A Very Herby Pain de Provence

pain de provence, sliced loaf
Not the greatest photo, but it somewhat shows the loaf of Pain de Provence that I recently made.

I admit that I hadn’t heard of Pain de Provence before reading this recipe on The Fresh Loaf and deciding that I had to make this bread. I love Herbes de Provence and figured that bread containing them would be delicious. I also thought the addition of orange liqueur to the dough would be a nice complement to those flavors.

Sadly, I was a little disappointed in this recipe because of the overwhelming herb flavor. Maybe my expectations weren’t in line with what Pain de Provence is supposed to be, but it was too much. I read the recipe’s comments before baking and saw that a few other readers questioned the amount of herbs, but were reassured that the bread would turn out great. When I baked mine, I even halved the amount, using 1/4 cup instead of 1/2.

I had wanted to fall in love with the flavors of this bread but it just wasn’t meant to be. I felt like I was eating seasoned stuffing bread. It was simply too concentrated for me. Too many herbs, and I couldn’t taste or smell the orange flavor (which was 1/4 cup of Grand Marnier).

We had this bread with soup, and my guests thought it tasted much better when dipped in the broth. I agreed that it tasted better, but for me that only reinforced the idea that this bread was so packed full of flavor that it needed to be diluted with other foods (like stuffing bread).

The texture of the bread was fantastic. I’m looking forward to trying this again, and only using a couple tablespoons or so of the herbs. I may even add some orange zest to bring out that flavor a bit more.

For those having trouble opening the link, here’s the recipe for Pain de Provence from The Fresh Loaf, as posted by Floydm.

Pain De Provence

Makes 1 large loaf

1 cup bread or all-purpose unbleached flour
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

All of the poolish
2 cups bread or all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup Herbes de Provence
1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup liqueur such as Beauchant, Grand Marnier, or orange Curaçao
1/4-1/2 cup water, as necessary

The night before baking, make the poolish by mixing together 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of water, and 1/2 teaspoon of yeast to make a batter. Cover the container with plastic wrap and set aside for 8 to 16 hours until you are ready to make the final dough.

To make the dough, combine the remaining flour with the remaining yeast, salt, and herbs. Add the poolish, the liqueur, and 1/4 cup of the additional water. Mix the ingredients, and, if necessary, add more water or flour until the proper consistency is reached (tacky but not so sticky that the dough sticks to your hands).

Knead by hand for 10 to 15 minutes or in a mixer for 5 to 10 minutes. Place the dough in a well-greased bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside to rise until doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes. Remove it from the bowl and gently degas it, then return it to the bowl, cover it, and allow it to double in size again.

Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a ball or long loaf. Cover the loaf with a damp towel and allow it to rise again until doubled in size, which takes between 60 and 90 more minutes.

While the loaf is in its final rise, preheat the oven and baking stone, if you are using one, to 450. I also preheat a brownie pan into which I pour a cup of hot water just after placing the loaf in the oven. This creates steam in the oven which increases the crunchiness of the crust.

Just prior to placing the loaf in the oven, score the top of it with a sharp knife or razor blade.

Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 20 minutes at 450, then rotate it 180 degrees and reduce the oven temperature to 375 and baked it another 25 minutes. The internal temperature of the loaf should be in the ball park of 200 degrees when you remove it from the oven.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least a half an hour before serving, if you can resist.