Lately, I’ve been enjoying variations of the Rosemary Olive Oil Bread I first posted a month ago. Last night I started this particular version incorporating Kalamata olives, a dollop of levain, and a tablespoon each of home-dried oregano, sage, and marjoram. I fermented it overnight, then got up entirely too early so that I could take it out of the oven before my client at 8am. Oh, it was so worth the lack of sleep! This is all that a semi-sourdough should be, with a chewy crust, open texture, and excellent texture.
The original Rosemary Olive Oil Bread recipe is by Mark Bittman, who says: A healthy dose of olive oil gives this rosemary-infused bread a rich, moist crumb and pale golden hue; it also helps it keep a little better than other European-style breads. Among other things, this is a wonderful and unconventional loaf for sandwiches.
Note: In making bread, exact proportions are important, so it’s better to measure everything in grams, including liquids. Use an electronic scale with both ounces and grams, and reset it before adding each ingredient.
200g (1½ cups) all-purpose flour
200g (1½ cups) high-protein bread flour
100g light or dark rye flour
8g (2 tsp) Kosher salt
4g (1 tsp) instant or rapid-rise yeast
50g (generous 1/3 cup) olive oil
100g sliced Kalamata olives – preserved in oil, not the flavorless tinned ones in water
Generous Tbsp each of dried sage, marjoram, and oregano (or 3 Tbsp herbes de Provence)
300g (1½ cups or so) water at room temperature
50g olive juice (from the bottle of Kalamata olives)
Butter or oil spray such as Pam for greasing the bowls/pans
1. Feed the levain an hour or so before you want to start the main recipe. [Measure 50g flour and 50g water in a small bowl, and mix until smooth. Beat into your levain (soft sourdough starter) until thoroughly combined. Cover and let rest at room temperature for an hour.]
2. Combine the flour(s), levain, yeast, salt, olive oil, olives, and herbs in a medium-to-large mixing bowl. Add the water and olive juice, and beat for 30 seconds using a power hand mixer. Make sure you incorporate the flour at the bottom of the bowl. If needed, add more water, one tablespoon at a time, to make a damp soft dough.
3. Spray a sheet of plastic film with Pam or oil and press into the top of the dough. Allow to rest (autolyse) at room temperature for 25 minutes. This lets the gluten relax and makes it easier to knead.
4. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and, by hand, knead until the dough feels smooth. Wash and oil the bowl, put in the dough, cover with the same plastic wrap, and let rise until the dough doubles in size, about 2 hours. For a deeper flavor, pop the dough in the refrigerator overnight. Don’t worry, it will ferment beautifully even in the fridge!
5. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Tip the contents out of the bowl, and using a minimum of flour (and your dough scraper) gently shape the dough into a bâtard, sprinkling with flour as necessary. Wrap in a couche or a floured towel supported on each side (so the bread doesn’t spread too much); cover with another towel or the oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 1-2 hours until it’s soft and holds the impression if you poke it!
6. About 30 minutes before the dough has risen, heat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Put an ovenproof skillet (preferably cast iron) on the floor or the lowest rack while the oven heats. If you’re using a baking stone, put it on the rack above the skillet while the oven heats; if not, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
7. Put the kettle on to boil five minutes before baking time. Once you’re ready to bake, slide or turn the dough out onto a lightly floured peel or flexible cutting board, seam side down, or just transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Slash the top with a lame, sharp knife or razor blade. Use the peel or cutting board to slide the loaf onto the baking stone or slide the baking sheet into the oven. Partially pull out the rack with the heated skillet and very carefully pour hot water into the skillet – this will create a burst of steam. Slide the rack back in and immediately close the oven door.
8. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, turning the bread or the baking sheet halfway through, until the crust is golden brown, the bottom sounds hollow when tapped, and the internal temperature reaches 200°F on a quick-read thermometer. If the bread is browning too quickly, lower the temperature to 400°F (180°C). Remove and cool on a wire rack.
9. When completely cool, you can wrap the spare loaf in a ziplok bag to freeze, or store at room temperature in a loose bag, cut side down.
Because I have an electric slicer, I usually slice the whole loaf, and hand out packets of 4-6 slices to my friends. If I’m lucky, I might have a couple of slices left over for my own lunch! This bread goes beautifully with any soft or strong cheese, or a Mediterranean spread such a hummus.
Here is the printable .pdf file for Mediterranean Bread.