Rosemary Olive Oil Sourdough Loaf

Reader Contribution by Sue Van Slooten
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 This next loaf is a bit of a hybrid, in more ways than one. Let me explain. First, the technique is not a true sourdough, although, in the end, maybe it is. Secondly, I always tinker with a recipe, and end up with something not quite like what the recipe started with. I just can’t help it, I’m always looking for a way to make something better, or give it a new twist. For the basic recipe, I started with the Olive Oil Dough recipe from the 2007 book, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I first got this book, and didn’t do anything with it right away. Then one day, I picked it up, and figured I’d try to figure out what the “gimmick” was with the Five Minutes a Day part. The recipe seemed almost too simple. Now I was intrigued. Then it was off to the kitchen. I put the dough together with their directions, made some bread, but alas, with apologies to Jeff and Zoe, it was way too salty for my taste. Undeterred, I tried again, this time cutting the salt in half.It was perfect. Others had mentioned to me it was too salty after trying the book, and I just told folks to cut the salt. That simple (some vowed to never make it again, and that would be a shame.) After that, I just took some of the recipes and ran with them. This bread is in its latest incarnation.

The reason this is sort of a sourdough, oh heck, maybe it really is a sourdough, is because of the method. These breads fall into a category I would almost call a batter bread, except that they are still firm enough to be shaped (not being too battery). Then the dough/batter can rest in the fridge for up to fourteen days.That’s the neat part, because the longer the bread rests, the tangier it gets. Hmm… says I. This tastes like sourdough. And in truth, it really is in my mind. Since then, I’ve made quite a few in the book, and they are truly excellent. Let me take an example. I decided to try the Limpa. I being of Swedish descent on my father’s side, my Swedish grandmother would buy Limpa from a Swedish bakery, and it was always very tasty. I made the Limpa like they said in the book. I took a bite, and Oh Boy, Here We Go. Just like grandmother used to buy. I was instantly transported back too many years. That’s how good it was. Don’t ever say there is no such thing as time travel. So without further adieu, here is my version of the

Rosemary Olive Oil Sourdough Loaf:  

2 1/4 cups lukewarm water*

1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (1 ½ packets)

3/4 to 1 tablespoon salt**

1 tablespoon sugar (not necessary, but good)

1/4 cup olive oil

5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour***

1 1/2 cups multigrain flour***

Chopped olives, any kind that you like

Dried or fresh rosemary leaves, about 1 teaspoon

Coarse salt, optional

Mix the yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container. 

Mix in the flours without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processer (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with dough hook). If you’re not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour. Sue’s note: I bought a big plastic lidded tub from King Arthur, and one of their dough whisks, for this purpose, and it really works beautifully. 

Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours. (This is actually very fun to watch.) 

The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 12 days.

When you’re ready to bake, you can certainly follow the authors’ directions, or what I do is place a boule of the bread, quickly shaped into a grapefruit sized loaf as they suggest, into an 8-inch cake pan, greased and coated with cornmeal. What I also do at this time is add about 1/2 cup chopped black olives, or whatever type you like. Kalamata works very well too. You can add the rosemary leaves to taste, which makes a very nice bread with a Mediterranean twist to it. Let it rest for 30 or 40 minutes. Before baking, you can sprinkle with coarse salt if you like. I’ve baked it in either a convection oven at 425 F (450 for conventional) or I’ve popped it into the Big Green Egg with its “placesetter,” all for about 30 minutes or so, just check to see how it’s doing, as every baking device is different.  

You will now enter bread heaven, as this is the easiest, chewiest, crustiest, yummiest bread known to mankind. Enjoy! 

*You made need more, depending on your type of flour. 

**The original recipe calls for 1 ½ tablespoons salt, if you like salty bread, go ahead and try it. 

***The original recipe calls for 6 ½ cups all-purpose flour. 

Francois, Zoe and Hertzberg, Jeff. “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.” New York:St. Martin’s Press, 2007.