This a variation on a recipe I received when in culinary school myself, and have long since lost. So we started with the recipe for Lavender-Thyme Bread, and made some changes. The results were even better than we anticipated, and it is utterly gorgeous. This is a rugged, rustic-looking loaf with enormous character. —Montana Culinary Students
2 hearth loaves
warm water or whole milk, or half of each
Using water will give you a looser crumb, whereas milk will give you a tighter one and a bit richer flavor. Milk will raise the calorie count, where water will lower it. Use whichever you prefer. Pour your liquid of choice into the bowl of a mixer. Add the honey, olive oil, lemon zest and thyme leaves.
Add the bread flour, instant yeast, and salt. Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until dough comes together and leaves the sides and bottom of the bowl. Have a little flour and water to hand in case you need to adjust the balance. Once the dough comes together, turn off mixer and cover the top of the bowl with a piece of plastic (which you will reuse). Let the dough rest for 15 minutes. This is called an autolyse. It allows the gluten to continue to absorb water and gliadin to continue to form without the stress and heat generated by kneading.
While the dough is resting, sauté the scallions in a bit of olive oil and some salt. When tender, spread out on a plate and refrigerate to cool.
When the rest period is over, remove plastic and turn mixer on to low speed. It should stand right up and come to attention. Allow to knead for a couple of minutes, then stop the mixer and pull off a walnut-sized piece of dough. Round it up between your palms, then gently begin teasing it down over your fingertips. You are testing the dough for a windowpane. You want to see how thin you can get the dough without it tearing. The strength of the windowpane tells you how well you have developed the gluten, which is what will give your bread is structure. If you don't get a strong windowpane, continue kneading on low speed for another couple of minutes, then test again.
Stop the mixer and add the cooled rice and scallions. Add 1/4 cup flour, then begin mixing on low speed again. You may need a bit more flour if the ingredients seem reluctant to be incorporated. When they are fully incorporated (yes, it's ok if the dough is sticky at this point), stop the mixer.
Oil or pan spray a bowl large enough to contain the dough when doubled. Turn the dough into it and turn it over once. Cover with your piece of plastic and allow to rise at room temperature until nicely doubled. This is a heavy dough, so this may take over an hour.
When finished rising, turn dough out onto a floured work surface. Divide it in half. Shape each into a round or oval and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with flour and drape the piece of plastic over them. Allow to rise again at room temperature until you can gently poke them, and the dough retains the indentation of your finger.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Just before placing loaves in oven, use a serrated knife to carve some decorative slashes in them. Place in oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Bread is done when it reads 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Remove your gorgeous loaves from the oven and allow to cool on a rack so that the bottoms don't get soggy. Serve with just about anything you can imagine. I have a feeling this would make a dynamite Thanksgiving stuffing.