I love baking, and it’s a rare day in our house that there isn’t some kind of baking around, waiting to be enjoyed. I make a lot of muffins, and occasionally treats like brownies, cakes and cookies. However, one area that I don’t venture into very often is yeasted goods. I tried making bread a few years ago, and went with whole wheat and multi-grain. The end results were OK, but quite dense and not really worth the effort.
Back around Easter an email reminder from the farmers’ market mentioned than a vendor was going to be selling a traditional Italian bread with rosemary and raisins. The combination sounded intriguing, so I decided to try to find a recipe and make my own. I found this one and got to work.
The results were delicious, especially slathered with salted butter. Perhaps the key difference is that this recipe is a richer dough, and doesn’t have any healthy, whole-grain pretensions like my previous efforts. While this certainly hasn’t become a staple in our house, I could be tempted to make it into an Easter tradition.
Italian Rosemary and Raisin Bread
- 3¾ cups white flour (533 g) plus a little more while kneading
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast (the advantage of instant yeast is that you can add it directly to the dry ingredients, which is very convenient)
- 1/2 cup warm milk (about 125°F or 50°C)
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
- 1½ packed cups (127 g) raisins (dark or golden)
- 4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- 1½ teaspoons table salt
Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the milk, rosemary, raisins, olive oil, and eggs. Mix to form a soft, sticky dough. If the dough is too moist to knead, add extra flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Flour the counter lightly, and knead the dough for 6 minutes. Cover the dough with a tea towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Continue kneading until the dough is silky, springy, and elastic, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Grease a large bowl, and put the dough in it. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1½ to 2 hours.
Punch dough down, and divide the dough into two pieces. Shape each into a round loaf and place on a floured counter. Lightly dust the tops of the loaves with flour and cover again with a damp tea towel. Let rise again for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
If you have a baking stone (or pizza stone), place it in a cold oven and heat to 400F. If you don’t have a baking stone, just preheat the oven to 400°F.
Cut a two slashes to make an X about 1/2 inch deep, across the top of each loaf.
Bake in the preheated oven (directly on the baking stone if you’re using one) until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped underneath, about 30 minutes with a baking stone and 45 minutes without. If the bread is browning too quickly (mine did), lower the temperature a bit. If you have an instant-read thermometer, you can use it to test the internal temperature. It should be about 82°C to 87°C (180°F to 190°F) when the bread is done.
Cool on a wire rack. Eat in thick slices with butter! the bread keeps best at room temperature, but also freezes well, so you can enjoy one loaf right away and freeze the other.