currant-rosemary bread

the rosemary put on quite a show in the herb garden.  not only was it about 4 feet tall, it was covered in blooms.  the honeybees were working those flowers like crazy too.  not one person walked through without noticing the shrub, yes shrub-it is that big now.  hard to believe that just two years ago, it was in a tiny little plastic pot from the nursery.  we only placed it in the bed to fill a hole.  if only i had this much luck with everything i plant!
with the bumper crop of rosemary, i decided to make a yeast bread rather than a cake to take to the garden.  then, while skimming through some of my cookbooks, i found an interesting recipe in a book that has been living on my shelf but has seen very little use.  i cannot remember when i bought this copy of beth hensperger’s “bread for all seasons” but the recipe for rosemary raisin bread was the perfect compromise; a yeast raised coffee cake that is both bread and cake.  brilliant, just brilliant i say!  best part, very little kneading!!!  best part, the bread toasts nicely so don’t worry about it getting stale, just slice it and toast it.
since i prefer currants, i used them in place of the raisins and i gave them a good soak first.  it is important that you plump up the currants in some hot water or they will dry out the bread.  first, measure the currants while they are small and dry.  place them in a pan and cover them with water.  bring the water to a boil over medium heat.  immediately turn off the heat, remove the pan from the burner and allow the currants to sit in the water until they cool.  drain off any excess liquid before using the currants.  while the recipe calls for 1-2 teaspoons of dried rosemary, i used fresh leaves from the garden.  since the flavor of dried herbs are usually a little stronger, i would generally say to use half but for this recipe, i think using more of the fresh is a good thing.  the fact that it is softer than dry rosemary is also a plus since there aren’t any twig like pieces to pick out.  
currant rosemary bread
1 large bundt or tube cake serving 16
2 cups currants
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
1 cup warm water, 105-115 degrees
5 1/4 to 5 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped a bit
2/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 eggs

plump the currants by covering them with water in a sauce pan and bringing them to a boil.  immediately turn off the heat and set the pan aside to cool, 20 minutes or so.  strain them well before using.  in a small bowl, combine the yeast with the pinch of sugar and the warm water.  stir to dissolve and then let it sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.  spray a large bundt or tube pan with grease, or brush it with some oil, set it aside.

in a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine 1 cup of the flour, dry milk, sugar, rosemary, salt, olive oil and the eggs.  beat this mixture until smooth.  add the yeast mixture and 1 1/2 cups more of the flour.  beat for 1 minute and then let it sit for 20-30 minutes.  add the currants, and the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough forms that clears the sides of the bowl.  if necessary, mix by had at this point.  the dough is capable of absorbing a lot of flour so add it cautiously-it should not stick to the bowl much and will no longer have a “wet” appearance.

turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and springy, about 3 minutes.  if needed, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time to prevent sticking.  form the dough into a cylinder that will fill the tube pan evenly.  you can place it in the pan and squeeze it and shape it to fit the pan evenly.  brush it with a little oil, cover with plastic and allow it to rise at room temp until double, about 2 hours.  about 20 minutes ahead of baking, preheat the oven to 350.

bake the cake until it has filled the pan, is evenly browned and firm to the touch.  this will take about 45 minutes to an hour, a cake tester can be used to check the interior.  when done, turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely.  serve with softened butter and jam if you like.  the leftovers make amazing toast too so none should go to waste!

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