. Ronny’s Simple Sourdough Bread; 3.  Bread & Rolls Menu

I first discovered herb bread in Anna Thomas’s Vegetarian Epicure cookbook (1), in the 1970s.  It only required two risings:  one in the bowl and then a short on in the baking pan, so was quick and easy to make fresh for a special dinner.  Ms. Thomas provided a slightly different version in her Vegetarian Epicure Book 2 (2).

So I combined the best of both to make my own version of Herb Bread using whole wheat flour. It is best baked right before dinner, and served while it is still a bit warm, with lots and lots of real butter from grass-fed cows.  It’s also a good sandwich bread.

I adapted 3 versions, and would like to add a fourth:

  • Original version (which I’ve made many times with good results),
  • Overnight Sponge version to pre-soak the grain (not yet tested), and
  • Sprouted-flour version (not recommended; see testing below).
  • Sourdough version of Ronny’s Simple Sourdough Bread, using the herbs and sweetener from this recipe (this version not yet adapted, so not yet included here).

You can use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook to mix your dough, but I prefer to mix by hand–it allows me to get a better feel for the elasticity of the dough.  It is also more spiritually satisfying for me.

Herb Bread, Original Whole-Grain Recipe

This is my original adaptation of the two different Herb Bread recipes from Anna Thomas’s Vegetarian Epicure cookbooks (1,2).  Makes 1 regular-sized loaf, or 2 smaller loaves.

 I love to serve this bread when I invite a few friends for a casual dinner; served while still warm, with lots of butter or olive oil, this bread is very welcoming.

Ingredients & Equipment:


  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 ½ Tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • 1 Tbsp dried yeast
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ – 2 Tbsp onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • herbs (see below)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups whole wheat or Kamut flour (Using spelt would require modification to the amount of liquid and/or flour used)
  • 1 tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • up to ¼ cup unbleached white flour (to flour board while kneading

Herb suggestions

  • ½ tsp dill weed and 1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed; OR
  • crushed dried herbs: ¼ tsp basil or marjoram, ¼ tsp oregano, and ⅛ tsp dried thyme


  • small bowl
  • large bowl
  • small cast iron skillet
  • wooden spoon
  • standard loaf pan or 2 smaller pans
  • cooling rack


  1. Scald milk (do not boil).  Add water and maple syrup/honey; stir until it dissolves.  Allow mixture to cool to luke-warm. Add yeast and proof until it froths.
  2. Meanwhile, heat butter and olive oil in small cast iron pan; saute onions and garlic until they just begin to color. Remove from heat and let cool a bit.
  3. Measure about 1 cup flour into large bowl.  Stir in the milk/yeast mixture until combined.  Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for 100 strokes, to work the gluten.
  4. Add sauteed onion/garlic and herbs; mix in.  Add slightly beaten egg and beat again.  Sift another 1 cup flour with the salt; gradually add to dough.
  5. Turn out onto floured board to knead, about 5 minutes, using last ¼ cup flour (if necessary to keep dough from sticking).  Dough should be soft, smooth and elastic.
  6. Clean out, then oil bowl.  Rotate dough in bowl, coating all over with oil.  Cover with dampened cotton cloth; allow to rise in warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  8. Punch down dough and knead into a loaf shape.  Place in buttered loaf pan, cover with damp cloth and let rise about 10 minutes.
  9. Bake in preheated oven, about 1 hour.
  10. Cool slightly on rack before serving.

Herb Bread, Using Sponge Method

I’ve adapted the above recipe for an overnight sponge version (as learned from the Tassajara Bread Book (3)), but adding acidic yogurt to the sponge to maximize the nutritional value of the grain during the soak.  You can start the sponge the night before or early in the morning of the day you intend to bake the bread.  Start ‘Part 2’ about 2 ½ hours before you want to serve the bread with dinner.

Soaking, as with the sponge method, provides many of the same health benefits as sprouting, but does not so thoroughly predigest the proteins, leaving more of the gluten active.  I learned from my work on a recipe for Naan (Indian Flatbread), that making a ‘sponge’ of whole grain flour, proofed yeast, and yogurt mixed with boiling water, then left to ‘soak’ in the refrigerator overnight, has a good result.  The boiling water is required to kill the probiotics in the yogurt, to keep them from competing with the yeast for available sugars in the grain.

However, this process creates an acidic taste in the bread, so I’ve learned to add a bit of baking soda with the second batch of flour (added after the long sponge rise), to neutralize the acidity.

