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Lammas Loaf ...or, um...loaf mass loaf...wha!?

 Lammas, the ancient mid-summer celebration (known by the Celts as Lughnasadh loo-na-sa) honoring the new harvest, falls on August 1 today.  The Old English interpretation of Lammas is "loaf mass".  The perfect day to bake up a loaf of bread packed full of just harvested herbs from the garden to celebrate the new harvest!  This bread is hearthy, warm, and oh-so-inviting with its heady scent of herbs permeating the air...smelling like the harvest, itself!  Break bread with your friends and loved ones who've helped to cultivate this years crops.

Lammas Loaf
adapted from China Bayles' Book of Days

2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/4 c. warm water, divided
2 Tbs. melted butter, divided
2 1/2 - 3 c. bread flour
1 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbs. fresh Sage, minced
2 Tbs. fresh Rosemary, minced
2 Tbs. fresh Thyme, minced
2 Tbs. fresh Oregano, minced
2 tsp. poppy seeds

Put 1/4c. of the warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast and sugar over it, stirring to dissolve.  Add the remaining c. of warm water and 1 Tbs. of the melted butter. 

In a separate bowl, combine the sage & salt with 2 1/2 c. of the flour.  Add to the yeast mixture, a little at a time, stirring w/ a wooden spoon to form a slightly sticky dough.  Add a bit more of the remaining flour, if necessary to make dough workable (so it doesn't stick to everything).  Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (5-6 mins.). 

Oil a large bowl and place the dough in, turning to coat.  Cover with a clean, damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, ~90 mins.  Punch dough down.  Divide it into thirds, add one of the remaining herbs to each section of dough and knead it in. 

Form each section into a long rope, ~20".  Arrange on a greased or papered cookie sheet and braid them together, pressing the ends together and tucking under slightly.  Cover and let rise 45-50 mins, or until doubled in size.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F when there is ~15-20 mins rising time left.

Brush w/ remaining butter and sprinkle with poppy seeds. 

Bake 35-40 mins, or until golden and hollow-sounding when you knock on it.

I cannot begin to tell you how amazing this is warm, eaten with some hunks of cheese...or slathered with herby, tangy cheese.  My favorite cheese to eat it with...gouda. ohemgeeyum.

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