Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Food #20: Easy Delicious Rosemary Bread

You may have figured out that I love to bake. The truth is, though, that I love having baked. I love the smell of something baking permeating the house, I love giving people baked goods, I love eating them. I'm not, however, one of those folks who derives spiritual satisfaction or therapeutic release from, say, the act of kneading, or from the long process of bread-baking, in particular. That's why I love Suzanne Dunaway's book, No Need to Knead, which I've cited here before. She taught me how to make yeast bread almost as easily as quick bread, and to make bread without kneading that is as good as bread that you do. (She claims it's can be the judge.)

This bread is easy. I take it to potlucks. For that matter, Mark takes it to potlucks. I think I'm right in saying it's the only bread he's ever baked. Everyone loves it. You do need to eat it up pretty quickly, though; it doesn't keep well. That's not a problem in our family.

Special equipment: you need a baguette pan for this. It can be for two or three loaves. Mine is a cheap two-loaf one from a local gourmet shop but most gourmet shops have them.

You also need to buy some yeast. If you have some in the fridge and you can't remember when you bought it, throw it out and buy some new yeast.

A rosemary plant is nice, too, but if you don't have one you can buy some fresh rosemary at the store or leave it out.

A big (long-handled) wooden spoon is best for stirring, and your bowl should be ceramic or glass.

Other than that it's pretty straightforward.

2 1/4 cups lukewarm water (it should be the same temperature as the inside of your wrist, or even a little cooler)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups unbleached or all-purpose white flour
2 – 3 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons rosemary oil if you have it, or olive oil
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Measure the water into a large bowl, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir until the yeast is dissolved. Stir in two cups of the flour and the salt until the mixture is smooth—about two minutes. Stir in the rosemary oil, if you have it, or 3 tablespoons of olive oil. (Other flavored oils might work as well…)

Stir in the remaining 2 1/4 cups of flour for about two minutes longer, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and the flour is incorporated. The dough will be wet and sticky but as long as it's pulling away from the sides it's fine. If it's too sticky, add an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flour (mine has never been too sticky).

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk—about 40 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Spray the baguette pan with nonstick spray or rub with olive oil.

Tip the bowl over one groove of the baguette pan and let 1/3 – 1/2 of the dough (depending on how many loaves your pan makes) fall into the groove. Cut it off with a rubber spatula. Repeat for the other groove(s). Brush the tops of the loaves with olive oil, then sprinkle with rosemary and kosher salt. Let rise for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the loaves are nicely puffed up. (Mine tend to rise outward rather than upward and slide out of the pan; if that happens to you, just fold the dough back over on itself.)

Place the bread in the preheated oven and reduce the temperature immediately to 400° F. Bake for 30- 35 minutes or until the loaves are nicely browned. Tap the baguette pan on a flat surface to loosen the loaves and cool them on a rack.

Note: Cooling bread before cutting it keeps it from "falling." It also seems to help it stay fresh longer.

Note about rosemary oil: You can make this yourself by stripping 6 long branches of fresh rosemary and chopping the leaves very fine. Gently heat 1 cup olive oil until it is warm. Off the heat, stir the rosemary into the oil and let sit for 2 –3 hours. Strain the oil and use. Or you can buy some. Or you can just use regular olive oil, which is what I do and it tastes fine.

You can also make this bread overnight. Once you've got the dough ready in the bowl and covered, put the bowl in the fridge. Two hours before you want to bake it, take it out and let it stand until it reaches room temperature. Then proceed as above, pouring the dough into the baguette pan.

Adapted from No Need to Knead, by Suzanne Dunaway

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