Tissy gave us a wonderful loaf of homemade bread for Christmas. It made me remember how tasty homemade bread can be, and how infrequently I’ve been baking of late.
I’ve gone through periods where I baked all our bread. Since local stores started carrying high-quality, artisan-style bread, I’ve been baking less and less. We finished Tissy’s bread yesterday, so today I decided to follow her example and bake my own.
My sister’s holiday present was a cookbook from Le Pain Quotidien, a Belgian bakery and restaurant that has stores in 12 countries around the world. The bread from Le Pain Quotidien is reported to be extremely good, so I wanted to make it.
I turned to the recipe for Le Pain Quotidien’s signature loaf, sourdough wheat bread, and read the recipe. It called for sourdough starter which, unfortunately, takes 11 days to make. This was not the loaf I would be baking today.
I used to make rosemary bread quite often, but haven’t done so in years. It goes together quickly, is always full of flavor, and would be an ideal accompaniment to the squash soup I was planning for lunch. Rosemary bread it would be.
As I described in an earlier post, we brought our herbs – including rosemary – in from the garden this year. When I cut off two branches to use in the bread, the smell was intoxicating; the aroma of freshly picked rosemary is much richer than that of herbs in plastic boxes from the supermarket produce section.
When I cut into the bread after it came out of the oven, I could tell by the smell that it would be delicious. It was.
Makes one large loaf
I prefer using a baking stone when I make bread as it helps my home oven maintain an even temperature and gives bread a crisper crust. I also have an old baking sheet with edges that I use when I make bread. I preheat the baking sheet and baking stone for at least 30 minutes at 500°F. I turn the heat down to 450°F when I put the bread in to bake. Just before I close the oven, I dump a cup of water into the baking sheet and quickly shut the door. (Do not throw water directly on the oven floor or it will warp. Trust me, I know this from experience.) The water creates steam which prevents the bread from quickly forming a hard surface, thus allowing the bread to rise to its fullest extent. The water cooks off quickly, and leaves a hot, dry oven which, together with the baking stone, helps ensure a crispy crust.
2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. honey
2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast (1 packet)
2 Tbsp. minced rosemary
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups semolina flour
2 – 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, mix the warm water and honey. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast begins to foam. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or by hand with a wooden spoon), mix in the rosemary, salt, olive oil, and semolina flour. Let sit for 10 minutes (this is necessary to properly hydrate the semolina).
Start mixing in the all-purpose flour. When the dough starts clumping together, switch to the dough hook (or to kneading by hand), and keep adding all-purpose flour until you have a moist, but not quite sticky, dough. Flour a board or counter, dump out the dough, and knead in the remaining flour as needed to make a smooth, soft dough.
Let the dough rise for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. Punch down the dough, shape into a large round loaf, place on a parchment-paper-lined rimless baking sheet, and let rise until the loaf has almost doubled in size. (You can also rise the bread directly on a wooden peel sprinkled with semolina flour or corn meal.)
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Cut an asterisk in the center of the loaf with a razor blade or extremely sharp knife. Brush lightly with water and sprinkle with coarse salt. (If you have a baking stone, slide the bread - and parchment paper if using - from the baking sheet or wooden peel onto the stone.) Bake for 15 minutes. Without removing the bread from the oven, turn the heat down to 325°F and bake for an additional 20 - 25 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Cool, cut, and serve.
Note: My recipe Chicken in Rosemary Bread uses this bread, and stuffs it with a chicken, prosciutto, and herb filling. Chicken in Rosemary Bread makes a showy company meal, or lovely, portable, hold-in-your-hand chicken sandwiches.