Here we examine the best parings for rosemary, its botanical make up, and its past and present culinary, medicinal, and other purposes. A great recipe for rosemary bread completes all!
Of all the abundant gifts of produce that come my way, the most popular herb I receive is rosemary; thus, I created my simple Rosemary Eggs. Now, as bread-baking weather is upon us, I offer a wholesome loaf featuring this sweet, piney flavor.
Foods Best Complimented by Rosemary
In Culinary Artistry, Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page describe how certain food combinations best heighten pleasure in our palates. In their pages, they list meat as the number one compliment to rosemary. When I think of these two substances together, I immediately go to lamb, with childhood memories from my mother’s kitchen. According to Dornenburg and Page, this herb also magnifies the savor found in suckling pigs, pork, game, steaks, veal, chicken, salmon, and oily fish (e.g., mackerel, sardines); I also find it strengthens egg dishes.
When considering uniting rosemary with a vegetable, potatoes are paramount, though our authors also couple it with onions, peas, mushrooms, spinach, and beans, among which dried and fava beans are best; those of us that prefer a vegetarian diet can benefit from this knowledge, using it liberally in our bean dishes.
I was a vegetarian for most of my twenties; moving to Tokyo changed this proclivity, for I didn’t want to offend my Japanese hosts by refusing proffered meat dishes; in part, this herbivorous preference in my youth still rests with me today, for my daily caloric intake includes mostly meatless dishes, though I am not afraid in the least to partake of animal flesh.
Botanical Makeup of Rosemary
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, our evergreen shrub, is native to the Mediterranean, a member of the mint family; it is a woody perennial herb that grows quickly and without much effort in temperate climates, such as that of the Pacific N.W. It’s scent is strong, which is made up of woody, pine, floral, eucalyptus, and clove notes. Rosemary’s aroma is exceptionally well preserved by drying. Its Latin name means “dew of the sea”.
Rosemary’s Past and Present Culinary and Medicinal Purposes
The Greeks and Romans cultivated it for both culinary and medicinal purposes; today it is still utilized in these two ways: among a number of medicinal intents, its antioxidant effects are known to reduce inflammation (rosemary was used as a remedy for gout in the 1500’s), and presently some also apply it as a homemade insect repellent-for this recipe, see homeguides.sfgate.com/homemade-rosemary-mosquito-repellent-recipe-73124.html.
Other Ways the Ancients Used this Herb
The ancients made use of this herb in weddings, funerals, and ceremonies of all sorts. In days past, brides often entwined it into head-wreaths, as it symbolized for them: fidelity, love, abiding friendship, and remembrance of the life each woman had led prior to her marriage. Some sources claim that men of antiquity believed it improved memory, though this can only be partially substantiated.
With its sweet, lemony, slightly piney taste, rosemary is traditionally found in Mediterranean cooking-especially with the meats mentioned above-where its potent flavor is liberally applied. Culinary Artistry states that grains also provide a powerful union with this herb; my present recipe employs this dynamic duo.
I made this rosemary bread for my church friend Charity, who was first in line this summer, supplying me with this garden treat; her strong response was that I should sell these loaves at farmer’s market. Nevertheless, with my passion for writing, I don’t have time to regularly bake for the public, but oh how I love to cook for my friends!
Andrew Dorenenburg & Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 205.
Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 405.
Rosemary Bread Yields: 1 loaf. Total prep time: 3 hr/ active prep time: 30 min/ inactive prep time: 2 hours/ baking time: 30 min. Note: this method produces quick, easy, mess-free bread, the greatest!
4 c flour (Blend 3 c whole wheat flour with 1 c unbleached white flour, or better yet, for premium bread, grind 2 2/3 c organic hard red spring wheat berries to make a total 4 c of flour, see photo below.)
2/3 oz, 4 stems, or 3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/8-1 3/8 c tepid water (Amount is increased with regular, store-bought flour; it should 110-115 degrees in temperature.)
1 individual packet, or 3 tsp yeast (Red Star Active Dry Yeast comes in a 2 lb package, available inexpensively at Costco; this freezes well in a sealed container for long-term use; if using yeast from freezer, may thaw ahead of time for quicker proofing.)
6 1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95/5 lbs.)
Spray oil (Coconut spray oil is best; Pam is available in most grocery stores; our local Winco brand, however, is far less expensive.)
If grinding your own flour, begin to do so now (see photo).
- Place 1/4 c water, lukewarm to the touch (110-115 degrees), in a small bowl; stir in yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar. Let sit in a warm place, until double in size, about 10 minutes-this timing depends on temperature of room. (Note: frozen yeast will take longer to rise.)
- Remove rosemary from stems, chop, and set aside. This may be done in food processor; see photo at top of recipe.
- Place ground flour, rosemary, 2 tbsp sugar, and salt in processor. Blend well with machine; stop and stir once, using hard plastic spatula that comes with processor.
- When yeast is doubled, add it and 1 3/8 c tepid water to flour mixture (if grinding fresh flour, use 1 1/8 c of water only). Turn machine on and knead for 35 seconds; turn off and let dough rest for 4 minutes (see photo
of dough, as it appears after this first kneading-dough made with store-bought flour isn’t as wet, however, as that of fresh-ground, because it has a finer grind, which absorbs more water). The resting period cools dough, which is essential as processing increases heat; too much heat will kill the yeast.
- After pausing for 4 minutes, turn on the processor; knead dough for 35 more seconds; let rest for 4 minutes.
- Take out and knead by hand for 5-7 minutes, or until satiny smooth, minus the rosemary lumps (see photo below). As wet dough readily sticks to hands, rinse them as needed, to facilitate easy kneading.
(Note: dough may be somewhat wet and sticky at first, but much moisture is absorbed with kneading by hand; this is especially true with fresh-ground flour. IF your dough needs adjusting for some reason, do the following: if it remains quite wet and sticky, after kneading by hand for several minutes, slowly add more flour to your board as you knead; if it is too stiff to knead by hand easily, place back in processor; knead in 1 tbsp of water. Repeat if needed, until severe stiffness is gone, it is flexible, and kneading by hand is facile, carefully resting dough so as not to overheat. Ideally you want firm, supple dough, which is smooth to the touch and not sticky, when finished.)
- Place prepared dough in a well-oiled 13 gallon plastic bag; let rise in a warm place for 50-60 minutes, or until double. (To facilitate proofing in a cold kitchen, may warm oven for 20-30 seconds only; be careful to only warm slightly, just taking edge off cold, as too much heat will kill the yeast.)
- Spray a bread pan with oil, preferably coconut spray oil; punch down doubled dough, forming it into a loaf; place in pan; use a piece of plastic wrap, which has also been sprayed, to loosely cover dough-this keeps it moist.
- Let rise until double for 50-60 minutes, depending on room temperature. About 30 minutes into rising process, preheat oven to 400 degrees, to insure oven is ready when it is time to bake. (IMPORTANT: if proofing loaf in oven, be sure to remove it, before turning oven on.)
- When double, bake for around 30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom. (Ovens vary slightly in temperature; my oven takes 27 minutes to bake a perfect loaf.) Enjoy this excellent staff of life!