Rosemary Bread

IMG_0138We all make mistakes, right? Whether they’re due to forgetfulness, carelessness, or just a general lapse in judgement, things happen occasionally, and we just have to suck it up and deal with them. Usually, the best thing to do is to simply accept that we’ve screwed up and try our best to fix whatever problem we’ve created. However, admitting that we’re in the wrong can be difficult. Our first instinct is often to try to figure out a way to blame everything on someone else, and that’s okay; it’s part of the process.

But, you know what makes the fixing-of-mistakes process a bit easier? Forgiveness. The nicest surprise is when someone goes easy on you and is understanding of your little boo-boo.  Take this rosemary bread, for example; I can abuse it all I want and it still bakes up into a delicious loaf of carby goodness. I’ve added too much water or too little flour and it was fine. I’ve forgotten to flour the pan adequately and completely flattened the poor dough, and it was still ok. Heck, one time I forgot to add the ROSEMARY and it was possibly one of the best loaves of bread that ever came out of my oven. I wish all recipes (and people) were as forgiving as this bread.20130404-174742.jpg

(This the text conversation that I had while baking this bread back in December. I wasn’t kidding; the bread looked like a complete loss when I smushed it into the oven. It actually turned out amazing.)

My obsession with rosemary bread began at Macaroni Grill back when I was little. We used to  (actually, we still do) eat there occasionally when we’re visiting my great-aunt in Berkeley. Let’s be real; the best part of the dining experience is the bread. It’s kind of perfect. The rest of the food? I can take it or leave it, especially since half of the menu is on the do-not-eat-or-you’ll-have-a-heart-attack list. Because it’s slightly dumb to go to a restaurant for the sole purpose of getting at its complimentary bread basket, I started experimenting with rosemary bread recipes. I think this was the first recipe I ever made using yeast!

Basically, it’s kind of special to me, and you should try it. I mean, if a ten-year-old can bake it, you definitely can!

(P.S. You know what’s not forgiving? Gluten-free muffins baked at high-altitude. That’s a story for another post.)

Rosemary Bread

  • 1 ½  cups warm water
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour (I think I actually like AP better)
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • Rice flour, for dusting
  • olive oil/ balsamic vinegar/salt/pepper for dipping (optional, but definitely recommended!)

1) Pour the warm water into a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Allow the yeast to proof for five minutes.  Then, stir in the olive oil and whisk to combine. Mix the flour, rosemary, and salt into the liquid mixture one cup at a time. If the dough seems very wet, add more flour a tbsp at a time. Knead the dough by hand for ten minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

2) Transfer the kneaded dough to a large bowl coated with olive oil, cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. At this point, feel free to retard the dough in the refrigerator overnight.  Extended rising times at cooler temperatures actually improve the finished bread’s flavor.T he next day, simply bring the dough back to room temperature and continue to step 3.

3) Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the hunk of dough into two equal portions. For each portion, stretch and shape the dough into an oblong, batard shape. To prevent the loaves from spreading while rising, create tension on the surface of the dough by tucking the edges underneath. Dust a dark baking sheet with generous amounts of rice flour and place the loaves about 6 inches apart. Cover the loaves with a lightly oiled sheet of plastic wrap and allow them to rise until they look like they’ve taken a deep breath, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

4) Unwrap the dough and use a knife to slash the loaves. Using a spray bottle, spray each loaf lightly with water. Bake the loaves for 18-20 minutes, or until they sound hollow when tapped. Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack. Slice and serve with olive oil/balsamic vinegar dipping sauce.

Enjoy!

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