slices of rosemary peasant bread

“Live simply.” It’s so hard to do, isn’t it? This phrase has been mulling in my head over and over again for the past year. With the accumulation of more and more and more stuff over time despite efforts to de-clutter my life, sometimes I wonder if it’s ever possible to follow the mantra: “Live simply.”

Though it’s not easy, I still do think it is possible.

Elliott and I are not perfect people. We still throw out more paper towels than we can count in a single day; we still leave the water running sometimes while brushing our teeth, or leave lights on in a room that no one occupies. Our closets are maxed out with boxes, all filled with things: Old books, old movies, wedding gifts we never opened, clothes folded in a bag that someday will make its way to Goodwill. We have crappy hand towels we got from a Vikings football game last year that will have absolutely no use to us — but we still have them, rolled up and stacked alongside a slew of other kitschy, meaningless treasures on top of a bookshelf, all collecting dust. And I’m not even going to get into the state of our desk drawers. Let’s just say we could probably rebuild a forest with the amount of paper we have tucked away.

I think about the people at my college who walked around for a week carrying their trash with them as a demonstration (and an effective one, too), and I realize that if I did that today, I’d probably break my back.

rosemary peasant bread loaves

The point of my story is that sometimes living simply and without much waste isn’t a perfect, unbreakable system, but it’s a worthwhile goal. So while we could stand to cut down on our waste and streamline our lives into even more efficient ones, there are some things we do that fall in line with the mantra I hear in my head often (though not enough to question my sanity, I assure you). We try our best to be good stewards of the Earth God gave us, and at the end of the day, our best is our best. That’s all we can do. And we try to add more simplicity to our daily lifestyle, and subtract all the junk we don’t need. And there’s a lot of it.

rosemary peasant loaves of bread

But about this bread: I don’t know why this rosemary loaf got me thinking about simplicity. Maybe it’s because there are just a few, simple ingredients in it that render a delicious, strong mix of flavors. Maybe it’s because it’s called a peasant loaf, and whenever I read that word I’m filled with thoughts of big, open, uncluttered pastures, prairie dresses and families working the earth together just to get dinner on the table. I know that’s pretty “Little House on the Prairie” of me — but I guess what I’m trying to say is, whenever I think of peasants, I think of a rich, full life. A simple life, but a full one. And that’s the kind of life I want to live.

And I think, whether in that life or this one I’m currently living on the way to getting there, this bread will always be on the table.

Almost-Famous Rosemary Bread
Adapted from Food Network Magazine

Yields: Four small round loaves

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing and serving
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper (optional)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup warm water. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 1 tbsp olive oil, flour, 1 1/2 tbsp rosemary, the fine salt and 3/4 cup warm water to the bowl. Stir with the paddle attachment until just combined. Replace paddle attachment with dough hook and knead dough about 8 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the bowl (or, knead by hand on a floured surface for 10 minutes). Place kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1/2 hours.

Brush two baking sheets with olive oil. Remove dough from bowl and on a lightly floured surface, divide into four equal pieces. Flatten each piece slightly into a square shape. Fold corners up and towards the middle to make a diamond, then fold the corners you just made up and towards the middle so the other side of the loaf is rounded. Flip the dough over and place 2 pieces, seam-side down, on each baking sheet. Allow to rise, uncovered, for about 1 to 1/2 hours or until doubled.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the loaves for 10 minutes; then, brush with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and remaining 1/2 tbsp rosemary. Continue baking another 10 minutes or until loaves are a golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack before slicing. Serve with olive oil seasoned with pepper, if desired.