Rosemary Semolina Bread with Sea Salt from Seattle’s Macrina Bakery

Macrina's Bakery Rosemary-Olive Oil-Semolina Bread

Last Saturday I spotted a sample table in the wine section of Wegmans and made a beeline for it. When I arrived, a nice man asked me if I’d like to try a couple of wines with a slice of chocolate bread. I couldn’t think of a more fantastic idea at 10 in the morning. Yes please, I said. One of the wines, a grenache, was quite nice, and while the bread, a cake-like quick bread, was a little bland, I liked the idea of pairing wine with chocolate bread.

The folks at Wegmans were on to something. If the bread had been less sweet and textured more like a yeast-risen bread, could it possibly be topped with a cheese — maybe a soft, honey-infused chévre — and served with wine as a festive Valentine’s Day hors d’oeuvre?

Immediately reminded of Metropolitan Bakery’s chocolate and cherry bread, I set to work scouring the internet to see if anybody had taken a stab at recreating that loaf at home, an exercise I undertake every six months or so. That recipe, I’m afraid, is still under tight lock and key. It’s conspicuously absent from the cookbook, as well. For good reason, I imagine.

Without delving into too much detail, I combined a few recipes, slapped together a nice-looking dough, threw it in a hot oven, and waited anxiously while promising smells wafted from the oven. Unfortunately, the resulting loaf, although edible, was nothing worth sharing. It was good. I found myself eating slice after slice in fact, perhaps hoping each next slice might taste better, but each did not. Chocolate bread, I’m afraid, would not make it to this year’s Valentine’s Day table.

Alas, maybe forcing chocolate into a savory bread was weird anyway. It was time to get back to basics. Time to try a more natural combination of flavors. Time to break out the rosemary and sea salt and olive oil and share with you all a most delectable bread recipe, one I can say with the utmost confidence will not disappoint. I eat slice after slice of this bread not because I doubt its deliciousness but because I can’t hold myself back. Olive oil makes this bread super moist, but it’s the presence of semolina flour, an ingredient I am only just discovering, that gives this bread such a unique texture and flavor. The owner of Macrina Bakery, Leslie Mackie, to whom we can thank for this creation, says it best: “Semolina flour gives the bread a hearty texture but also a kind of creamy, almost corn-like flavor.” A salty, crusty exterior moreover makes the bread irresistible.

It’s perhaps not as dreamy as chocolate bread, but it’s far more delicious, and in the event that a romantic dinner for two materializes in my kitchen next Tuesday, it will make an appearance. Happy Almost Valentine’s Day Everyone.

Semolina flour is sometimes labeled as “pasta flour.”
Semolina Flour

Macrina's Bakery Rosemary-Olive Oil-Semolina Bread

Failed chocolate bread, rising:
chocolate bread, rising

Failed chocolate bread, baked:
chocolate bread, baked

Rosemary semolina bread mixed (left) and risen (right):
dough, just mixed (left) and risen (right)

shaping the loaf

loaf, ready for the oven

Macrina's Bakery Rosemary-Olive Oil-Semolina Bread

Rosemary Semolina Bread
Source: Bon Appetit via Seattle’s Macrina Bakery & Cafe
Yield = 1 very large round

1 3/4 cups warm water (105°F to 115°F), divided
1 tablespoon active dry yeast (measured from 2 envelopes)
2 1/4 cups (about) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
2 1/2 cups semolina flour (pasta flour)*
2 teaspoons fine-grained sea salt
Additional semolina flour
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, divided

1 teaspoon coarse-grained sea salt

1. Place 1 1/4 cups warm water in medium bowl; sprinkle yeast over and stir to blend. Let stand 5 minutes to soften. Whisk to dissolve yeast. Add 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour; whisk until smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature (about 75°F) until bubbles form and yeast mixture has more than doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

2. Whisk remaining 1/2 cup warm water, olive oil, and rosemary in large bowl to blend. Using rubber spatula, mix in semolina flour and 2 teaspoons fine-grained sea salt (dough will be very dry). Stir in yeast mixture. Work in 3/4 cup all purpose flour. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, adding more all purpose flour by tablespoonfuls if sticky. Let rest 5 minutes. Knead until dough springs back when pressed with thumb, about 8 minutes.

3. Lightly oil large bowl. Transfer dough to bowl; turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface. Flatten dough into 18×12-inch rectangle. Starting from 1 long side, roll tightly to form 2 1/2-inch-diameter, 20-inch-long log. With seam side down, shape log into ring, inserting 1 end into second end; smooth seam. (Note: As you can see from the photos, I did not make this shape. If I had, my ring would have been massive. I opted to just coil into one mass. Next time, however, I might even divide the dough in half and bake two simple boule-shaped loaves.)

4. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle sheet with additional semolina flour. Transfer dough ring to prepared sheet, reshaping as necessary to form smooth circle. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds, pressing lightly to adhere. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let bread rise at room temperature until almost doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove plastic wrap from bread. Using sharp knife, cut 1/4-inch-deep slit all the way around top of loaf. Spray bread lightly with water. (I did not do this — I don’t own a spray bottle.) Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds and 1 teaspoon coarse-grained salt. Transfer to oven. Bake bread 15 minutes, spraying lightly with water every 5 minutes. (I did not do this either, again because I do not own a spray bottle.) Continue to bake without spraying until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 30 minutes longer. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.

*Semolina flour is available at specialty foods stores, Italian markets, and some supermarkets.

Macrina's Bakery Rosemary-Olive Oil-Semolina Bread

rosemary semolina loaf

Comments

  1. says

    Even it may not be the original recipe’s vision, I really love the coil shape. Rustic, although still professional looking! Rosemary and semolina are a great combination as well. Look forward to baking this soon.

    Cheers,

    *heather*

  2. says

    Gorgeous shape to that loaf of bread, Ali, and I love the flavor combination. I have a ton of semolina flour that I ought to put to use this weekend. And the chocolate bread is beautiful!

  3. says

    I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a bread I could make for a dinner party tonight and I think this would be perfect. I’m off to get semolina flour! Thank you.

  4. says

    The next time I am Seattle I would love to head to this bakery for wonderful bread just like this. Of course I could also make it at home. I was at a new store here in Kelowna that sells kitchen items and they had a whole section on a company that makes chocolate for sipping with wine. It is a new trend for sure.

  5. says

    whoa, trying this asap. might try swapping in a whole grain flour for half of the all-purpose, will let you know if i do.

    also: i did a chocolate bread that sounds a lot like what you were hoping for, i.e. not sweetened at all and definitely asking for a cheesy topping: http://jengoestocollege.blogspot.com/2010/10/natural-starter-chocolate-bread.html it uses natural starter, which is annoying if you don’t have one already, but worth experimenting with if only for the absurd quantity of bread you’ll inevitably wind up making.

    thanks for the recipe!

    • says

      Jen, thank you! This recipe looks fanstastic! I am going to make the starter right now. It truly does look like exactly what I am dreaming of. Those loaves are beautiful. I will report back on this. Thanks so much!

  6. says

    I love Macrina Bakery! I was introduced to it by a fellow food blogger and went back more than once after my first visit. Everything there is incredible.

    This bread is something I’ll have to try, especially because of the rosemary. Your pictures are great!

  7. says

    So I love bread anyway, but I’m transfixed by this! Love the hue of this bread’s colorand the gorgeous shape – amazing… I have featured this post in today’s Friday Food Fetish roundup. Let me know if you have any objections and thanks for the inspiration

  8. says

    I’m not so much a chocolate fan except those few days a year I have to have it. But this bread, I could eat every day, morning noon and night. Your crust looks crusty and I fear I couldn’t stop eating it. One time on a visit to Colorado farmer’s market, I ate some bread that had bits of melted white chocolate throughout. It was divine and I’ve been wanting to make it ever since. I attempted it with a brioche, but never quite got there.

  9. Hina says

    Instead of kneading by hand for eight minutes, do you think the dough hook on my stand mixer would do the job adequately?

  10. Hina says

    Awesome! My mixer will definitely be doing the work for me and I cannot wait until I can get around to making this. I had another request. Can you please suggest some accompaniments or main dishes that would be most delicious with this bread? Thanks in advance. =)

  11. says

    Hi, Alexandra. First, I love your recipes and narratives – thanks so much! Second, you may have already found the Metropolitan Bakery’s recipe for cherry chocolate bread, but in case you haven’t I did just find it on a site called The Chef’s Kitchen. They also have a Youtube video showing the M.B. chef, James Barrett, making the bread. Thought you’d be as happy as I was to find it – I’m taking a stab at it this weekend! Happy baking… http://www.chefskitchen.tv/recipes-search/recipe.asp?id=844

    • says

      Cristi — Thank you for reminding me! Someone else did actually send me the link with the recipe, and I printed it out in case they ever took the recipe down for whatever reason. I might have to make it this weekend too! Valentine’s day is rapidly approaching. I need to get to work. I’ll report back if I make it, and please do the same if you feel like it. Fun! Thanks.

