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Rosemary & black pepper bread

Making bread is a slow and meaningful process with simple ingredients. Flour, water and yeast is all you really need. But with the addition of some herbs and spices a standard loaf can go from simply humble to something really special. This recipe for a dense and chewy bread with a crispy crust combines rosemary and freshly cracked black pepper, like a couple of old friends reuniting under a little melted butter on my breakfast plate.

Making bread takes time. There's the mixing, the kneading, the rising, the second rising, then the baking. This isn't something I do when I'm in a rush. It's something I do when I know I'll be spending several hours at home doing other stuff. Life stuff. Each time I return to the kitchen to check on my bread dough I smile and feel good knowing the house will soon smell incredible with the comforting aroma of freshly baked bread.

I am by no means an expert bread baker. But through experimentation with ingredients and methods I have settled on a mixture and technique that works nicely for me.

Here's how I make it:

1 + 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp granulated white sugar
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup warm water (not hot)

I start by mixing 1 cup of flour with the yeast, salt, sugar, rosemary and pepper in a large mixing bowl. I add the water to the dry mixture, stirring with the handle end of a wooden spoon until the dry mixture is absorbed. Then the other 1 1/2 cups of flour gets added gradually, mixing with my hands and making sure the flour is absorbed into the dough between additions. At this point I transfer the dough to the bowl of my stand mixer to knead for 5 minutes with the dough hook (or sometimes I just do it by hand on a lightly floured surface, using the heel of my hand to push the dough away from me then folding it over and repeating). I transfer my kneaded dough to a large greased bowl and leave it to rise, covered with a tea towel, until doubled in size (about one hour). Then I knock it down (punch the air out of it) and form the dough into a log shape and press lightly into a greased loaf pan.

The second rising takes another hour or so until it reaches the height I want my finished loaf to be. It bakes at 400 degrees (F) for 40 minutes, then I turn it out onto a wire rack to cool.

It doesn't usually cool all the way before someone has a first taste.

Is freshly baked bread part of your baking routine? Leave a comment and share your bread baking techniques! We're also chatting on the Family Feedbag Facebook page.