The last time I baked bread, I was in junior high school, which is more years ago than I care to count. I started with plain white bread, baked up in a loaf pan, and then went on to experiment a bit with different recipes. My Waterloo, if my memory is correct, was a pumpernickel rye. I can’t exactly recall what went wrong, but I know for sure that something did!
Anyway, I’ve been thinking for quite some time about tackling bread again, and the publication of Mark’s How to Bake Everything gave me the nudge I needed. I decided on Rosemary Olive Oil Bread, as I absolutely love rosemary in bread. For the full bread-making experience, I mixed up the dough by hand, though you can certainly use a stand mixer or food processor. Just whisk together the dry ingredients—flour, instant yeast, rosemary, and a healthy dose of salt. Then in goes 1/3 cup olive oil; I worked this into the flour the way you would butter in a piecrust, pinching it with my fingers until the mixture was like coarse meal. Finally, you add 3/4 cup water. The dough is supposed to be slightly sticky, and it took another three tablespoons of water to get me there, which Mark prepared me for in the recipe.
Now the fun part. Onto my lightly floured butcher block went the dough for about 5 minutes of kneading. After turning and working it with the heel of my hand, the dough became noticeably smooth and elastic. Two rises of 2 hours each (with beautiful height each time), then I gently transferred it from the bowl onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and into a 425°F oven. But right before it went in, I poured hot water into a cast iron skillet I had preheated on the bottom of the oven, so the dough got an immediate shot of scalding hot steam. Thirty minutes later the loaf was done, a beautiful golden brown all over. I waited another thirty minutes before cutting into it and was rewarded with the heady aroma of rosemary rising from the still warm bread. The perfect recipe for the beginning-again bread baker!