Finding things to do with all the herbs, fruits and vegetables Sage grows around here, can be a challenge (what does one do with a pound of Borage?), but one use that’s always guaranteed to be a big hit is fresh rosemary from the garden in my homemade rosemary bread.
It’s actually a simple bread recipe, but when it’s spiked with a little biga and finely chopped fresh rosemary, it makes a nutty, woodsy, slightly chewy bread that’s great all by itself, as well as topped with good stuff like pesto, melty cheese, or a tangy-garlic and horseradish spread. It’s also great cubed, toasted and turned into croutons for salads or stuffing for poultry (rosemary chicken anyone?).
Total time to make is 4-½ hours: 30 minutes of prep and baking, 4 hours of bread rising.
2 medium or 4 small loaves
- 1-¼ ounces of instant yeast*
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-1/4 cups bread flour
- ¼ cup biga (see biga recipe)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary (or 3 tablespoons of dried rosemary)
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 egg (for brushing)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
* I use instant yeast rather than dry activated yeast because it has a higher concentration of active yeast doesn’t require mixing with water before using.
Step 1 – Stir together the yeast, sugar and flour
Step 2 – Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1-½ tablespoons rosemary (2 if using dried), table salt and water to the flour mixture and mix until you’ve got a dough ball that’s tacky but not sticky (add water or flour to adjust as necessary).
Step 3 – Lightly flour your work surface and move your dough to it. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes by hand, 7-8 minutes if you’re using a mixer and dough hook).
Step 4 – Coat a bowl with a bit of olive oil and place your dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the dough has doubled (1-½ to 2 hours).
Step 5 – Cover 2 baking pans with parchment paper (or brush the pans with olive oil). Dust your work surface with flour again and move your dough to it. Divide the dough into 2 pieces (or 4 for small loaves). Working one piece at a time, dust the dough with a little flour and knead, folding it over repeatedly to de-gas. Then form a ball with the dough and place seam side down on your baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining dough. Let the dough stand uncovered until it doubles in size again (1-½ to 2 hours).
Step 6 – Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and make sure it’s at temperature for at least 10 minutes so the uncooked bread doesn’t drop the oven temperature. Place the bread on the baking pans in and bake for about 10 minutes. While the bread is baking, beat your egg in a small bowl. At the 10 minute mark, brush the bread with the egg and sprinkle a pinch of rosemary and Kosher salt over the top of each loaf. Bake until golden brown — usually about 10-15 minutes depending on your oven. Once it’s fully baked, remove it from the oven and place it on a rack to cool.
Serve with your meal, or enjoy it by itself with a little olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Fun variation — Instead of using only rosemary, try a mixture of rosemary, oregano and thyme. It will give the bread a delicious Italian flavor that’s great by itself and as a base for cheesy garlic bread.
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