Italian Herb Twist Bread (pane alle erbi)

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Italian Herb Twise Bread (pane alle erbi)

Michael walked into the kitchen the other night and said, “Wow! Did you make that?

Yes, I did, and it was pretty darn easy. Seriously, this is one of the easiest breads I’ve made from Daniel Leader’s book, Local Breads, and it’s also one of the prettiest. My three-year-old and I had fun rolling and twisting the bread, and the specks of fresh herbs and the haunting flavor of the ground coriander mingle well with the rye flour and makes it a very interesting bread to make and savor. Plus it smells fantastic while baking.

Pane alle erbi, crumb

This bread is from northern Italy and is made with instant yeast instead of a biga, a type of pre-ferment that usually sits overnight, so this is a bread you can whip up in just a few hours. The mixed dough gets one rise, then the shaped loaf gets one short rise and is ready for the oven. I started it during the afternoon and had it ready in time for dinner.

The dough is pretty easy to handle and not overly wet, and the stand mixer makes quick work of it, though of course you can make it by hand. If you choose to mix and knead by hand, do not be tempted to add extra flour. The dough is somewhat sticky, but adding flour will ruin the final texture.

Basil & Thyme

The basil and thyme came from our indoor garden, which is enjoying a rebirth now that all the pesky whiteflies are gone (I think, I hope). Currently we have oregano, lemon thyme, cilantro, parsley, chives, spearmint, and sage growing in the window as well as hydroponic basil in a glass jar. We also have other seedlings growing indoors, waiting for the cold nights to pass so we can plant them outdoors, and I have some raspberry and blueberry bushes as well as strawberry plants to ready to go. We’re working on the flower and vegetable beds over the next two weekends, so they should be ready by the first weekend in May.

Grow Your Own logoThis flavorful bread is my contribution to Grow Your Own, a monthly blogging event celebrating the foods we grow and raise ourselves and the dishes we make from them. If you would like to participate, please send me an email with your entry information. Visit my Grow Your Own page to learn more about the event.

Pane alle erbi, rising


stand mixer with dough hook attachment
large mixing bowl or a dough rising bucket, lightly oiled
baking stone
parchment paper
plastic wrap
small cast-iron skillet
baking sheet or pizza peel


1 tablespoon fresh basil, coarsely chopped (3 grams)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, coarsely chopped (3 grams)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped (3 grams)
1-1/2 cups tepid water (about 70 to 78° F) (350 grams)
2 teaspoons instant yeast (10 grams)
2-1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (400 grams)
3/4 cup rye flour (100 grams)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (50 grams)
1/4 teaspoon toasted ground coriander seeds
1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt (8 grams)


1. Pour the water in the mixer bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the yeast, flours, olive oil, coriander, and sea salt, just until it comes together as a dough.

2. Attach the dough hook and mix the dough on medium speed until it’s supple, smooth, and elastic about 8 or 9 minutes. (My old 350 watt KitchenAid worked well at 3, though the recipe recommends 4. The KA was dancing across the counter at 4.) Turn off the mixer and scrape down the hook and the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the chopped herbs and mix on medium speed until they are distributed throughout the dough, about 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Move the dough to the oiled rising bucket or mixing bowl and cover. Allow to rise at room temperature (70 to 75° F) until doubled, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

4. Lay some parchment paper on the pizza peel or baking sheet, then dust the surface lightly with flour. Uncover the risen dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 14 inches long. Lay two of the ropes side by side and pinch together at one end. Twist the two pieces together like a rope and then pinch the other ends together to seal. Place the shaped loaf on the parchment paper and repeat with the other pieces of dough.

5. Drape plastic wrap over the shaped loaves and allow to stand at room temperature (70 to 75° F) until they look puffy, about 30 minutes to 1 hour. If you press your finger in the dough, it should spring back slowly.

6. While the dough rises, about 1 hour before baking, place the baking stone on the middle rack of the oven and the cast-iron skillet on the lower rack. Preheat the oven to 425° F.

7. Remove the plastic wrap and leave the loaves on the parchment paper. Slide the loaves and the paper onto the heated stone. Put 1/4 cup of ice cubes into the cast-iron skillet to produce steam. Bake until the loaves are golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. (My oven cooked them in 25 minutes.)

8. Use the pizza peel or baking sheet to remove the loaves from the oven. Cool them on a wire rack for about 30 minutes, and serve warm. To store, allow to cool completely and keep in a resealable plastic bag for up to 3 days. Can be frozen for up to 1 month.


Source: adapted from Local Breads, by Daniel Leader

[Disclosure: This blog earns a small commission through affiliate links.]


  1. says

    Andrea that is a totally beautiful loaf!
    I do enjoy his book! I frustrate myself so many times with it trying to find a recipe that doesn’t need long prep with the bigas so I’m sure going to tag this one!

  2. says

    You go girl! I always find bread baking so satisfying once I get over my initial fear of failure. There is something so soul warming about freshly baked bread. Thanks for the recipe, I’ll have to give this one a try.

  3. says

    I somehow missed this recipe in Local Breads. It sounds wonderful, and your loaves are lovely. The thyme is waking up from winter slumber in the greenhouse, so all I need to do now is plant some basil seeds and wait, wait, wait! : )

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