Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rosemary - That's For Remembrance

Flowers and herbs used to have secret, hidden meanings, sort of like a secret handshake or something. Rosemary is for remembrance, but I almost forgot to post today...things have been hopping around our house as the first part of the kitchen remodel is underway and almost complete...and we are starting work on the second part. Fortunately, I baked this bread the first time in June and the second time a few weeks ago when all my baking supplies were still in their usual place.

The Bread Baking Babes Kitchen of the Month, Cathy of Bread Experience, chose Panmarino, an Italian bread created in Ferrara near Venice for our baking and eating pleasure. Perhaps the ultimate gift of this bread is that the scent of rosemary permeates the kitchen while it bakes and also rises up when you take a bite. 

Of course that requires fresh rosemary, not dried, with all its delicious and scented essential oils. I'm fortunate that the people who owned our property before we did planted a small rosemary shrub in the perfect spot. I know it's the perfect spot because it has grown and grown over the years and now covers an area about the size of a VW bus. Plenty of fresh rosemary to go into my favorite lamb marinade, plenty of long skinny branches of rosemary to use as skewers for food for the BBQ, plenty more for baking with olive oil coated potatoes, and lots to go into bread, too. If you don't own a rosemary plant, you might consider planting one. If you put it in a good sized pot, but one not too heavy to move, you can find a sunny spot for it and be able to move it indoors if it gets too cold outside. Keep the soil on the dry side and don't give it too much fertilizer and you, too, can have lots of fresh rosemary.

The first time around I was in a hurry and didn't allow enough time for rising, nor for baking. The result had great flavor, but was dense and under-cooked.That'll teach me to try to rush bread making. Tsk, tsk.

The second time I made some changes, partly because I seem to be compelled to change recipes and partly because I wanted a bread that was less dense.

The second time I increased the water and the milk a little, added more yeast, reduced the salt in the dough a bit and kneaded the rosemary into the dough after its first rise. That way I could have nine dinner rolls with rosemary, a round loaf with rosemary, and a sandwich loaf without rosemary. I skipped the slashing and salt crystals this time, so it wasn't authentic, but it was lighter in crumb (Sweetie said the crumb was perfect!) but still sturdy, had a nice crust (yes, I did put ice cubes in a preheated pan for extra steam), and delicious. It makes great toast!

You are going to want to try this bread, then take a photo, write up your experience and e-mail them to  Cathy so that you can be a Buddy. Deadline is July 29. Do visit all the other Babes to see what their bread looks like, too. I think you will find variations on a theme. We are baking fools and love to have you visit and see what fun we have been having.

I also want to make a moment of remembrance of my son Maxwell. He was only a few weeks short of being 17 when we lost him 15 years ago tomorrow in an auto accident. I remember his smile, his generous and loving ways, and his curiosity and empathy. He was blessed with so many talents and many friends. Perhaps the rosemary plant has grown so large because we have so much good to remember. I miss him very much.

Makes: 4 Loaves  Original Panmarino created in Ferrara near Venice

Biga (which I made exactly as described):

Bread flour 143 grams/  5 ounces
Water 122 grams/  4 1/4 ounces
Pinch of instant yeast

Final Dough:

Bread flour 884 grams/  1 pound 15 ounces
Water 487 grams/  2 cups
Milk 2 ounces/ 1/4 cup
Biga 265 grams/  9 1/3 ounces
Salt 1/2 ounce/ 2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon instant yeast
Olive oil 88 grams/  3 ounces
Chopped fresh rosemary 9 grams/  1/3 ounce

Preparing the Biga:
Combine the bread flour, water and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until well blended.  Scrape down the edge of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest at 75 degrees F. for 14 to 16 hours.

Making the Final Dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, milk, and biga. Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until blended.

Add the salt and yeast to the bread flour in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add bread flour mixture a cup at a time and mix on low speed until incorporated, then add more. When about half the flour is added, add the olive oil, mix with the dough hook to combine, then continue to add the flour mixture. You may need to add by tablespoonfuls at the end. Mix with dough hook on low for 5 minutes.  Increase the speed to medium and mix for about 7 more minutes, or until the dough is smooth.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Scrape the dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment for 45 minutes.

Remove the dough to a lightly-floured work surface and knead in the fresh rosemary. Divide the dough into four 450-gram /16-ounce pieces (or divide into three pieces to shape as desired, as I did). Shape the dough pieces into rounds. Cover with plastic wrap and let them bench rest for 15 minutes.

Place two couches on a separate work surface or bread board and dust them with flour.

Uncover the dough and, if necessary, lightly flour the work surface. Gently press on the dough to degas and carefully shape each piece into a tight and neat rounds (or into rolls or loaves, as I did. I also shaped my round loaf in a heavily floured brotform).  Place one loaf on one side of the couche, fold the couche up to make a double layer of cloth to serve as a divider between the loaves, and place a second loaf next to the fold.  Repeat the process with the remaining two loaves and the second couche.  Cover with plastic wrap and proof for 1 hour.

About an hour before you plan to bake the loaves, place a baking stone (or tiles) into the oven along with a steam pan (underneath) or iron skillet (on the top rack) and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Uncover the dough and score the top of each loaf in a star pattern using a lame or sharp knife. This particular formula doesn't say to do this, but you can sprinkle sea salt into the crevices as the original baker did to make it "sparkle with diamonds."

(I did this with my first try, but didn't with my second. Didn't think it contributed much to the bread.)

Carefully transfer the loaves to the preheated baking stone using a peel or the back of a baking sheet. To make the steam, add 1 cup of ice to the iron skillet or steam pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the crust is light brown and crisp and the loaves make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

Remove the loaves from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.


  1. Remembrance - I always forget that's what rosemary stands for ;-) silly me.
    It seems so logical after seeing your rolls, sandwich loaf and round loaves: if your going to divide dough into four pieces, get extra bang! The rolls look lovely.
    Beautiful way to remember your son.

  2. What a lovely way to remember your beloved son.

    You say your rosemary bush is as big as a VW bus?! That's it! We're moving to Lotusland too. (Try as I might, I have to plant rosemary every year because it just doesn't like the winter here, not even when I carefully bring it indoors and baby it through the months of deep freeze).

    Changing the recipe is good, isn't it? Your loaves and rolls look wonderful!

    Happy kitchen remodelling!

  3. Wow, the big round loaf is so pretty. I imagine a teen munching on that with great happiness - here's to good memories and great kids, friend. ♥

  4. Lucky you with that rosemary bush! Mine is inexplicably dying this summer. I'll have to replant in a different spot next year.
    Yes, a beautiful way to remember your son....

  5. I too have an indestructible rosemary bus(h). What a sweet way to remember your son. xoxo

  6. I like rosemary even more now that I know what it means. Remembrance. What a lovely post and bread to remember your son by.

  7. So sorry to hear about your son!
    Worst thing ever what can overcome a parent I think.

    Great bread you bake in his remembrance!

  8. Dear fellow bakers, Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. Each of you have also given me great memories through your kitchen adventures. Can't wait to have my oven back!