1 cup (8 ounces) of warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
pinch of granulated sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
3/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
about 4 cups (20 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
a few big pinches of coarse ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
olive oil, coarse sea salt, and chili flakes for topping
1. Sprinkle yeast over warm water, add pinch of sugar and stir gently. Allow yeast and warm water to rest, foam and froth for about 5 minutes. If yeast does not foam and froth after 5 minutes, toss it and start over again with new yeast.
2. Melt butter in a small saucepan. When butter is melted, remove from heat and add herbs, chili flake, and garlic. Set aside.
3. Place flour in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a bread hook. Add salt and pepper. Pour in activated yeast mixture, and butter mixture. Stir on low speed, with the dough hook, for about 10 to 12 minutes. The dough ball should clean the sides of the bowl and not stick to the bottom of the mixing bowl. The dough will be relatively smooth and supple, with some firmness from the bread flour.
4. Place dough in a large greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour.
5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
6. When doubled in size, place on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for about 2 minutes.
7. In a large Dutch oven, add about 2 tablespoons olive oil, to coat the bottom of the pot. Place dough in pot and use a large knife to slice a fairly deep cross into the dough. Drizzle about 3 more tablespoons of olive oil atop the bread. Sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt and pepper flakes.
8. Cover with tight fitting lid and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees F, remove lid, and allow to make for about 15-20 minutes more.
9. Remove from oven and allow to cool until easily removed from the pan. Bread will last, well wrapped at room temperature, for up to 3 days.