Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rosemary Bread and the Plain Baguette

Two loaves of rosemary bread and one plain baguette.

There comes a time in every baker's life when (s)he breathes in the air wafting from the oven and just knows that something has gone right. Hopefully this happens nearly every time, but I have to admit that bread is the best. 

No, it's really not the same as when you toast something (especially when the toaster sets a flame). There's an olfactory warmth flooding every kitchen-connected corridor that can make even the least spiritual person have visions of heaven. Baking rosemary bread, my friends, is nasal ambrosia.

I bought fresh rosemary from two different vendors at the farmers' market last Saturday. One was hydroponically grown, sold by The Pantry. The other was organically grown in Nepal and sold by Organic Himalaya Produce. Of course I compulsively sniffed the herb bouquets while wandering the market, dazzled by how the little bunch from OHP was far more fragrant than the sapling-esque hydroponically grown variety.

Top: Hydroponically grown rosemary, no pesticides used, sold by The Pantry. The bunch was approximately 10" long, with leaves nearly twice the size of any rosemary I'd seen before. The Organic Himalaya Produce vendors took one look and said, "Fertilizers."

Bottom: Organic rosemary from Nepal, grown and sold by Organic Himalayan Produce. The bunch was about 3" long and had normal-sized leaves. The organic was far more fragrant than the hydroponic when purchased.

Just the day before, I had been day dreaming about rosemary bread from the Corina Bakery in Tacoma, WA. This had to be fate.

The Corina Bakery site doesn't hint at how their rosemary bread is made, though a casual comment on let me to believe the recipe was baguette-based. Those of you that have done your reading know that real baguettes consist of only yeast, water, flour, and salt. That is why my rosemary bread is just rosemary bread and not a rosemary baguette.

I did make a regular baguette along with the two rosemary loaves (does it still count as a baguette if you mix in whole wheat flour?). Apparently a lot of bakers spend a significant amount of time perfecting baguettes, and I can tell that this will invade my life as well. The baguette recipe I used can be found at and some helpful shaping instructions can be found at

This looks a bit too much like stock photography to me, but I wanted to show you how all three loaves look in entirety rather than just texture-ific close-ups.

Rosemary Bread and Plain Baguettes
Adapted from the Baker's Catalogue 2001, posted at
Yields 3 loaves

1/2 C  water
1 C (100g)  bread flour
1/16 tsp  yeast

1 tsp  yeast
1 C  lukewarm water*
2 C  (200g) bread flour
1 1/2 C (195g)  whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp  salt
1 bunch  fresh rosemary (about 5 T per loaf), optional**
coarse salt (to sprinkle on top), optional

*in the original recipe, it says to add 2 T water if you use bread flour, but I found that to be too wet
**I used half as much when I made my bread and it didn't read as well when tasted, so pump it up!

This is what starter looks like after a good sleep.

  1. Mix up your starter, cover, and let it sit at room temperature over night. (It'll have a texture similar to that glue-paste you used in kindergarten. Do not be alarmed.)
  2. After your starter has had a good sleep, mix the yeast and lukewarm water together. (It won't bubble and froth up like when you give it sugar; totally normal.)
  3. Now mix everything, including your swampy-looking starter, and begin kneading on a floured surface. Knead for about 5 minutes, until it's soft and decently smooth.
  4. Cover dough with greased plastic wrap and let it rise 1 hour, punch it down and turn it over (picture above right: dough after first rise).
  5. Cover it again, let it rise for 2 hours, punch it down and turn it over.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, divide your dough into three equal portions and shape into ovals.
  7. Cover dough and rest 15 minutes.
  8. Take one oval, flatten a bit, sprinkle with 4 T rosemary (optional), and do a three-fold like a business letter or wallet; pinch the first fold into the center and pinch the final flap to seal your roll (click here for shaping help).
  9. Gently stretch your roll out to about 12-15", allowing it to rest a few minutes between stretches if it's not compliant. Don't fight the gluten!
  10. Repeat this for your other two pieces of dough and set about 2" apart on a lined baking sheet.
  11. Cut three long diagonal slashes on the tops, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let rise for an hour or so (you want the loaves puffy but not quite doubled).
  12. Preheat the oven to 450F (232C).
  13. Brush or sprinkle plain loaves with warm water and brush rosemary loaves with olive oil, sprinkling with 1 T rosemary each and some coarse salt (leave your plain baguettes alone, just the warm water!).
  14. Bake about 25 minutes, until the loaves are nice and brown. Remove to racks to cool or just turn off the heat and crack the oven door a couple inches to cool slowly (the slow cooling makes for the crunchiest crust).
  15. Enjoy!
Shaped dough before entering the oven.

Rosemary Bread and Plain Baguette Reflections
Rosemary bread with coarse salt, the crispiest and crustiest bread I've made to date. Just look at that torn crust and the assortment of air pockets inside.

As always, bread takes some time and planning. Then again, you're only touching it for a little bit between rising/resting periods, during which you could nap or watch a movie or obsessively search for new recipes. The result, granted nothing goes epically wrong, is lovely.

The smell in the kitchen! In the living room! Everywhere in the apartment that wasn't sealed off from the oven was heaven scent (LOL? A giggle? Anyone?). I have to say that I have never experienced any smell in my life as delicious and heady as fresh baking rosemary bread.

As noted in the recipe, 2 T fresh rosemary worked into the dough and 1 T on top were simply not enough to make the rosemary flavor really read in the bread. Doubling the in-bread rosemary seems like it'll do the trick, and perhaps a quick crush to release the oils a bit more wouldn't hurt.

Organic versus hydroponic rosemary? Surprisingly, our hulky hydroponic rosemary read in the bread a bit better than the organic variety. Strange. I'll let you know how things go with the doubled herbs soon. Also, if anyone sees anything about scratch and sniff pictures via the interweb, let me know, because you would reap the benefits on this one.

One more texture picture to tease you.


  1. What is going on!? I actually smell rosemary bread now, maybe my neighbor is baking or maybe this website has magical powers.

    I hope the answer is the latter.

    We are struggling to line up bakers at the market.

    You should come.

    Bring some bread.

    It smells delicious.

    Home baker to farmers' market vendor in one week?

    Yes, please.

  2. Lee,

    It's magic. Voodoo magic, to be specific. I've got a witch doctor working out the kinks on the dimension of smell on the internets.

    I would totally be on board for the farmers' market next week, except yours is probably in Oregon, which would be sort of doable from Seattle, but not so much Singapore.

    I AM looking into the farmers' market that happens once a month out here; I'm planning on joining up for July. You are officially invited and will get the extra special sample portions reserved for friends that fly in from far, far away.

  3. Martha Stewart also has really good directions (and photos!) for making baguettes and other breads here:

    Are you baking on a pizza stone? They make bread come out crispier, and make regular home ovens have a more consistent temperature, in my experience.

    My favorite rosemary is one I grow that was called "barbecue rosemary". It does have some smoky bbq flavors to it.

    Hope you're having fun with the baking! Amanda W1

  4. Martha's photos make me cry a little inside for 1) a big marble counter space, 2) a well-lit kitchen so I don't have to run back and forth between rooms when taking pictures, and 3) for the knowledge and technology to take really great food photos. My friend Dave offered to take my pictures for me, but that would involve planning and having him over or me going to his apartment across town. It's mostly the planning that gets me, because I bake whenever I feel like it.

    No pizza stone in our kitchen, YET. I bought 16 ramekins the other day for no real reason. The pizza stone will come.

    Bbq rosemary sounds delicious! I wonder if I can find that variety here.

    I am having tons of fun, and eating it too :)

    X M