Yesterday, I spent most of the day at home doing things around the house. All the time at home encouraged me to make some homemade bread. It really is not too much work as long as you are around and available to “punch down” and knead when needed. I took a little nap on the couch while the bread was in the oven and awoke to the most glorious of smells permeating the house… fresh baked bread with a hint of rosemary. It was aromatherapy for the soul!

The reason I say homemade bread is “not too much work” is thanks to the kitchen tool that has most changed my life in the past few years – my Kitchen Aid bread hook. There is nothing else that has brought so much ease to an otherwise sticky and messy process. For many of you, perhaps hand kneading the bread is half the fun. For me, I might do it once a year but usually do not feel like getting my hands and counter sticky and dirty and cranking on the bread dough for 10-15 minutes. Enter bread hook… flip the switch and leave the room for 10 minutes. Return and bread dough is ready for rising.

I am curious… to all you cooks and bakers out there… what is the kitchen tool that has most changed your life in the past year or two? Do tell…

Rosemary Walnut Bread
adapted from Cooking Light

2 cups warm 1% low fat milk (100-110 degrees)
1/4 cup warm water ( (100-110 degrees)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 packages dry yeast (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour, divided
1 cup chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon 1 % low-fat milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add yeast and stir. Let stand 5 minutes. Add 2 cups flour to yeast mixture, stirring with a whisk. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees) free from drafts, 15 minutes.

Add 2 1/2 cups flour, walnuts, rosemary and 1 egg, stirring with a whisk. Knead dough until smooth and elastic (at least 10 min), adding enough of reamaining flour 1/4 cup at a time to prevent dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, turning to coat. Cover and let rise 1 hour in a warm place free from drafts for 1 hour or until doubled in size. (lightly pressing two fingers in dough, indentation should remain when dough has risen enough)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Punch dough down and turn onto floured surface. Divide dough in half and make two rounds or loaves. Sprinkle baking sheet or pizza stone with cornmeal and top with loaves. Cover and let stand 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Combine milk and beaten egg. Brush top of loaves. Make diagonal cuts across top of loaves with a knife for decoration if you wish. Place loaves in oven, reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake 40 minutes or until bottom of each loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Let stand 20 minutes before slicing.