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Rosemary Filoncino (Italian bread)

Rosemary Filoncino

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Makes 2 loaves.
By Dennis W. Viau; contributed by an Italian cooking friend.

This Italian bread shares similarities with ciabatta bread. The crumb is light and airy. It gets additional flavor from chopped fresh rosemary and rosemary-infused olive oil, which you can prepare yourself (see below).

Ingredients:

20 ounces (567g, 4 cups) unbleached bread flour, plus a tablespoon or two more if needed
2¼ cups (18 fl. oz./532ml) warm water (90 to 95°F/32 to 35°C)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons rosemary-infused extra virgin olive oil (or substitute plain olive oil), divided
2 teaspoons salt (you can use up to 1 tablespoon)
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, divided
Optional: 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt for garnish

Directions:

Place half the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the water and the yeast. Combine with a fork to make a batter (sponge). Let rest 5 to 10 minutes to proof the yeast. Small bubbles should form.

Add 1 teaspoon of the oil and mix well with a spoon. Add most of the remaining flour (set aside about ¼ cup/1¼ ounces/35g), the salt, and 3 of the 4 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary, reserving the 1 remaining tablespoon for garnish. Mix well with a wooden spoon. The dough should be sticky and moist, but start to pull away from the sides of the bowl when stirred. If too moist, add the remaining flour. One or two additional tablespoons of flour can be added, but no more. The dough should be sticky and barely thicker than a batter. This dough does not resemble typical bread dough.

Although a stand mixer can be used, a spoon works best.

You can prepare this dough the evening before, cover the bowl with plastic, and let it rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight. Or cover the bowl and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour, until it looks at least doubled in bulk, if not a little more.

After rising, remove the bowl from the refrigerator (if refrigerated) and let rest at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the dough to a large sheet of parchment paper and divide in half with a plastic scraper or large spatula, separating the two pieces such that you can cut the paper down the middle. Handle the dough gently so as to deflate it as little as possible.

Line a 2–loaf baguette pan with parchment paper (or two loaf pans). Carefully roll each dough loaf off the parchment paper into each side of the lined baguette pan.

Using a pastry brush, lightly brush each loaf with the remaining oil, then garnish the top with the remaining tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary. Optional: garnish lightly with large crystal sea salt or kosher salt. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 30 to 45 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 500°F (260°C) with a roasting pan on the lower rack of the oven.

Place a handful of ice cubes in the roasting pan. Place the baguette pan on the center rack and bake 5 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C) and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes.

When done, transfer the loaves to a rack and let cool thoroughly before cutting.

Rosemary Infused Olive Oil:

Heat about 2 cups of extra virgin olive oil in a small pan to about 180°F (82°C) and add several rosemary sprigs. The oil shouldn’t be hot enough to cook the rosemary. Let sit for several minutes, then pour into a jar and cover. The oil might be cloudy, but it will clear. Leave the jar in a cool place for a few weeks, remove the rosemary, and cover again. Let any remaining cloudiness settle to the bottom. Then spoon the cleared oil off the top and transfer to a holding bottle. The clouded oil can be discarded.