Although I enjoy baking bread I don’t usually do it. Alexandra’s Bread in Gloucester – their crusty cobbles and salty, crisp olive branches - negates any regular messing around with flour and yeast in my kitchen.
But I grew up making everything. Why buy it if you can make it yourself, was my mother’s creed. We made the bread, the croutons in the salad, the salad dressing, of course the dinner, the dessert, and we whipped the cream. Their was a time when we even made our own herbal tisanes for after a meal.
I have to confess, all that is still in me. Every time I walk into Alexandra’s I secretly feel like I’m getting away with something. I still can’t buy croutons or bottled salad dressing, and I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve bought dessert in my life. (- usually when I was traveling in France or Italy because those civilized women know baked things are best left to professionals. Then again, they HAVE professionals. There was no patisserie on my rural Cape Cod lane.)
And my mother just did that. She made the jam, the pickles, the quince paste. She made yogurt and tried making cheese. She didn’t churn the butter, but on holidays we had those cute, little patterned butter balls. Did I mention she was also a single mother who worked full-time? Nope, no inadequacy here. No type-A challenges. I’m fine. Just fine. My conscience inwardly clicks its heels together when I leave Alexandra’s with a bag of warm cobbles. Every time, Mom.
BUT, while John and Alexandra make a delicious rosemary foccacia, they don’t make rosemary knots. My mother and I made these for a killer appetizer once. Their unique charms reveal themselves pretty fast: First, they’re shaped like a knot. Cute.
Second, their flavored with fresh rosemary. Fragrant.
Third, they’re served hot from the oven with a small hunk of blue cheese and a drizzle of honey. Surprising. Delicious. Smile-inspiring. Worth making yourself.
Of all the recipes I’ve been picking through in my mother’s files, this is the one I’ve been longing to make. It may be that I can still smell the bread hot from the oven – nothing so memory-stirring as fresh bread and rosemary. It may also be the simple fact that across time rosemary has symbolized remembrance.
Rosemary Knots with Blue Cheese and Honey
16 rolls or 8 appetizer servings
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading dough
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for oiling bowl
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, or sprigs
1 tablespoon coarse salt
Blue Cheese, either Gorgonzola or I used Jasper Hill’s Bayley Hazen Blue
To make the bread, whisk together the yeast and water in a large bowl until the yeast is dissolved. Add the sugar and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of the flour and the salt. Stir in the olive oil, rosemary and pepper. Gradually stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. While kneading the coudh, add as much additional flour as needed ot deep the dough from sticking to your hands and the work surface.
Lightly oil a large clean bowl. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and place it int the bowl, turning it once to coat the top with oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let stand in a warm place unilt the dough has doubled in bulk about 1 hour. Punch the dough down and reshape into a ball. Cover and let double again, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Punch the dough down and divide it into 16 equal pieces. On a barely floured surface, roll each piece into a ball. Use your fingers to rol each ball into a rope about 6 inches long. Tie the ropes loosely into knots and place on 2 parchment lined baking sheets. Cover with a towel and let stand until the rolls double.
To top the rolls, brush them lightly with the olive oil. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary, or alternately tuck a single sprig of rosemary into the knot. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until the rolls are golden brown, about 25 minutes.
As a delicious appetizer, place two rolls on each plate along with blue cheese and a drizzle of warm honey.