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I find it really hard to walk past a rosemary plant without running my hand through it to release the fragrance.  It doesn’t matter if the plant is in my own garden or someone else’s – just can’t resist it.

Rosemary

There was one especially cold, wet winter when I lost all of my rosemary plants.  Disaster – no scent, and no fresh leaves to use for cooking.  So, having learned from this, I’ve now gone for a ‘belt and braces’ approach to rosemary growning – plants in the ground, plants in pots sheltering against the house wall and cuttings in the greenhouse.  This growing technique is based on the theory that at least some of the plants should survive, and that you can’t really have too much rosemary.

Rosemary2

It’s a bit late for Christmas 2012, but I read last night that during the Middle Ages rosemary was spread across the floors, because it was thought that smelling rosemary on Christmas Eve brought health and happiness in the coming year.  Need to remember that one for next year…

Apple and rosemary topping

As well as enjoying the fragrance, I love using rosemary to flavour breads – on its own, or with some salt and olive oil are favourites.  Branching out a bit I thought I’d try combining the rosemary with some other flavours – apple and Wensleydale cheese seemed like a good bet.  Using a recipe taken from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook – I used the topping on some soft, chewy and very tasty olive oil bread.  It takes a bit of forward planning if you want to use the ferment in the dough – this needs making the evening before you plan to bake and spends the night in the fridge.  It’s worth the extra effort though – you can make the dough without it, but the ferment adds flavour and texture to the loaf.

Apple and rosemary bread2

I’m linking this recipe to December’s Herbs on Saturday over at Karen’s blog – Lavender and Lovage.  There are lots of good ideas for how to use herbs, homegrown or otherwise, in this month’s challenge.

Herbs on Saturday

Flatbread with apple, rosemary and Wensleydale

(adapted from the olive oil dough recipe in ‘Bourke Street Bakery the ultimate baking companion’)

Apple and rosemary bread

600g strong white bread flour

4g dried fast-action yeast

400ml warm water

20ml extra virgin olive oil

20ml milk

11/2 tsp fine sea salt

180g ferment (optional) – see note below

These quantities make enough dough for two loaves – I used the apple topping for one, and rosemary salt and olive oil on the other.  The topping quantities below are enough for one loaf –

1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

½ an apple, core removed and finely sliced

30g Wensleydale cheese, crumbled

Put the flour and yeast into a large mixing bowl.  Add the water and mix until everything is well combined.  Leave for 10 minutes, then add the oil, milk and salt.  Mix to form a dough, then turn this out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes.  Let the dough rest for another 10 minutes before adding the ferment (if using).  Knead again for another 10 minutes.  Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise for about 1½ hours – but knock back the dough (turn it out of the bowl, press it out into a rough rectangle and fold the top third down onto the dough and the bottom third up over this.  Turn the dough and repeat this folding.  Then return the dough to the bowl) every 30 minutes.

After 1½ hours, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide into two equal sized pieces.  If you want to keep some ferment for future loaves – cut a small piece of dough (about 180g) off first.  The ferment can be kept in the fridge for up to two or three days.

Shape each piece of dough into a rectangle about 5mm thick and put on a oiled baking sheet.  Leave the dough to rest for 20-30 minutes and preheat the oven to 220oC, 425F, gas 7.  I also put a tin of hot water in the bottom of the oven to increase the humidity and to try to get more of a crust on the loaves.

Sprinkle the rosemary, apple and Wensleydale over the top of the loaf and press gently into the dough.  Turn the oven down to 200oC, 400F, gas 6 and bake the bread for about 25 minutes – test the loaf by tapping the underside with your fingers, if it sounds hollow it’s ready.

 

For the ferment –

100g strong white bread flour

1 tsp sea salt

¾ tsp extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp milk

70ml water

1g dried fast action yeast

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl for about 5 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a small container, cover and leave to rest in the fridge overnight.

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