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Almost-Famous Rosemary Bread

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You can’t get much for free these days, but diners have been eating insane amounts of free rosemary bread at Macaroni Grill since the first one opened in Leon Springs, TX, in 1988. Founder Philip J. Romano decided to serve the bread so the restaurant would seem more like his Italian mother’s kitchen, and now it’s the standard welcoming bite at all 200 locations. Sure, a mall parking lot doesn’t exactly scream Italy, but Romano figured hot bread, along with an opera soundtrack and some jugs of wine on the table, would help diners feel a little closer to Tuscany.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 5 hr (plus cooling)
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 4 small loaves
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Ingredients

Directions

  1. Stir the yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer). Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, the flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons rosemary, the fine salt and 3/4 cup warm water; stir with a wooden spoon (or with the dough hook if using a mixer) until a dough forms.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting lightly with flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (Or knead with the dough hook on medium-high speed, adding a little flour if the dough sticks to the bowl, about 8 minutes.)
  4. Brush a large bowl with olive oil. Add the dough, cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until more than doubled, about 2 hours.
  5. Brush 2 baking sheets with olive oil. Generously flour a work surface; turn the dough out onto the flour and divide into 4 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, sprinkle some flour on the dough, then fold the top and bottom portions into the middle. Fold in the sides to make a free-form square. Use a spatula to turn the dough over, then tuck the corners under to form a ball. Place seam-side down on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, putting 2 balls on each baking sheet. Let stand, uncovered, until more than doubled, about 2 hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the loaves 10 minutes; brush with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with the kosher salt and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon rosemary. Continue baking until golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve with olive oil seasoned with pepper.

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