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Tear off a chunk ... it's crusty fir tree bread.

Tear off a chunk . . . it's crusty fir tree bread

Whimsically formed to resemble a fir tree, this yeast bread is a shapely twist on Italian focaccia, which is baked in a thin, flat sheet. Like one popular version of focaccia, this dough is studded with raisins, drenched with olive oil, then sprinkled with salt and sugar, and baked. The result is a crisp, flavorful loaf you tear into chunks to eat.

The bread is good hot or at room temperature; if you make it ahead, reheat to revive maximum flavor and texture.

Fir Tree Bread

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup warm water (110|) About 6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, or 2 teaspoons dry rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon dry thrme leaves

About 3/4 teaspoon salt

About 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons raisins

1/2 teaspoon sugar

About 5 fresh rosemary sprigs, each 4 to 6 inches long, optional

Butter or margarine, optional

In a large bowl, mix yeast and water; let stand until yeast is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons oil, rosemary leaves, thyme leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add 2 cups flour.

To mix with a dough hook, stir until flour is moistened, then beat at high speed until dough is stretchy. Add about 3/4 cup more flour, beating until dough begins to pull from bowl sides, about 4 minutes. Remove hook and cover bowl with plastic wrap.

To mix by hand or with an electric mixer, stir until flour is moist, then beat at high speed until dough is stretchy. Add 3/4 cup more flour; stir with a heavy spoon until moistened. Scrape dough onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Rinse, dry, and oil bowl; add dough and turn over so top is oiled. Cover with plastic wrap.

Let dough rise in a warm place until nearly double in volume, about 1 hour.

To expel air, knead with dough hook or on a lightly floured board. Shape dough into a ball and set in the middle of a greased 12- by 15-inch baking sheet. Pat dough out to make a 3- by 12-inch rectangle. With a razor blade or a sharp knife, cut 5 slashes, each about 2 inches long, in dough as shown in step 1 below. Pull cuts open, twisting dough strips several times, to create a triangular tree as wide and as tall as the baking sheet.

Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until puffy-looking, about 30 minutes.

With a finger, push raisins deep into the dough (step 2, below right). Brush dough generously with about half the remaining oil; it should pool into raisin-filled depressions. Mix remaining salt with the sugar and sprinkle over the dough. Bake in a 375| oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Brush again with remaining oil; bake until richly browned, about 10 minutes longer. Using a spatula, gently slide bread from pan onto a platter to serve warm; garnish with rosemary sprigs. Or slip onto a rack to cool, then serve.

If made ahead, wrap cool bread airtight and freeze; thaw wrapped. To reheat, place unwrapped bread on baking sheet, loosely cover with foil, and bake in a 350| oven until warm, about 10 minutes.

Tear into chunks and eat plain or with butter. Makes 1 loaf, about 1 pound.

Photo: 1. Cut 5 slashes, each 2 inches long. To mold dough into tree shape, pull and twist at cuts; twists help tree retain form

Photo: 2. Poke raisins into puffy dough. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sugar and salt, then bake

Photo: Tree-shaped loaf--flavored with olive oil and rosemary--has lots of good, crusty surface. Break off fragrant chunks to enjoy with soup
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:recipe
Date:Jan 1, 1988
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