Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Olive, Rosemary, and Feta Loaf

I had a tasty slice of a olive bread the other day, and my first thought wasn't where to buy that bread, but that I should make an olive loaf as soon as possible.

Sometimes that's all it takes for me to start working on a new recipe. I liked the olive bread, but I knew that anything I made would be better.

I wanted more than just olives, and settled on rosemary as an additional flavor. And then I spied a jar of feta cheese packed in liquid in my fridge. I decided that both the feta and the liquid would be good in the bread.

If your feta cheese doesn't come in a liquid, just use water. If your feta is packed in liquid, taste it before you use it. It should taste sweet and milky and just a little bit salty. If it's a very salty brine, your yeast won't be happy, so use water instead.

I used dried rosemary because I didn't have any fresh on hand, and I chopped it up a little finer. I wanted it well distributed, and I also didn't want any long rosemary needles in the bread. You could also bash it in a mortar and pestle, or whiz it in a spice grinder.

This bread cooks in a Dutch oven starting in a cold oven. It sounds a little strange, but it works well. It's similar to the method used for baking in a clay baker, which could shatter if it went into a hot oven. In this case, there's no danger of breaking your cast iron, but the method has several advantages.

First, because it takes the interior of the Dutch oven a while to heat up, the yeast stays alive longer, and the dough keeps rising. Second, because of the moisture trapped inside the Dutch oven, the skin of the dough stays elastic longer, so it the rising is even and you're much less likely to get massive cracks as the dough expands from the heat. Third, because the Dutch oven is moderating the heat, the bread bakes more evenly, so you're less likely to get a lopsided and unevenly-browned loaf.

Last, and most important on a hot summer day, if you start baking in a cold oven rather than preheating, your oven is on for a much shorter time. And if you don't want to turn your oven on at all, this works very well on a grill.

If you don't have a Dutch oven, or your oven is on for another purpose, just form the loaf the way you want to, let it rise fully, and bake as you normally would.

Olive, Rosemary, and Feta Loaf

1/2 cup liquid from feta  at room temp
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, chopped
2 1/2 cups (13.75 oz.) bread flour (divided)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
Additional bread flour, as needed

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine feta liquid, water, yeast, sugar, rosemary, and 1 cup of the bread flour. Cover and set aside for 15-20 minutes at which time it should be light and airy.

Add the rest of the bread flour and salt, and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Add the olive oil, feta, and olives and continue kneading until the olive oil is completely incorporated into the dough and the feta and olives are well distributed.

Depending on how wet your olives and feta were, you may need to add more flour to compensate. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl. If it it too sticky to do that, add flour a little at a time. I added about 1/4 cup more flour. The dough will still be loose and somewhat sticky. That's fine. The flour will absorb more of the moisture during its overnight rest.

Drizzle some olive oil into a plastic bag and put the dough into the bag, making sure the dough is coated on all sides. Close the bag and stash it in the refrigerator.

After an hour or so, or before you go to bed, take the dough out of the fridge and knead it, still in the bag, to knock the air out of it. Return it to the fridge for its overnight nap.

The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and knead it in the bag again, this time giving it a more thorough kneading. Leave it on the counter to warm to room temperature. This can vary, depending on how warm your kitchen is and how cold the fridge was. I left mine out for a little over two hours.

Flour your work surface and turn the dough out. You don't need to knead it agressively to get all the air out, just work it enough to form a nice tight ball. Sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom of a dutch oven and put the dough, seam side down, into the dutch oven. Put the cover on the Dutch oven and set aside for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, the dough won't be doubled, but it should be about halfway there. Cover the Dutch oven and put it into your cold oven. Set the heat for 400 degrees and set your timer for 50 minutes.

After 50 minutes, check the bread. It should be a golden brown. If it's not brown enough, take the cover off and let it bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.

This also appeared on Serious Eats and had been submitted to Yeastspotting.

1 comment:

Mimi said...

I like your dutch oven method. I'll have to try it out! Boy, that bread sure looks scruptious!

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