Butternut Squash and Herb Bread

Butternut Squash-Herb Bread
About 5 cups cubed butternut squash
4 cloves garlic, peeled
About 3 cups water
4 cups flour (I recommend 2 cups whole-wheat and 2 cups bread flour), plus more for kneading
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. herbs de provence
1 tablespoon honey
1 packet active dry yeast
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for moistening the dough

Put the butternut squash cubes and garlic into a large pot and add the water — you only need enough water to cover the squash and garlic by about a half-inch, so the amount is approximate depending upon the size of your pot.  Cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, and simmer about 15 minutes, until the squash and garlic are very tender.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of the warm cooking liquid.  Puree the squash and garlic until totally smooth.  Set the squash puree and the reserved liquid aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and herbs de provence.  Add the squash puree and mix thoroughly.  In another bowl, combine the 1 cup of reserved cooking liquid — you want it to be just the temperature of a baby’s bathwater, so please be patient in cooling it — with the yeast and honey.  Allow the yeast mixture to foam slightly (this takes a few minutes).  Add the yeast mixture, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil to the flour mixture.  Mix until the dough comes together in a mass.  It will probably be very soft and sticky.  Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead, adding flour as needed, until you have a soft dough that doesn’t stick to your hands.

Place the dough into a clean, oiled bowl and rub the top of the dough with olive oil.  Cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.  Cut the dough into two equal pieces.  Shape into loaves and place in greased loaf pans (alternatively, you can make 24 small balls and place into greased cake tins for dinner rolls).  Cover and let rise again until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake the bread for 40-45 minutes, until it’s golden brown and the loaves sound hollow when tapped.  Allow to cool slightly before cutting.

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