Hearth Bread

This has been my go-to bread for over ten years. It makes great neighbor or teacher gifts at Christmas and is the perfect companion to any winter meal. Studded with fresh rosemary and topped with a salt crust, it’s irresistible straight out of the oven with a nice slather of butter.

The only drawback of this loaf is that you must eat it all the day it is made (poor you!).  If it sits overnight, the salt will draw moisture out of the bread and you will awaken to a top crust that is slightly soggy.  So, in the spirit of indulgence, be sure to eat that last slice before you leave the dinner table or head to bed.  If you’d like to make it ahead of time or save some for the next day, you can always make it without the salt crust, or simply brush the remaining salt away before wrapping it.

Happy holidays, friends! I hope you have a peaceful season full of family, fresh bread, and the spirit of Christ!

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Hearth Bread

4-6 cups high-quality, high-protein bread flour
1 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
1 ½ tsp sea salt
1 ½ tsp chopped fresh rosemary (can substitute Italian Herbs)
½ tsp black pepper
2 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil
Olive oil and kosher or flake salt for the top

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 3 cups flour with yeast, sugar, salt, rosemary and pepper.  Mix to combine. Add water and oil and mix on low until a very wet dough begins to form.

Add the remaining flour about 1/2 cup at a time and mix until a soft dough forms. Continue adding flour until the dough is slightly sticky to the touch.  Knead several more minutes to strengthen the gluten.

Place dough in an oiled bowl and let rise 15 minutes at room temperature.  Punch dough down, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.

Remove dough from fridge 2-3 hours before you plan to bake it. Shape into two rounds and place on a greased sheet pan (alternately, line with parchment).

30 minutes prior to baking, preheat oven to 400° F. If you will be baking on a stone, preheat that at the same time.

Let rise until almost doubled. If baking on a stone, simply raise the rounds on a sheet of parchment and then transfer to the stone with a peel.

Drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil and use your fingers to gently spread it over the entire top of the loaf. Sprinkle generously with kosher or flake salt (use more than you think you would need.  Some will fall off during baking and transfer).

Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and the interior temperature is at least 190°. Cool the loaves on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

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Categories: Artisan/Free Form, Bread, holiday

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