Light snow is falling outside and the temperature here in Vermont is hovering around 30 degrees fahrenheit. A winter storm is expected tonight and it is predicted to continue throughout tomorrow. Meteorologists are promising us six to twelve inches of fluffy, new snow here in the Green Mountains. It sounds like I will be doing some shoveling and snow-shoeing with Oli on Monday. This season is filled with many pleasures, but some parts of winter are easier to deal with than others. I am already starting to miss the convenience of ‘shopping’ for tomatoes and cucumbers in the backyard potager. True, there are stores of potatoes, onions, squash and other produce in the root cellar – but it will be awhile before I can sample the full flavors of spring and summer in my kitchen.
Of course a little bit of summer does manage to migrate into my house for the winter. Edible plants such as mint, oregano, thyme, sage and rosemary line the countertop on either side of my kitchen window. Although these herbs prefer to live in the garden, I usually bring a few, (OK, as many as I can cram beside the sink), indoors to enjoy during the long months of winter. Rosemary is one of my favorites seasonings, and while it can be a fussy winter guest, I like to keep a small plant inside until late spring. I have had good luck growing rosemary indoors when I position the pot in a cool, (but not drafty), bright spot. Never let this plant dry-out. It is important to check the potting soil regularly. But take care not to kill with kindness – this Mediterranean plant dislikes overwatering. Rosemary’s soil should be kept on the slightly dry-side of moist, with a free-draining potting mix.
Although I love houseplants, and I always enjoy the scent of herbs when I brush against them beside the sink, the primary motivation for my indoor herb garden is, of course, cooking and baking. Yesterday afternoon, I mixed the dough for no-knead bread – my second experience with this recipe. And this morning, I baked two loaves in my new Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Round French Oven. This pretty blue pot was a holiday gift – one I have been coveting for years. Beware: this is not an instant gratification recipe. In fact, the entire process takes about 21 hours. But the steps are quite simple, and I must say the results are very rewarding. The bread that came out of my oven today was every bit as good as any I can find within 20 miles of my home. It’s definitely worth the wait. In addition, the fresh herbs, (in this case rosemary), make for a very special dinner loaf and an especially fragrant home during baking.
Over the coming winter months, I will be writing more about edible indoor-gardening and cooking with fresh herbs. After experimenting with this recipe a few times, I thought it might be a good place to start. I’m eager to read about your results…
Rosmarinus officinalis, (rosemary), on my kitchen countertop
Rosemary No-Knead Bread
(Makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf of bread)
3 cups bread flour, (I use King Arthur), plus extra for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast *
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, (I use ground sea salt)
1 1/2 cups water, (room temp)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh, coarsely chopped rosemary, (or other herbs)
Olive oil for coating bowl
Cornmeal, (optional, I used flour for this recipe), for dusting
* If you can not find instant yeast, you may substitute 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast: Warm the 1 1/2 cups of water and add 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast. Let stand 10 minutes, or until foamy. Follow the remaining directions as listed below.
First Afternoon: Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large working bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, (room temperature), and blend to a shaggy looking mix. I added the fresh rosemary at this point, but if you forget, you can also add it, (or other herbs), on day two durning the folding process. Use olive oil to lightly coat a second large working bowl. Transfer the dough to the second bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm room, (70 degrees fahrenheit is ideal), for 18 hours. Bubbles at the surface of the dough signal that it is ready to rework.
Next morning: Dust the work surface with flour and place the dough in the center. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Gently fold over a couple of times. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes. Once again, dust the work surface and your hands with a bit of flour and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Sprinkle a plain, smooth cotton towel with flour, (or cornmeal), and place the dough on center. Cover with a second cotton towel. Allow the dough to rise until double in size, (about 2 hours).
After an hour and a half of final rising: begin preheating the oven to 500 degrees fahrenheit. While preheating, place a 2 3/4 – 8 quart heavy, lidded pot, (such as pyrex or enameled cast-iron), in the center of the oven. I use an enameled, cast-iron Le Creuset round, Dutch-style oven with lid, (I prefer this to glass for even baking of bread). Heat pot for 1/2 hour. Very carefully remove the hot container from oven with heavy mitts. Slide dough into the pot and shake to evenly distribute. Cover the pot and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Oven temperatures will vary, so watch very carefully the first time you make this bread.
Remove bread from the oven, roll out of the pot and cool on a wire rack. The loaf will stay freshest in a bread-box or bread-bag, loosely wrapped in plastic and/or a paper bag. Wrapping a loaf of bread tightly in plastic will make the surface soft instead of crusty. It’s best to eat fresh bread the day it is baked. Enjoy !
Start with good bread flour, fresh instant yeast and ground sea-salt for good results…
Next, add fresh, coarsely chopped rosemary to the dough…
Mixing the shaggy, sticky dough on day one…
Bubbles on the wet, sticky surface the next morning…
The shaped dough, resting in an olive oil coated bowl …
The no-knead dough, settled into a heated, Le Creuset French oven…
And the finished loaf, rolled out to cool on a wire rack
Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE
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