In my family, we developed a tradition some years ago of baking rosemary bread. It could have been because of the delectable taste, or the bread-making machine we received for Christmas that year or, unlike some recipes, it always came out perfect. Maybe we just needed to create a family tradition of our own. The primary deciding factor was utilizing the hedge of rosemary in our garden, for culinary purposes. Ever since, we have baked rosemary bread for birthdays, holidays, late night snacks, or just to warm the kitchen on winter evenings.
I wanted to find a way to bring the delightful and refreshing fragrance of rosemary, from the garden, into my home. Our hedge is Rosmarinus ‘Tuscan Blue’ but other selections of rosemary are suitable. A myriad of cultivars are available-‘Irene’, ‘Boule’, ‘Corsican Prostrate’, ‘Mozart’, ‘Golden Rain’ and ‘Blue Spires’ are a few I have tried. I take care to pluck only the fresh succulent tips and usually collect fifteen to twenty sprigs. After rinsing them well under cold water and patting them dry with paper towels, I put them aside until the first ingredients for the dough are mixed together thoroughly. I invite you to join me in baking a loaf.
In an electric bread-making machine combine one and a third cups warm water, one packet of yeast and two tablespoons sugar. Allow the combination to sit for a couple of minutes until foam forms on the surface. Then add three cups of flour and two-thirds cup olive oil. Set the dial to mix and rise, then turn on the bread machine. This dough will be soft. After a minute of mixing, add one bunch of finely chopped green onions (only the green ends), one tablespoon of dried Herbes de Provence, and as much finely chopped rosemary as suits your taste. I use more rosemary than onion or herbs, but this can be adjusted. Chopped Kalamata olives may be added for a slightly different texture and flavor. Continue mixing until all ingredients are incorporated, then gradually add up to two and a half more cups of flour. The dough will form a sticky ball. Allow the machine to finish the mixing and rising process (approximately an hour to 90 minutes).
Remove the puffy dough and punch down on a floured counter. Separate into two equal parts and shape into oval loaves. You may need a bit of flour to handle the dough easily. Place the two loaves on a baking stone that is sprinkled with corn meal, prick the top surfaces several times with a fork, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Place the baking stone and loaves in a warm place, cover with a clean cloth, and allow to rest, for fifteen minutes. Remove the cloth and bake in a preheated oven at 425° Fahrenheit for twenty minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.
The ‘Tuscan Blue’ rosemary in our garden began many years ago as a small bush near the children’s seesaw, but eventually matured into a robust five-foot hedge. Other cultivars have been added to the garden since, to assure an ever-present supply of rosemary for the kitchen. Plant a rosemary bush in your garden, then on a Sunday afternoon, or any winter evening, gather sprigs, bake bread, and sit back to enjoy its aroma while the kitchen is warmed. Tantalizing, right out of the oven, rosemary bread is a satisfying accompaniment to an evening stroll in your garden.