Sunday, 8 April 2012

Rosemary and Raisin Bread

One of the things I will always remember about my grandmother is that she always made her own bread. I think it was something that my whole family cherished whenever they went for a visit. I often reminisce about sleeping over, enjoying some toast and tea with cousins before bed, and walking into her sunny kitchen upon waking, for more toast and tea, sometimes with cheese whiz, sometimes with jam, but mostly just plain ol' "butter". It wasn't some fancy recipe, it was just white bread. But it was good. Sometimes, there's just nothing better than bread and butter.

I love the idea of making bread. To me it signifies hard work; it brings me back to a simpler time, and I think it's just all around a good skill to have. When I was younger I would only ever eat white bread. I remember announcing, quite emphatically, to my mother when she once tried to get me to eat whole wheat bread that I would never, EVER eat bread again unless it was white. Well, I soon broke that promise and eventually learnt to love brown bread, and my taste in other kinds of breads continued to grow. Now I prefer seedy multigrain bread. It's only been in the past year that I've started to make my own bread, and I'm absolutely in love with it.

When I first heard of rosemary and raisin bread, I didn't think it would be that good. However, I heard from a few places after that how good it was and thought I would take a chance on it. I'm glad I did. It's delicious! Rosemary and raisins compliment each other very well; not overpowering, not clashing, but a perfect combination of sweet and savoury, and very comforting. There's also this aspect to the bread that is really awakens the senses, because although rosemary and raisin work well together, you can still taste them both definitively and it's kind of unexpected. It's all around, a very good bread.

Rosemary and Raisin Bread
Recipe from Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Kitchen

1 Basic bread dough recipe:
  • 1 package of yeast
  • 2 tablespoons honey or sugar
  • 1 pint tepid water
  • 6-8 cups white bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons salt

1 large bunch fresh rosemary, leaves picked
1lb raisins

Mix together yeast, honey (or sugar), and half of the tepid water. Let it stand for a few minutes. Check out this yeast action!

While the yeast is doing its thing, mix together the flour and salt, then add the raisins, I used dark raisins, and rosemary. I used 4 long stems worth, finely chopped.

Mix all of this together and add the yeast. Once the yeast mixture is added in, add the rest of the water, and combine until all of the flour has been incorporated, forming a moist dough. If you find you need a little extra to get to this point, because you're using a different flour or whatever, by all means keep adding until you've had enough, it won't hurt, or you could even use a little less flour.

Knead the dough for at least a good 5 minutes to develop the gluten and structure of a dough.

Cover the dough and put in a warm, moist, draft-free place. I like to cover mine with a tea towel and place it in the oven, just with the oven light on to create a little warmth. Let it double in size, around 40 minutes, depending on the conditions.

Once doubled, knock the air out of it by beating it for a minute and then shape it however you want. I hate to admit this because I wish it wasn't true, but I am really not good with my hands. My bread pretty much always turns out looking ugly. I remember both of my nans trying to teach me to shape bread dough, and I was terrible at it. Even as a kid, whether it was playdoh or sand, clay is high school art class, I was awful... sigh. I guess you can't be good at everything  :P

I cut this baby into three sections to make 3 small loaves.

Let those double in size once again.

Bake in a 350'C oven for 25-35 minutes. You can tell it's done by tapping it with a wooden spoon. If it sounds hollow, its done.

Rub it with some butter to keep the crust soft, and let cool on wire racks.

This bread recipe is great. I would definitely make this bread again. I would also like to try just the basic recipe without the rosemary and raisins. If you're uncertain whether or not you will like this, just make half of the recipe and see.

This bread is good in many ways. You can eat it fresh out of the oven with some butter, REAL butter ;) It's also really good with cheddar and a slice or two of bacon, and a cup of tea for a light lunch.

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