breads | cheese | herbs | recipe | rosemary | starter | yeast

Rosemary’s baby.

May 11, 2011

Wasn’t that a freaky movie? I remember seeing it as a kid (yes, as a kid… movies were never censored for me) and getting totally freaked out. I haven’t seen it in a while, ever since then, so it might be time to put it on the Netflix queue! Side note: Mia Farrow’s haircut was super cute in that movie.

Anyway, this post isn’t about horror movies. It’s actually about bread; but because it’s made with rosemary, I immediately thought of Rosemary’s Baby. That might say something about me, but I digress. Remember that awesome levain, or sourdough bread I made a while back? Well I decided to make it again & do a little experiment. I wanted to make one with rosemary & olive oil. Maybe a little parmesan. I was drooling at the very thought of it actually. The only thing that worried me was that I didn’t have any more fresh yeast in the house, and I had just fed my starter the night before, so I really wanted to use it. But I decided that since you really don’t need yeast when using a starter (because the starter is yeast) that I’d ignore the worrywart in me & just go for it. And this is the brainchild of that scheming- aka, rosemary’s baby. See how I tied that in there?

First off, you’ll need a starter. Starter’s are really easy, so don’t be scared. If it’s your first time making one, keep reading. I’ll explain the best I can how you can make one & keep it successfully alive. Sort of like Rosemary & her baby… but tastier & far less evil.



  • 3 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water ( 105-115 degrees F)

Starter feed:

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons instant potatoes
  • 1 cup warm water (again, 105-115 degrees F)


  1. To make the starter, mix the yeast and warm water in a small bowl. Put into a plastic container, seal, and refrigerate for 3-5 days.
  2. To make the starter feed, combine the sugar, potatoes, and water in a small bowl and stir into the starter. Cover loosely (to allow some of the pressure to escape as the gases build) and let stand at room temperature for 5-12 hours. The mixture will be bubbly.
  3. When ready, take out 1 cup to make bread and loosely cover the starter and return to the refrigerator. Feed again after 3-5 days. If not making bread after feeding the starter, take out 1 cup and discard it to avoid depleting the starter. NOTE: do not put the lid on tight.

So that’s pretty much self-explanatory, right? Yes. Although I do have a few notes. I prefer to use a glass jar. I have one that used to have spaghetti sauce in it that I cleaned out thoroughly, soaked in bleach to get any stains & odor out, and then cleaned out thoroughly again using organic non-toxic cleaner and scalding hot water. Once it was completely cleaned, and had no smell, I used it. I used it for the yeast & water mix, covered it with the lid, and then when I fed it I threw the lid away and instead I covered it with a piece of plastic wrap held on with a rubber band, and then using a fork, I poked holes in it. That works best for me. You can also use a ball jar if you prefer, also the first time I made this starter I used a large plastic tupperware. However I found it difficult for the plastic wrap to stay on, so I had to use the lid, and the lid can’t be on tightly or it’ll explode (and it really will- trust me) so it made it hard having a half-open tupperware in my fridge. And it wouldn’t have smelled so nice had it toppled over. Well actually it would have, seeing as how it smells like beer, and I like that smell… but I don’t want my entire fridge & everything in it smelling like beer.

I’ve found you can feed it on the 6th day and it will be fine, and you don’t have to use it right away. You can throw out one cup and then make bread the next day or the day after… although I must tell you, my bread doesn’t come out nearly as good using the starter in between feedings as it does when using the starter 12 hours after feeding. Maybe that’s just me, maybe I’m insane, but it’s true. It does work, mind you, but the flavor and ‘chew’ of the bread isn’t quite the same. If your starter dies, adding a bit of yeast should awaken it. If it ever has a smell other than the smell of “beer”, or gets moldy, throw it away immediately. It’s easy enough to start again! If you don’t want to use this starter, there are many options. Here’s a website that has a lot of information.

And now… on to the bread itself.

PARMESAN, ROSEMARY & OLIVE OIL SOURDOUGH BREAD (adapted from a recipe by Cookbook Chronicles)

yields 1 large loaf


  • 1 cup starter (see above)
  • ¾ cups water
  • ¼ cup rosemary leaves
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3 ½ cups bread flour, plus ¼ cup for flouring baking sheet
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus 1 tbsp for greasing the bowl


  1. A few hours before, combine the rosemary with the ¼ cup olive oil in a glass. Allow to sit for anywhere from a half hour to overnight before using so the flavor gets infused together. If letting it sit overnight, cover the glass with plastic wrap.
  2. In a the bowl of a stand mixer, using a dough hook, stir together the starter, water, olive oil/rosemary mix and bread flour. On medium speed, beat the dough for 7-8 minutes until elastic. Beat in the salt. At this point, the dough should clear the sides and bottom of the bowl, and climb up the hook. It should not be too sticky when you press it with your finger, and should pass the windowpane test when stretched. If it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour.
  3. Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly oiled with 1 tbsp olive oil. Rub the olive oil over the entire surface. Cover the bowl with a towel, and allow it to proof until doubled. (This will take anywhere from a few hours to overnight, depending on how warm your house is.)
  4. When your dough has doubled, punch it down. Lift the dough, and stretch lightly with your fingers–you can hold it up on one side in the air and just let gravity stretch the dough for you. Fold the dough in half. Shape the dough into a round ball.
  5. Generously flour a baking sheet with ¼ cup of flour. Transfer the ball of dough on top of the flour, and with a sharp knife, make four slashes across the top. Then sprinkle some of the flour over the entire surface of the dough.
  6. Cover with a towel, and allow the dough to rise for 2-3 hours. At this point, the dough should be nicely puffed but not quite doubled in size. Spritz the top lightly with water and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
  7. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a pan of water on the bottom rack. (If using baking stone, let it warm up in the oven.)
  8. Bake the bread directly on the baking sheet for about 50 minutes, (Or if using, transfer the dough to a baking stone.)  After 50 minutes, the crust should be browned and crisp. When you pick up the loaf, give it a light thump on the bottom. It should sound hollow.
  9. Allow the bread to cool before slicing.

I hope this encourages you to experiment with recipes! I already have other plans for altering this recipe using other herbs & ingredients. It lends itself well to so many different flavors. Try it- see what happens.

USE GOOD QUALITY OLIVE OIL. That’s my only rule for you with this bread. You want to really taste it, and why would you want to taste crappy olive oil? This bread is fantasmagorically wonderful. It would be amazing as an open-face grilled cheese sandwich with some provolone or mozzarella. What I did was, I poured some really good extra virgin olive oil in a little plate with some minced garlic, parmesan & Italian seasonings. Then I dipped the bread into the flavored olive oil. UNF. That’s all I can say. Unf.

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