Not yet tested


Ingredients and Equipment:


  • ¼ cup warm water (100 – 1100 F)
  • ½ Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • ¼ cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 ¾ cups whole wheat or Kamut flour (Using spelt would require modification to the amount of liquid and/or flour used)

Part 2:

  • 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ Tbsp butter
  • 1 ½ – 2 Tbsp onion or shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • Herbs:  Use either of the combinations described for the original version, above (or make up your own)
  • 1 small egg
  • ¼ cup whole wheat or Kamut flour
  • 1 tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup unbleached white flour for kneading


  • glass measuring cup (or other small clear glass vessel)
  • small saucepan
  • small cast iron skillet
  • large mixing bowl
  • wooden spoon or stand mixer
  • wooden bread board or other surface for kneading
  • cotton or muslin kitchen cloth
  • loaf pan



  1. Stir maple syrup into warm water; add yeast and allow to proof until frothy.
  2. Stir boiling water into yogurt, then cool to about 1050 F and stir mixture into the proofed yeast.
  3. Measure flour into large bowl; stir in yeast/yogurt mixture.
  4. Press a sheet of waxed paper against the top of the dough and place in refrigerator to rest for at least 12 hours.

Part 2:

  1. In the morning, remove waxed paper, scrape off any dough that sticks, and add it to bowl.
  2. Cook onions in olive oil/butter mixture over low heat until soft, adding garlic halfway through cooking time.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Add cooked onion/garlic mixture, herbs, and lightly beaten egg to sponge and mix.
  4. Sift ¼ cup whole grain flour with salt and baking soda. Beat vigorously, at least 100 strokes, to work the gluten.  Let rest about 10 minutes to hydrate the added flour
  5. Work into dough, turning out onto floured board to knead until smooth, elastic, and quite soft. Form into a ball.
  6. Clean out, then oil bowl.  Rotate dough in bowl, coating all over with oil.  Cover with dampened cotton cloth; allow to rise in warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  8. Punch down and knead into a loaf shape.  Place in buttered loaf pan and let rise again, about 10 minutes or so.
  9. Bake in preheated oven about 45 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the top.
    1. Cool slightly on rack before serving.

Assembly or Serving Suggestions

  • Slice and serve with butter, whipped honey-butter, warmed cream cheese, or olive oil & balsamic vinegar dip.
  • Save dried slices for making herbed croutons:  Cut dried bread into cubes.  Pour melted butter or olive oil in a small bowl; season with herbs and a bit of salt and pepper.  Dip cubes in oily mixture and place on a cookie sheet.  Toast lightly in a hot oven.


As mentioned above, I’ve made the original version many times, using whole wheat flour, with great success.

Testing Overnight Sponge Method

I’ve not yet tested the sponge method for this recipe, but I have tested other breads using the Tassajara sponge method (3) with good results. When using yogurt or other acidic culture for the sponge, I’ve learned to add boiling water to the culture before mixing with the flour, to inhibit the culture’s bacteria from competing with the yeast for the sugars/starches in the flour. And I’ve learned to add baking soda to the flour that is added after the soak, to neutralize the acid from the sponge so the bread is not sour-tasting. I’ve include these learnings in the recipe.

Testing Sprouted Wheat ‘Flour’

In the last few years I’ve been learning about the health benefits of sprouting the grain before grinding to flour.  I decided to convert the recipe to use sprouted wheat flour, with ingredients as follows:

  • ½ cup milk, scalded
  • 1 ½ Tbsp maple syrup, in divided portions
  • 1 ½ Tbsp butter
  • ½ package (½ T) yeast
  • ½ cup warm water (100 – 1100 F)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ – 2 Tbsp onion or shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 cup sprouted whole wheat ‘flour,’ plus more for kneading (about ¼ – ½ cup)
  • 1 Tbsp gluten (Bob’s Red Mill makes a good one), added with second cup of ‘flour’
  • 1 tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • 1 small egg
  • Herbs

I used the same method as for original recipe.

However, my two attempts with testing proved that it just doesn’t rise properly, even with the modifications I tried (red text for ingredients).  It rises well at first, but then falls while baking.  Or if left too long to rise, falls in the bowl and cannot be coaxed to rise again. I’ve since learned that sprouted grain doesn’t work well for yeast breads.

This problem is undoubtedly due to the sprouting process, which partially digests the proteins, including the gluten required for a proper rise.  So I tried adding extra gluten, but this did not really help.


  1. The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas
  2. The Vegetarian Epicure Book 2, by Anna Thomas
  3. Tassajara Bread Book, by Edward Epse Brown

About Cat

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