the familiar muse rosemary, once again, but with sweetness ::::
How do you tell your superwoman 71-year-old patient that you are praying for her to get back to walking, that your institution’s armamentarium of medications, physical therapy, acupuncture may help, if she just gives them some time? How can you say that you are digging down to your spiritual depths, intermingled with concern for your chronic pain patient with no social support, and hoping fervently that there will be a miracle? What about the fit, soccer-playing older gentleman, hit by a car when the driver was texting? What about his broken tibia, his neck pain, his realization that playing sports may be a long way off and no medication or brace you give him is going to hurry his healing and you wish that you had a magic wand that would reverse time so that this never happened to him?
You don’t tell them. I don’t. I just pray sometimes.
There are often patients who come into my office and proclaim that they hope that I will “fix” them. I immediately dispel this myth of godly power of healing by admonishing them. I do not “fix” anyone. I can give advice on how you, actively, can approach this desire. I don’t actually do it. This usually quiets the person, usually a surprised look on his or her face, surprised that a physician would downgrade her potential for paternalism, or healing, or whatever they feel I have the power to do. I’m human just like everyone else. I’ve been training to have some skills to help diagnose and advise treatments for certain conditions. That’s it.
Medicine is not black and white. We do not have a cookbook that we can refer to, no standard rubric, for certain recipes of “curing” pain, or “fixing” someone. There is no one panacea. That is why physicians have different opinions about treatments: they are many, and many be worthwhile to pursue, at some point. That is what makes something so seemingly scientific and so clinical, an art. It is often imbued with emotion, with the facet of social issues, family, love. And sometimes it’s not the patient feeling the emotions, it’s the doctor (even if she’s not full of pregnancy hormones).
Cooking is an art, too, but it can be more predictable than a person. If you follow the instructions, your yield is what you expect usually. There is still emotion. There is still love. There are still ingredients, like some patients, who are not especially compliant with your expectations, however. But at least your beaten eggs don’t scream at you. Or your fallen sponge cake doesn’t cry and apologize for doing so. And you are not required to have a conversation with your food, explaining in layman’s terms what exactly you are recommending or goading it to look like the pretty photo in the cookbook.
And so this is why I like to escape in cooking sometimes. It’s a little more predictable, not that unpredictability is a bad thing. It keeps life interesting, it keeps us on our toes. But I admittedly am one of those boring people who embrace routine much of the time. I like repetition, I like to have a schedule sometimes, I like to plan my day by 30 minute increments. Whether my day actually unfold this way is a totally different story.
So I give you something a little predictable and unpredictable. This sugared rosemary bread recipe may seem a little familiar — the dough recipe is the same as the sesame seed monkey bread recipe — but with a different tack. Toasted sesame seeds are the star in that recipe, looking a lot like a swarm of ants on your bread. Perhaps perfect for a picnic in the throes of summer, if you don’t mind a few stray ants camouflaged in the mix.
After my recent reprisal of my cannellini bean dip, I decided to go all out with the rosemary that I acquired for that recipe — with the same dough I recently tried. So I revisited a memory of rosemary long ago. When Eat and I lived in Champaign, our group of friends often got together on the weekend for food and drink at someone’s abode, usually potluck-style. It was our friend Bob who often brought his homemade bread for us to sample. He was a focused person, exuding intelligence, someone who would have an eloquent answer for just about any question one could pose, whether it seemed benignly unimportant or something profound. After sampling my rosemary focaccia, he commented he had a sweet rosemary bread recipe. I never tasted his version, nor did I ever obtain the recipe. This is my interpretation, without need to “fix” anything, fairly predictable results, with a little unique spin.
One year ago: pina colada sorbet
Two years ago: zucchini omelet tart with dill polenta crust
- 3 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
- 2¼ teaspoons dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup hot water (about 120 degrees F)
- 1 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled to warm
- scant ¼ cup finely chopped rosemary
- scant ¼ cup white granulated sugar, plus a little more for sprinkling
- 1 egg, beaten with a splash of cool water
- Measure 2 cups of flour into a mixing bowl (I used my KitchenAid to mix and knead) and add in yeast and salt. Stir to blend.
- Pour in hot water and melted and slightly cooled butter. IMPORTANT NOTE: pour the butter in gradually, tablespoon by tablespoon, only after the mixture is developing into a dough.* Beat with paddle attachment (or wooden spoon) for about 2 minutes.
- Add the balance of the flour, ¼ cup at a time, mixing between additions. Change to a dough hook, if using a stand-up mixer.
- Knead in bowl until it cleans the side of the bowl and loses its stickiness. If using your hands, use a well-floured surface to knead for about 10 minutes. (If too oily and wet, you may have added the butter too quickly -- it's okay, but the gluten won't form right.)
- Allow to rise for about 2 hours at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap. The dough should double in size.
- Gently deflate and roll out to fit onto a 11x17 pan (alternatively, you can divide the dough into two equal pieces and make smaller flat loaves). I rolled out on my silicon mat so I would have an easy transfer of the mat to the pan.
- Dimple the top with your fingertips slightly and allow to rise, covered on the pan, for about 40 minutes.
- Start preheating your oven 20 minutes before you plan to bake, to 375 degrees.
- Brush with a beaten egg mixed with a splash of water.
- Top with the mix of scant ¼ cup finely chopped fresh rosemary and scant ¼ cup of white granulated sugar. The mix of the rosemary and sugar will feel like moist sand and look like snow fleck with pine needles. Sprinkling this moist mixture isn't easy; if it is a little clumped up, it's okay. Fill in some of the large non-sugared areas with some plain white sugar.
- Place in oven for 30-35 minutes. Top will be browned and some of the sugar will be melted. Transfer mat/parchment onto cooling rack. When cool enough to handle bread, slide mat/parchment out from under bread and cool further, if desired.
- Serve warm with tea or coffee.
- This bread freezes well if wrapped tightly in foil.