pretzel bites.

pretzel bites.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

olive bread. the best bread.

 
 my mom has been in a book club for as long as i can remember. they alternate where they meet (always at someone's home for lunch) and what kinds of books they read. the truth is my mom doesn't read books that were written after about 1900. unless they're mysteries. or thrillers. or game of thrones. but she mostly avoids modern fiction. which means she frequently doesn't even bother reading the books her book club has chosen. unless they were written before about 1900.
 
when i graduated from college and moved to brooklyn i lived with a friend who joined a book club. she was constantly making delicious snacks i couldn't eat because they were for her book club. i thought it was overly mature of her. 22 year olds weren't supposed to be in book clubs! we were supposed to unabashedly order jack and diet cokes at horrible manhattan bars and take the subway late at night and go on disastrous dates and sleep in on the weekend and then spend all the money we hadn't already spent buying work clothes at H&M on brunch so we could feel fancy. book clubs were for grown up grown-ups. not brooklyn grown-ups. every day i wake up and i think THANK GOD I AM NOT 22 ANYMORE. there is not a single thing i miss about it (except qualifying for my dad's health insurance) and everything is better now that i am 30. for example, i'm grown up enough to be in a book club, too.
this summer while we were staying with my parents, my mom's book club came over to meet rapha and my mom and i made a delicious lunch together to feed everyone. she made a cold carrot ginger soup (it was one of the most disgustingly hot and muggy days of the year) and it was so good i ate it for breakfast for days afterward. (we discovered the soup when my wonderful mother-in-law brought it to brooklyn to nourish us right after rapha was born.)  in my opinion, soup, even cold soup, needs bread. (my opinion is correct.)
 
there i was again, with endless granite counter space to work on, so i decided to make olive bread, which is one of the best breads because it has olives in it. i've been meaning to make olive bread for a long time and i decided to try a very basic recipe. it turns out all basic olive bread recipes are no-knead recipes, which seemed interesting. i also noticed a lot of recipes called for baking in dutch ovens and i'd never done that before and was curious. i chose this one and i don't quite remember why since my brain has essentially been mush since april 23rd. happy mush. sometimes productive mush. but mush.

this recipe is easy, but it takes a lot of planning because you have to wait for the dough to rise overnight, which is like, forever. you also need a heavy 4 1/2-5 1/2 quart pot. you can use a le creuset, but be sure to unscrew the handle on the lid before you put it in the oven.

ingredients:
3 cups bread flour
1-2 cups roughly chopped pitted olives*
3/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups cool water
1 teaspoon salt**
sea salt and olive oil to top
optional: rosemary can be baked in the bread or put on top and cornmeal can be used for dusting the bottom, though i used flour and it worked fine.
*depends how olive-y you like it. i'd go for 2 cups. you can also choose the kind of olives you'd like to use. i used kalamata but i think a mixture would work well, too.
**the recipe didn't call for salt because it claimed the olives would make the bread salty enough. i didn't actually find this to be so and i'm definitely going to add a teaspoon of salt the next time i make it.

to make:
1. stir the flour, olives, and yeast and then add the water and mix with your hands for about 30 seconds. the dough will be wet and sticky. if you're adding rosemary you should do it during this step.
2. cover the bowl with a tea towel or cloth napkin and let it rise for 12 to 18 hours. i made the dough in the late evening and then started working with it again late morning.
3. after 12 to 18 hours generously flour your counter and scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. use your hands to make it a round shape but don't knead it.
4. dust your tea towel or cloth napkin with either flour or cornmeal and place the dough on it seam side down. loosely fold the towel or napkin up over the top to cover it and put it in a warm spot to rise for another 1-2 hours. it should almost double during this rise.
5. half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat your oven to 475 degrees F and place the rack in the lower third of the oven. put your pot in the center of the rack with the top on. when the rise is complete, carefully remove your pot from the oven and gently put your dough in the pot by inverting it from the towel or napkin so the seam side ends up on top. brush it with olive oil and sprinkle it with sea salt and/or rosemary. do not burn yourself! cover the pot and bake it for 30 minutes.
6. remove the lid and continue baking until the bread is a deep brown but not too dark. the recipe said this would take about 15-30 more minutes but it took much less time for my bread for whatever reason, so keep an eye on it. you'll know when it's ready because it'll be perfectly gorgeous. gently lift the bread out of the hot and place it on a rack to cool. 
7. dive in! the crust should be crunchy and the dough perfectly chewy.
writing this really makes me want to bake this bread again right now! but instead i'm gonna go for a walk with this guy, because he's even yummier than olive bread...