Monday, May 30, 2011

BAKING BREAD FOR ONE

Freshly planted herb pots.  Too soon to harvest
anything yet.
It's finally getting warm enough to get my herb gardens back on track for summer. Two pots out in front of the garage are my typical kitchen herb garden. Each pot will hold rosemary, sage, and two types of thyme.  Extra pots by the back door hold basil and chives. These will provide for me all summer long.

In past years, it has been my habit to bring in a few herbs and keep them in the house during the winter for as long as they will live. I've been pretty lucky with my thyme and rosemary in particular. Some rosemary plants have overwintered twice for me, but the thyme generally dies off by January or February.

Last fall, however, I was too lazy to bring any of my herbs indoors and they all died outside in their pots. Consequently, when I found this recipe it looked so wonderful I had to take a trip to the grocer to find some rosemary. The only good thing about spending $2 on a few sprigs of rosemary is that if you tend it well, it will last for weeks in a glass on your windowsill. If you wait long enough, the sprigs will sprout roots and these are able to be planted come spring.

If you have an opportunity to plant some rosemary for yourself this summer, keep this aromatic recipe on hand.  Although this is not a typical "meals for one" recipe, it is the perfect size for one person.  Using my technique of making two small loaves rather than one larger one allows me to either share half with a friend or put one in the freezer for later.  Frankly though, once this bread comes out of the oven and the heady aroma of garlic and rosemary wafts through your house, chances are you might just eat this all in one sitting!

ROASTED GARLIC AND ROSEMARY BREAD
The aroma of this bread alone is well worth the making of it. Originally this was presented as a braided loaf, but I found that two mini loaves are easier to deal with and easier to share. To do this, divide your normal single loaf dough into two pieces, form as you would a single loaf, only now there are two smaller versions. Place side by side in the pan, let rise and bake as usual. The baby loaves are easy to simply pull apart so that you can share one with a friend or freeze it for later.

Starter
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup cool water
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

To make the starter: Combine the flour, water, and yeast in a small bowl until smooth. Cover and let rest at room temperature for at least 4 hours, or as long as overnight.

Roasted garlic
2 heads garlic
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

To roast the garlic: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Cut tops off the heads of garlic.  Place the heads, cut side up, into a piece of foil large enough to form a packet around the garlic.  Drizzle the olive oil over the garlic and fold up the foil as a packet.  Place on a small baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The cloves should be soft to the touch. Remove the cloves from the oven and cool to room temperature. When the cloves are cool, squeeze the heads to release the garlic. Mash the roasted garlic with a fork.


Dough
all of the starter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons potato flour or instant mashed potato flakes
1/3 cup mashed, roasted garlic cloves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups bread Flour

To make the dough: Combine the remaining dough ingredients in a mixer.  Use the paddle to begin the process of combining the ingredients.

Once combined, add the starter by bits until all is combined. 


Change to a dough hook and mix until you’ve formed a soft dough, then knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and springy.


Place the dough in a greased bowl after kneading, turn it over to coat all sides, cover the bowl, and let rise for 45 minutes, until doubled.

After the dough has risen, gently deflate it, divide it in half, and form each into a "mini-loaf." Place side by side in a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. You may also let the dough rise on a piece of parchment paper or on a baking sheet, for a free-form loaf.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let rise until almost doubled, about 40 minutes. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top of the bread is golden brown and the center reaches 190°F with an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack before slicing. To keep a softer crust, brush the top with melted butter while still warm.

Yield: 2 loaves, 8 slices each.



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