Tonight was Cooking Binge Night (bread, muffins, sandwich meat, chicken cacciatore, minestrone soup, oatmeal…). I’m going to be starting a very unpleasant work week tomorrow night and will have zero time for cooking so I had to get it all done tonight.
Last night I was supposed to start a batch of bread and let it do its twenty-four hour thang. But sleepier heads prevailed and I went to bed without so much as pulling the yeast out of the fridge.
Y’know, it must be a pretty sweet life to be yeast. Just think about it: you’re born, you go to sleep, then you get woken up with huge feast and you eat like crazy for a couple of hours, and then you die. Along the way, it’s not only normal and accepted to, well, burp and fart, it’s required.
Yep, those little critters have it pretty good. Don’t let anyone tell you that being a single-celled organism is dull.
But I digress.
So I finally got around to starting the bread tonight. I had forgotten to put oatmeal or any other grain on so that was right out and needed to find a recipe to make. I was tempted by my herbs de provence loaf but realized that the only blend I had on hand was the one with anise. Yuck. So I took a page from L’Aroma and settled on a rosemary loaf.
As I was kneading and shaping (and waiting) I was thinking about how I would post this (I know, I’m such a nerd). I was originally going to post it as a variation on the herbs de provence loaf, but….
See, the loaves came out of the oven, and they were exceptional. They rose impossibly high – so high that the bread was so light that I had to slice very carefully so I didn’t smoosh it. And the flavor – I can’t believe it, it’s so delicious. The wheat brings out the best in the rosemary – even though I used a very heavy hand with the herb the flavor is well-rounded, delicate, and almost sweet. I never thought I’d say it, but I think my version is way better than L’Aroma’s Pan Marino. Theirs is a white bread with sea salt sprinkled on top and I really think the rosemary needs something more than refined flour. Rosemary is a fantastic herb, but really, it’s not that good on it own. It needs something to support its flavors. I’ve known that for a while, but I never would have guessed that whole-wheat would be the perfect complement.
Whole wheat rosemary bread
Adapted from Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book
Makes two 8×4-inch loaves
2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
½ cup warm water (105°-115°F)
6 cups whole wheat flour (900g), preferably stone-ground
6 tablespoons vital wheat gluten, added according to package directions (optional – if using, decrease flour by 6 tablespoons)
2½ teaspoons salt
0.35oz dried rosemary, crushed (grab one of the small-size spice jar and use the whole thing)
2¼ cups lukewarm water
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dissolve the yeast in the ½ cup warm water.
Mix the flour, gluten, salt, and rosemary, stirring to make the flour fluffy. Make a well in the mixture.
Dissolve the molasses in the 2¼ cups lukewarm water and add the oil. Pour the liquids and the yeast mixture into the well in the flour. Starting from the center, combine to make a smooth batter and then gradually incorporate the flour from the sides of the bowl. Alternatively, use a stand mixer to stir the ingredients until just combined.
Cover the dough with a lid, plastic wrap, or damp towel and allow to sit for twenty minutes. This step (the autolyze) allows the wheat to more fully absorb the water and lets enzymes begin to align gluten molecules which will make for easier kneading.
If kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead until the dough is lustrous, smooth, and elastic, about 600 strokes/20 minutes. If using a stand mixer, knead according to appliance directions. Personally I prefer to start the knead with the stand mixer and take over by hand for the last couple minutes.
Put the dough in an ungreased bowl and cover. Let dough rise in a warm, draft free place for 1.5-2.5 hours. As soon as the dough tests ready (it does not spring back with poked with a finger) turn it out onto the board, gently deflate, and knead for a few strokes. Form the dough back into a ball and let rise again for about half as long as the first rising.
When the dough tests ready a second time, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Keeping the smooth gluten film intact, gently and completely deflate the dough. Divide it in two, shape into round balls, and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes until the dough is soft.
Shape the balls into loaves (freeform or loaf pans) and let proof for another hour. A half hour before the dough is ready to go in the oven, preheat it to 425°F. Place in the hot oven and after ten minutes decrease the temperature to 325°F. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 210°F, 45-75 additional minutes. Allow to cool completely before storing.
This bread’s rosemary and wheat flavors sing out even more vibrantly when this is made into a long loaf. Vary the above recipe by reducing yeast to 1/4 teaspoon and increasing molasses to 2 tablespoons plus two teaspoons. Do three cool (around 60 degrees) risings of about 8 hours each before shaping and proofing. Proof in the pans for 2 hours. You may need to add a little baking time as well. When the internal temperature of the loaves is 210, take them from the oven.