Happy New Year to you all. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, is the pseudo-promise to give up tons of the vices I enjoy, climb Everest, donate an organ, volunteer.. in reality I know myself far too well. I am not going to try and commit to things which are, let’s face it, never going to happen. Instead, I would like to try and maintain a balanced and happy medium between healthy living (thanks to good food and active-ish lifestyle), coupled with some damn good fun (which can be found in various forms). Perhaps the one resolution I should stick to is start to cook from some of the the 20 or so cookbooks I have bought during 2014 – it is an addiction ;o)
I also have decided to keep tapping away at Love the Kitchen (for a while I was seriously thinking of having to retire it due to other commitments) – I thoroughly enjoy it, I really do, but am, from tomorrow, starting a new job and for the first month at least will have limited opportunity to conjure up some recipes or new posts. I will try.
Without wanting to sound repetitive, I will not regurgitate my ramblings on why I love making bread, and how it is so much better than something store-bought. I would encourage you to have a look at some of my existing recipes, notably: Onion, Red Chilli, and Black Olive Bread; Sun-dried tomato bread with oregano and sea salt crust, and Black onion seed and sesame bread.
Over Christmas, I wanted to make a variation of this and wanted (for once) to aim for simplicity. Having toyed considerably with many different types, I wanted to come up with something so basic and quick to make (aside from proofing – that stage is sadly unavoidable) – but also a versatile savoury loaf – and though ‘black olives and herb bread’. I have made this 3 times in the past 10 days – I am now officially hooked on it. I first made it for my guests who were with me over Christmas – and am yet to bore of it.
Whilst I shouldn’t, I love to cut off a chunk as soon as it leaves the oven and dip in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar… trying not to devour the loaf has been my issue. For those who have sampled it – 8 and counting – the feedback has been really positive.
- 500g Strong White Flour
- 7g (2 tsp) fast action yeast
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 275 ml warm water
- 3 x tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 x tsp Herbes de Provence (+ a little extra for the crust)
- 1 x tsp dried oregano
- 12-16 pitted black olives, drained and dried, cut into sixths
- 1 x tsp coarse sea salt - Gros Sel de Guérande is my favourite
- Combine all the dry ingredients (flour, yeast, salt, Herbes de Provence,oregano and sugar) in a large mixing bowl, and mix thoroughly using a bell whisk.
- In a measuring jug, add warm (from the tap) water to the 275ml line.
- Then, create a well in the middle of the dry mixture and slowly pour in the water, followed by 3 tbsp olive oil. Using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, start to fold the dry ingredients into the liquid and keep folding together until a dough ball is formed. You may at this stage find it easier to switch your your hands, or a hybrid hand and utensil approach which means that the dry and wet ingredients are being evenly distributed.
- Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, and knead for 5 minutes or so until the texture is no longer sticky, yet still elastic. You may need to sprinkle additional flour during this process, so keep some at hand. I use a silicone baking mat to knead on and do not need additional flour.
- Oil the same mixing bowl (saves washing up) with a small amount of olive oil, then return kneaded dough ball, cover with a tea towel or cling film for 1 hour, and allow to rise in a warm place.
- Meanwhile, drain the black pitted olives, cut in half horizontally, then each into thirds. Remove excess moisture using kitchen paper and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
- The dough should have doubled in size (maybe a little more). Remove the dough and flatten into a large oval. Then, evenly sprinkle the black olives pieces and gently press into the dough.
- Next tightly roll the dough from one side to another into a swiss-roll shape, then fold the narrower sides towards the centre. Manipulate the dough into an oval shape and place onto a silicone backing sheet. Flatted the loaf, score with a sharp knife into shallow diagonal lines.
- Cover again with a tea towel, and allow to rise prove for a further hour in a warm place.
- Preheat the oven to 200C.
- Gently brush or spray olive oil over the top. Then, sprinkle on top a combination of sea salt (my favourite is Gros Sel de Guérande) - a natural coarse grey sea salt) and Herbes de Provence, and gently press them into the top of the dough with the palm of your hand.
- Bake in the oven for 30 mins. Once cooked, tun onto a wire rack and allow to cool.
Due to the nature of ovens been quite poor at providing a consistent temperature throughout, I often rotate the oven tray 180 degrees half-way through cooking (15 minutes).