Baking bread, for me, is a meditative process. The repetition of mixing and kneading the dough helps me relax and collect my thoughts after a long day. When I first became a mother, I read somewhere that the best way to soothe a crying baby was to rock him to the same rhythm as your heartbeat. It’s true – it worked every time. I’ve thought about that principle often, and find that any repetitive motion, especially kneading bread dough, is always the most soothing when done to the tempo of a heartbeat. Speaking of that, do you remember playing with PlayDoh as a child? Perhaps not. But if you’re a parent then maybe you remember getting out the dough for your children. Showing them how to roll it and shape it, it’s almost impossible not to join in on the fun, and in doing so it brings you right back to your own childhood. Even the smell is transportive. For me, baking bread at home is the same. The smell of wildflower honey and the warm yeast working its magic, fill the kitchen with that slightly earthy and ultra comforting aroma. The feel of the dough as it comes together into a ball beneath my palms is so calming. Baking bread is one of the most relaxing and satisfying experiences, and I love to repeat the process almost weekly.
Many years ago I fell in love with the 5 minute Artisan bread recipe that can be found here. It’s a no-knead bread dough that you make in advance and store in the refrigerator. I often have a big bowl of this dough in the fridge. But, that recipe requires a bit of forethought and advanced prep-work. For those days when I’ve done neither and don’t have any of the dough leftover, this country bread is what I turn to. It’s a traditional yeast loaf, as opposed to a quick bread, but it takes only about one and a half hours from start to finish. Perfect for if dinner plans change or if unplanned guests show up or if I just want to fill the house with the aroma a fresh baked bread and have the leftovers for breakfast along with my coffee the next morning.
This is a great base recipe to have in your back pocket. The rosemary and black pepper are completely optional and can be replaced with any other herbs, garlic powder, onion flakes, finely chopped nuts, grated cheese, or a combination of these. Of course, you can leave out the herbs and other add-ins, altogether, for a traditional country loaf. It’s entirely up to you.
If you’ve never baked bread before, or never worked with yeast, I know the process of cooking with something you can actually “kill” can be a little intimidating. I have posted several tips on baking with yeast on Instagram, which I will link here.
I hope you’ll love this bread as much as we do!
Rosemary Country Bread
(makes 2 loaves)
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 TBSP honey
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 envelope)
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp dry crushed rosemary
4 – 5 grinds of black pepper (to taste)
4 – 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour (divided)
Line a sheet pan with parchment and set aside.
Gently heat the water until it’s just lukewarm, approximately 105 F/40 C. Stir in the honey and the yeast. Set aside for about 5 minutes, until there’s a layer of foam on top of the water.
In a large mixing bowl, sift in 3 1/2 cups of the flour. Add the salt, rosemary and black pepper and whisk to combine. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture. Begin stirring with a wooden spoon. When the dough starts to come together, place it on a well-floured surface. At this point the dough will be very sticky. Sprinkle with a little of the remaining flour and begin kneading. Continue kneading and adding flour until the dough forms a smooth ball that sticks to itself and not to your fingers. You may not need to use all the remaining flour.
Form the dough into a ball and cut in half. Form each half into an elongated loaf and place on the sheet pan, leaving enough space between the loaves to allow each of them to double in size. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes begin preheating your oven to 425 F/ 220 C. When the oven is hot, remove the towel. Using a very sharp knife cut 3 or 4 slits, approximately 1/2 inch deep, on the top of each loaf. Place the bread in the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the loaves are browned. Gently tap a loaf with your finger. It should sound hollow on the inside and be crisp and firm on the outside. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.