Bread and Butter

Bread is not a staple in my diet although I grew up with a mom who bought a loaf of fresh-baked grocery store french bread each evening. I love bread but don’t need it to accompany every meal. Sit me down at my parents, though, and I scarf several slices slathered with butter or sopping with my mom’s gravy. Or give me a basket of bread at a restaurant, and I shamelessly down more than my fair share. Especially if the bread is warm and soft.

Macaroni Grill serves one of my favorite restaurant breads–a warm loaf of rosemary bread with a crunchy crust brushed with butter and sprinkled with a touch of coarse salt and a super-soft, chewy interior. The server pours a swirl of olive oil on a plate followed by a swirl of balsamic vinegar. Then he grates fresh pepper over that. Totally yum city to dip that warm bread in the mixture. And forget slicing the bread. Just break off a piece, rustic style, and dip away.

When Mel from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe posted a recipe for Macaroni Grill Rosemary Bread, it soared straight to the top of my “must try” recipes. And shortly after I made it, I dined at Macaroni Grill with a buddy, allowing me the opportunity to compare the two breads. I enjoy the restaurant version, but the homemade dough far surpasses the restaurant version. It’s softer and fresher. My mom spent some time working in the bakery of a grocery store, and the bread doughs all came frozen; the workers used to pop them in the oven to bake; hence, they weren’t really fresh. Same thing at one of my favorite local restaurants. When asked if they made their bread fresh every day, I was told it came frozen.

Well, eating my homemade bread and eating the restaurant bread just a few days apart, I could tell the difference between fresh and frozen dough. The frozen dough has a tougher texture and a slightly metallic taste. I may just have to start baking bread at home more often now after this comparison. The only problem with that is that I would eat far too much of it at one time. Tender bread fresh from the oven is way too hard to resist.

Want to make it even harder to resist? Then try this cream cheese & herb butter that Mel also posted. Oh.My.God! It is freakin’ heavenly. Creamy, tangy, and savory–a trinity of taste sensation. Spread that on top of a warm slice of bread and you will swoon. Ecstasy.  Serious ecstasy. Oh, and super easy to whip up.

Although the bread takes time to make due to the rising-of-the-dough part of the recipe, the time is well worth it in terms of the final product. And the herb butter makes the entire experience doubly divine.

Rosemary Bread

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp. instant yeast (or 1 1/2 tbsp. active dry yeast)
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 3/4 — 4 cups all-purpose flour (I used 3 3/4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped and divided
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • coarse salt for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large bowl (or the bowl of an electric stand mixer), combine the yeast, sugar, and water. If using active dry yeast, let the mixture stand until foaming and bubbly, about 5 minutes. If using instant yeast, proceed with recipe.
  2. Add two cups of the flour, the salt, and 1 tbsp. of the rosemary; mix.
  3. Continue adding flour, gradually, until a soft dough is formed. Judge the dough based on texture and feel. The dough should be slightly tacky to the touch but should hold its shape while still being soft and smooth. Knead the dough by hand or with an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes, adding additional flour only if the dough is overly sticky and not clearing the sides of the bowl.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, approximately 1-2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
  5. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, a silpat liner, or lightly grease the pan with cooking spray.
  6. Once the dough has doubled, gently deflate the it and divide in half. Shape the dough into two smooth oval-shaped loaves. Place them on the baking sheet, one on each half of the tray so they have room to rise and bake without touching.
  7. Use a brush to slather the melted butter over the top of the loaves. Continue brushing on the butter until it is gone (the loaves will be well saturated).
  8. Sprinkle the remaining chopped rosemary over the top of the loaves, patting down gently to set into the dough, if needed.
  9. Cover the loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap; let them rise again until puffy and nearly doubled, about one hour (again, the exact time will depend on the temperature of your kitchen, so judge the dough by how it looks).
  10. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  11. Lightly sprinkle coarse salt over the top of the loaves.
  12. Bake for 18-20 minutes until browned and baked through. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Yield: 2 loaves

SOURCE: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Cream Cheese Butter Herb Spread

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INGREDIENTS

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1/8 tsp. thyme
  • 1/8 tsp. celery salt
  • 1/8 tsp. salt (Mel’s recipe calls for 1/4 tsp.)

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium bowl, whip the cream cheese and butter until light, fluffy, and smooth.
  2. Add the spices and herbs; mix until well combined.
  3. Serve at cool room temperature (very clumpy and not spreadable otherwise).

SOURCE: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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