  12. says

    Okay, Alexandra… I think we have another great recipe to add to the tried and true list! I finished my two loaves this morning (baking that is, I haven’t eaten them both!) and they turned out very well. I didn’t have a baking stone or the bannetons, but a cookie sheet and two mixing bowls were fine substitutes. In the 450 oven they browned quickly and I was a bit concerned they’d be too dark – after about 20 minutes, I turned the oven down to 400 for the remaining baking time (about 15 minutes) and that seemed to be the perfect combination of temps for my oven. The loaves are nice and crusty outside, while the insides are delicate and moist. I used a 75-25 ratio of milk chocolate and semi-sweet. It was a nice contrast to the tart cherries. I can’t wait to hear what you think of the recipe and the final product! Thx, Cristi

    • says

      Cristi — thank you for all of these tips! I made the starter last night, and I have all of the ingredients laid out to make the bread today. I am so excited! Thank you for the tips on the baking time, I will follow those, and I was wondering about what chocolate to use, since the recipe doesn’t specify. I have bittersweet and semisweet so I’ll try to use more semisweet since you made the good point about the tart cherries. Where did you find your cherries? I found mine at Target of all places. I don’t know how they will be — the ingredients say tart cherries and sugar. Do yours have sugar? I’m hoping these aren’t too sweet. Also, what are you planning on doing with the rest of your starter? Or did you use it all for both loaves — I haven’t weighed it out yet to see how many loaves I might be able to get out of it. Have a great weekend!

  13. Cristi says

    Sorry it took me so long to check back in! I found my cherries at Fresh & Easy and they do list sugar as the other ingredient. I’m not sure what to do with the remaining starter. As you now know, there is quite a bit left! What did you or are you doing with yours?? Was the chocolate cherry bread a hit in your house?

    • says

      Cristi — No worries! I know how busy things can get. The chocolate cherry bread was a huge hit! It’s kind of hard not to snack on all day long, toasted with a little butter. I think next time I might add fewer cherries, but I suspect the reason I wasn’t crazy about them was bc they weren’t very good to begin with. But I do love the flavor they add, and that hint of orange zest is just heavenly! My starter is still sitting in my frige, and I’m determined to do something with it. I think if I pour off the liquid stuff on top, it might make something yummy for me? We shall see. I’m going to make more chocolate-cherry bread this weekend, perhaps making a few adjustments to help speed up the process a little bit? I have a bunch of bread recipes that call for making a sponge or a fast starter, which sits for an hour or so (versus 12), and then I think I might add more yeast to the ultimate loaf so that I can skip the overnight-in-the-fridge step, too. I suspect some of the flavor might be lost with these adjustments, but it would be nice if this recipe were more accessible to more people — I think all of the steps and waiting might deter many people from making it. Thoughts?

  14. Cristi says

    I’m curious to see how the starter works in another recipe. Mine looks a little less than appetizing! I was just reading that it’s important to combine the liquid at the top w/ the thicker goop at the bottom before using it again?? Yes, I agree that the total process time for the cherry chocolate bread may be too lengthy for most people. It isn’t labor intensive (especially when you use the bread hook on a stand mixer) and doesn’t demand much more than the patience required for the rising and resting – but it would be easy for life to get in the way of a step or two! I do think it’s a very nice special occasion bread… as you mentioned earlier, Valentine’s Day seems like just that occasion. I’ll be checking back in to see if you post a more user-friendly recipe. Thanks, Alexandra. Enjoy the weekend! Cristi

  15. Christine says

    My Canadian yeast packets are 8g, and I only needed one to measure 1T. I made your coil shape and used caraway seeds and black sesame seeds as that’s what I had on hand. I considered using my mixer to knead, but this dough was such a pleasure, I really enjoyed doing it by hand as I was not in a hurry. I hardly used any flour on my board as the dough was not sticky but wanted to eat it up! I figured since it wasnt sticky I wouldnt keep flouring the board. I don’t know if that’s the correct approach, but so far, so good. I wasn’t quite sure where i was supposed to make the 1/4″ cuts on the coil, so I just cut into the widest part of the coil.
    My kitchen smells great! Thank you!

    • says

      Christine — I hope this turned out well for you. I love the texture and the flavors and the salt in this bread. Love the idea of caraway seeds — I’ve been wanting to make a good rye loaf — and it sounds as though your instincts were right regarding your approach to adding the flour and making the slits. Thanks so much for writing in — will email you shortly :)

  16. Teri says

    I can’t wait to try this one, Ali! My rosemary plant is putting forth a spectacular growth spurt, and this looks like a great way to put it to good use!

    Thank you!

  17. says

    Just made this bread last night, and I died! It was soooo delicious! Thank you for sharing the recipe! I found it on pinterest and I am so happy I made it! I also put a post up on my blog and linked to your site! Thanks for the delicious idea!

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