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Woodchopper Rosemary Bread | Sortachef

Woodchopper Rosemary Bread

My friend Rick looked at me funny when I announced that my bread needed some attention. We were after all waist deep in alpine fir branches on the slope below the cabin, cutting 50-pound rounds from trees we’d felled the day before. I was cutting. He was doing the heavy lifting. The sharp smell of sap rose fragrantly in the forest while Stellar’s Jays cackled high above us.  

Intrepid woodsmen spotted in the forest near Steven's Pass

Just now at the cabin it’s all about wood. With winter coming fast and certainly, we’re packing it in as fast as we can: apple wood from Eastern Washington, seasoned and ready to give us a good strong heat (sledded down the hallway, if you can believe that!); alpine fir for its availability and for that great pine smell. Wood from those trees we selectively cut will last us for years to come.

I set my chain saw down on the roots of a huckleberry bush – the only flat place around – and pulled myself out of the wood debris and up the hill. I gingerly took off my sap-coated gloves, shook the wood chips from my sap-encrusted jeans, and snapped my shirt to release chunks of saw dust that had gotten down the front. I kicked off my muddy shoes in the basement wood room and mounted the skinny stairs in stocking feet.

Lovely heat tinged with sweet smoke enveloped me at cabin level. The light was noticeably brighter now without the big trees that had threatened the deck. The birds had already adapted, dive-bombing each other to get at the best seeds that lined the rail. On the funky yellow counter, I formed loaves from plump dough flecked with green rosemary bits, set quarry tiles into the 1970’s oven and took a minute to gaze on the bright autumn colors wreathing Lichtenburg Mountain.  Then, while the bread went through its final rise, I suited up for more backbreaking work.  

On Monday, at 3600 feet, it snowed all afternoon.  The snow didn’t stick, but it was just the impetus I needed. The next day, I worked in hazy sunshine to split and stack the last of the nearly frozen rounds. The heave of my maul and its sharp tock against the wood sent chipmunks scurrying for cover. And then, with the wood tucked away out of the elements for the winter, I put up my feet and revved up the fire. While flames danced above a pile of apple wood, I swiveled the chair to take a look at evening closing in on the mountain’s resting hulk. The hard work was behind me now; a feeling of satisfaction overtook me. I sliced Double Gloucester to go with hunks of fresh rosemary bread and sighed happily as I sat back with my book.

Winter? Oh, yeah. Bring it on!

Woodchopper Rosemary Bread 

Takes 20 hours. Makes two 28 ounce loaves.

 

On the evening of the first day, mix together in a large bowl:

3½ cups bread flour

½ teaspoon dry yeast

2¾ cups of water at 105°

2½ Tablespoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary

 

Cover and let ferment overnight in a cool place. In the morning, mix in:

2 cups of all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon of dry yeast

2 teaspoons of salt

 

Sprinkle 1½ cups of flour on a work surface, and turn the dough out onto it, scraping as best you can. Clean and dry the bowl. Knead your dough well for at least 5 to 7 minutes, until it’s soft and stretchy. Put the dough back into the clean bowl, cover and let rise for 3 hours or longer.

Punch down, turn and let rise in a warm place for a further 1½ to 2 hours.

Shape into 2 loaves, stretching the outer skin smooth and tucking it under to make a ball . Put into baskets lined with well-floured cloth napkins, and let proof for a further 45 minutes.

Wet the top of the loaves, score with a sharp knife and sprinkle on coarse salt. Bake in a preheated 425° oven on quarry tiles or a pizza stone for 50 minutes.

Let cool before slicing and digging in. This bread goes great with cheese and/or soup in front of a roaring fire. Enjoy!

The last rounds. What a great place to have to work!

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At Woodfiredkitchen.com, Sortachef takes you on adventures in the kitchen and beyond, with tales to suit. Many of his offerings are woodfired - a flaming good recipe for pizza, bread, or something different. All recipes are original and tasty. Enjoy!
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