rosemary, oh heaven restores you in light

Making your own bread is undeniably impressive. Like, you’ve used your own hands (look at them! Those hands!) to coax life from raw ingredients, patiently letting it rise and fall and rise again to eventually become this foodstuff steeped in ancient tradition. And it’s delicious as hell.

Extremely deniable in terms of being impressive: the ageing process, which involves all the effort of an oiled billiard ball rolling down a highly polished diagonal slope. You can literally do it in your sleep. What I’m trying to say is, I had a moderately underwhelming birthday on Monday, mostly through my own complete lack of organisation (example: I could’ve taken myself out for a fancy brunch but instead I laid in bed watching Frasier) and now I’m like…wait! I’m not done with it being my birthday yet! I can do better! After about twelve minutes of soul-searching though I learned an important lesson from all this, and that is: hey! Paying me massive amounts of attention is not a finite resource and can, should in fact, be done on any day regardless of whether it’s my birthday or not. A comforting thought for all and something to keep at the forefront of all our minds! (It’s evidently on my mind.)

Back to bread though: it’s honestly not too taxing to make, if anything, it’s the length of time that’s the annoying thing rather than the frankly minimal effort of the kneading. So don’t be scared. This particular recipe occurred to me, like most of my ideas do, all at once and fully formed: I liked the idea of using maple syrup to lightly sweeten the dough and to echo the smokiness of it with also-smoky, fragrant rosemary. The maple syrup is actually extremely mellow, in case you’re concerned for the sweetness of the finished product – like, honestly, if you don’t actually have access to the real stuff then just use honey or golden syrup or even a few tablespoons of sugar. As long as there’s sweetness there – it balances the intensely savoury-yet-floral rosemary and hypes up the fruitiness of the olive oil. Salt is the all-important thing tying it together. Like, don’t skip out on anything here.

It’s best eaten the second it gets out of the oven – I just tore pieces off and dipped them in more olive oil mixed with the tiniest pinprick of maple syrup with more salt over the top. Salty, sweet, rich – it’s a heady and addictive combination (by which I mean, I ate 3/4 of this loaf thing in this one sitting.) You could just spread it with butter or drizzle over olive oil or dip it in, like, dips, or just eat it nakedly plain while it’s still soft and warm.

maple, rosemary, and olive oil turkish bread

a recipe by myself

  • three cups of high-grade/bread flour
  • one sachet of instant yeast
  • two generous tablespoons of real maple syrup
  • one teaspoon salt
  • just under 250ml/one cup of warm water
  • three tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling and eating
  • a couple of stems of fresh rosemary

Mix the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Tip in the maple syrup, olive oil and water, and use a spoon to mix the lot together into a frankly unimpressive looking floury lump of dough. 

Begin kneading the dough – I usually just do this to the dough while it’s still inside the bowl, to save making a mess on the bench, but do what you like. I tend to just push the dough away from me with my palm, then fold it over back towards me and push it away again with either my palm or knuckles. Basically you want to give your dough extremely mixed messages with your hands. It should come together fairly quickly to form a smooth, but still floury ball of dough which should spring back immediately when you prod it with a finger. At this point, drizzle it with a little more olive oil and cover the bowl in clingfilm and leave it in a warmish place (or literally anywhere) for about thirty minutes to an hour to rise. I filled the sink with warm water and sat the bowl in it, but I don’t know that it necessarily had that much effect.

At this point, you’re so nearly done: squash down the hopefully now-puffy dough with your fist, and then put it on a baking tray (either lined with baking paper, or, if you don’t have any like me, scatter some flour across it first) and press it out with your hands into a rough oval shape. It should be fairly pliant and stretchy but if you feel it resisting, let it rest for ten minutes before giving it another nudge. Set your oven to 220 C/450 F, cover the dough with a teatowel and let it have one final rise for about 25 minutes. At this point, you want to drizzle over a little more olive oil, scatter it with some rosemary leaves, and then bake it for around 15 minutes – keep an eye on it at the 12 minute mark though, and depending on your oven and the curve of the earth and what not it could take up to 20 minutes.

Take it from the oven and you’re ready to go.   

There’s this scene in The Simpsons where Homer is trying to build his own barbeque and the instructional video ebulliently reassures Homer that it’s no harder than installing your own aviary or Olympic-sized swimming pool and I KNOW that’s the vibe that comes off when I’m all, “you can totally make your own bread at home!” But guess what. You can totally make your own bread at home. Just set aside an afternoon, be prepared to get covered in a light but persistent dusting of flour, and have some faith in yourself.

(Also, side note: a lot of really nice things did happen on my birthday, I’m just an existentially-challenged brat. And I do genuinely believe in not being restrained by a flimsy concept like the date of my own birth as far as garnering massive amounts of attention goes.)

If you’re on a roll with your breadmaking (ROLL! GET! IT!) then feel free to consider some of my other blog posts on this delicious subject, such as Italian Fougasse Bread; this recipe for Beetroot Bread (from back in 2009 so like, bear with me), or Aunt Daisy’s Condensed Milk Bread.

title from: Interpol’s song Evil from their album Antics. I got into this album in a huge way in 2005 to impress a random boy but happily, while I can’t even remember what the guy’s name is I still really love this album. 

music lately:

It’s a year since Beyonce blessed us with her thunderbolt of an album, Lemonade. The whole thing is incredible, but watch Sorry or Formation as an example of its brilliance.

Pink Floyd, Brain Damage/Eclipse. I was working on the night of my birthday (on purpose! My friends were all out of town, I might as well earn money) and I decided to play Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety just for kicks. The final tracks are so damn satisfying, that little upward emphasis on “all you create, and all you destroy” and the way the word “sun” in “everything under the sun is in tune” is sung so hard kinda makes my heart sing. It’s so dated that it’s timeless.

I’m neither here nor there on opera but Pavarotti’s fifteen year old niece, Sislena Capparros, singing Nessun Dorma, made me literally sob actual tears. The ending is so hardcore!

next time: I’m kind of sick at the moment in a sore throat way, so maybe something intensely medicinal. 

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