Christmas Bread

Ah, fresh bread... It's something so special and beautiful, and increasingly rare in homes today. Artisanal shops sell delicious handmade bread, but it comes at a price-- and I generally can't afford it. But making bread at home is ridiculously cheap, simple, and amazing. For our Christmas special, I made this sun-dried tomato and rosemary bread (red and green, duh) as a way to refill my holiday spirit. Something about a crunchy, steaming loaf of bread just warms and soothes an achy heart-- which a lot of people need in this season. It's so easy to get caught up with the commercialized, soulless Christmas, that we forget to love each other, or have fun, in our quest for Instagram-perfect holiday moments or finding just the right plastic gadget. I hope that some of you take the leap and make your own bread this week; take some time for yourself, reconnect with what it's like to make something with your own hands and share it with the people you love.
Merry Christmas!

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PSA: You must let your bread rise for 10-18 hours! Please plan accordingly.

For the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour (or wheat flour! I used half-and-half white and wheat for mine)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 rounded teaspoon active dry yeast
Sun dried tomatoes, chopped to about pea-size
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 1/2 cups room temperature water

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In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and the rosemary. Then combine the sun dried tomato pieces, tossing them so they're fully coated in the dry mixture.
Pour in the room temperature/slightly warm water. Don't use hot water or you'll kill the yeast!
Stir the water in until there are no flour clumps. The dough will be very loose and wet, so don't worry about it too much. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it on the counter overnight. If you put it in the fridge, or if your house is very cold, the yeast will work more slowly and therefore need more rising time.
When you're ready to start baking, preheat your oven to 450*F, with a Dutch oven (or other oven safe deep dish) inside. This baking dish MUST either have a lid, or make sure you have aluminum foil to cover the top of the dish. This creates a seal within the dish, so steam builds up inside and helps cook the dough. Pre-heating the dish helps keep the bread from sticking, and also helps give a nice crisp crust!

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Once your dough is fully risen (it should have at least doubled in size), flour a flat surface such as a non-tile countertop or a large cutting board. Scrape the dough onto the surface with floured hands, and knead until the dough can be formed into a rough ball. Plop that ball into your preheated dish, cover, and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for 10-15 minutes, or until a lovely golden brown crust forms.
When you're happy with the color of your bread, turn it out of the dish and use oven mitts to hold the loaf upside-down. Hold it close to your ear and knock on the bottom of the bread. If it has a hollow sounding knock, it's done! If it sounds solid, pop it back into the oven and repeat until done!
Allow the bread to cool for at least ten minutes before cutting, as it will continue cooking on the inside as it rests.
Slice, share, and show someone the love and light this season represents.

Merry Christmas my friends!

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