I love making bread. It's a little time consuming but it's so rewarding! Lately though I've been worling a lot and since I can get bread from work I kinda stopped making homemade loaves. BUT. Last week I was watching (surprise surprise) the food channel and there was chef Smith making homemade bread, so simple and delicious, and versatile! I got the urge to make bread again. You can take this recipe, keep the 4 main ingredients of flour, yeast, salt and water, and go from there and never have the same bread from time to time! There's usually not much room for changing things in baking but you can play around with a bread recipe. I love that! I don't feel like I have to follow a recipe anymore, I actually make it up as I go along, writing it down so I can pass it along to you all. Kinda like freestyle cooking! And i'm proud to say I've come a long way since my first loaf...
For this "bread of the week" I went for a flavor I love and hadn't used yet in bread: sundried tomatoes!! And I decided to pair it with one of my favorite fresh herbs: rosemary!! (yes, again, rosemary. there's a big plant at work growing like crazy, so lucky me i can take some home!:))). And for even more taste I threw in some parm, because you can't really ever go wrong with the King of cheeses! This is what you'll need:
3 1/2-4 cups BREAD flour 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast 1 tsp salt 1 TBSP sugar 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese 1 1/2-2 cups warm water, at 120-130F 2 TBSP olive oil (or if you're using tomatoes in oil, use THAT oil, it's SO flavorful!) 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped 4-5 slices sundried tomatoes, cut finely.
In a big bowl, mix 3 1/2 cups of the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Mix and make a well in the centre. Keep the 1/2 cup flour on the side for the kneading process. Heat 1 1/2 water up to 120F and add the oil to it. Keep 1/2 cup on the side just in case.. Pour in the middle of the flour mixture. Mix with a fork, slowly incorporating the flour to the water, gradually stirring from the middle towards the outer edge. When the dough comes into a ball, or almost, transfer to a clean, floured work surface and start kneading. This is where you add the parmesan, sundried tomatoes and rosemary, and extra flour if necessary. I ended up adding about 1/4 cup more. Keep kneading for about 8 minutes until the dough gets really soft and elastic and feels like an earlobe. (I was actually pleasantly surprise how this dough came together like a charm! no sticky mess is always nice!) When the dough is nice and soft, cover and let it rest for about 10 minutes, while you clean up(...). Then shape into whatever you feel like; braid, buns, round or long log, or in a loaf pan... Then just cover with saran-wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes, until it's doubled in size. Here in Montreal it's getting a little cold, so the appartment is cold. What I did was turn on the oven at 200F and put the baking sheet on the oven's cheminee. That's helps A LOT! Also when it was done "rising" it was a little too round, so I re-shaped it into an oval log. Delicately of course! You don't wanna break the precious air bubbles! Then turn up the oven to 375F and while this heats up, score the bread 4-5 times, brush with oil (i used the sundried tomato oil from the jar) and sprinkle some parmesan and a bit more chopped rosemary.
Bake it for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave it in 5 minutes extra. To make sure it's done tap on the bottom it will sound hollow, or check with a meat thermometer, the temperature should say 180F.