Inspired by a bread from Hamelman (Olive Levain), which I’ve made a few times in the past, I improvised on the basic sourdough method from Emmanuel Hadjiandreou and his “How to Make Bread“, that I recently blogged about.  You want this bread to deliver real big olive flavor, so keep the olives in large pieces, you can even leave some whole (but pitted, of course! 😉

(adapted from Emmanuel Hadjiandreou)

400 g (3 + 1/2 cups) bread flour
10 g (2 tsp) salt
200 g (3/4 cup) warm water
300 g (1 + 1/2 cups) sourdough starter (100% hydration)
4-5 ounces black olives (preferably Kalamata, pitted and chopped in large pieces – roughly 1 cup, loosely packed)

Add into one bowl the flour and the salt.   This is your dry mixture.

In another, larger bowl, mix the  water and the sourdough starter. This is  your wet mixture.

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix until it all comes together. Cover with a plastic wrap and let it stand for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, add the pieces of olives and knead the dough in the bowl, by pulling one portion of the dough from the side and pressing it down in the middle.  Repeat it turning the bowl slightly at each kneading, doing this kneading motion about 8 times and covering the full circumference of the ball of dough. The whole process should take about 20 seconds.   Cover the dough again and leave it resting for 10 minutes.

Repeat this kneading cycle three more times, 10 minutes apart.  Cover the bowl and let it rest for one hour.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface, and shape it  as a round ball,  coat the surface lightly with cornmeal or rice flour, and place it in a suitable container for the final rise.  Let the dough rise until doubled in size, which should take from 3 to 6 hours, depending on how active your starter was.

Heat the oven to 475 F, and have your method to generate steam ready.   Slide the bread on a parchment paper or a wooden peel, slash it, and place it in the oven.  I like to bake it over tiles, and place an inverted roasting pan moist with hot water over it for about 30 minutes, then remove it.   Once the bread is in the oven, reduce the temperature to 425 F.  Bake for a total of 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature is over 200F.

Let the bread cool completely before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I confessed before that I am a kalamata-cheerleader,  so this bread is obviously a favorite of mine.  I already have a spicy kalamata sourdough in the blog,  but in this version I took a minimalist approach and used only olives, nothing else.

Don’t worry if when you start kneading the dough, the pieces of olive insist on poking out, just let them be.   In the end, they will find their perfect spot in the crumb.   Try not to squish the pieces too much as you fold or knead the dough.

I used cornmeal to coat the surface of the bread during proofing, because I ran out of rice flour, but in the end it turned out pretty good, the cornmeal gave the bread an interesting golden hue, and did a good job releasing the proofed bread from the banetton.

I am sending this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting, make sure you stop by to get inspired by all the baking going on this past week…   😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Buttermilk Cluster

TWO YEARS AGO: Farfalle, Farfalle

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I cannot think of a better way to re-open the Bewitching Kitchen than a loaf of sourdough bread!  My sourdough starter was refreshed the day before we left L.A., and a small amount came with us in the car.  One more refreshment once we arrived, and I was back in business. Instead of using a recipe from a book, I adapted a basic formula, adding three ingredients that remind me of our times in L.A.

1. Kalamata olives, because we went through countless bottles of the very affordable and delicious  Trader Joe’s pitted Kalamatas.  We brought a bottle with us, it will be a sad day when it’s finished now that we don’t have a Trader Joe’s 3 miles from home.

2. Red pepper flakes, because quite a few of our friends in L.A. were heavy into hot and spicy food (and drinks!).  The more we hang out with them, the more we got into pepper ourselves.

3. Fresh rosemary,   because it grew wild around our neighborhood.  In fact, on our second week in L.A., I was staring at a huge plant near our house, when the owner of the home came out and said hello.  I asked, in disbelief – “Is this rosemary”?  – she smiled, and told me to get some whenever I wanted, as evidently the plant was threatening to overtake her property!  😉

So, here is my take on a sourdough to bring a little of L.A. into our kitchen.

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

200g (ml) water at room temperature
142g  sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
1/4 tsp instant yeast
280g bread flour
85g dark rye flour
9 g salt
3/4 cup kalamata olives (cut in half)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbs fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

Dissolve the starter and the instant yeast in the water in a large bowl.  Add the flour, mix to incorporate (or use a Kitchen Aid type mixer for a couple of minutes on low speed), then cover with a plastic wrap and allow it to sit for 20 minutes undisturbed.

Sprinkle the salt on top, and mix by gentle kneading or with the mixer for a few more minutes.  Once the salt is incorporated, add the olives, red pepper, and rosemary, and knead by hand or with the mixer (again in low speed).

Let the dough rise for 3 hours, with quick kneading cycles at 40 min, 1h 20 min, and 2 hours (timing is pretty flexible, no need to pay too close attention to it).  Shape the dough into a round, place in a banetton or other appropriate container with the seam up.  Let it rise for 3 hours, until almost doubled in size, and with an airy feeling as you gently press the surface of the dough.

Bake in a 450F oven,  covered for the first 30 minutes, then uncover and lower the temperature to 425F for the remaining time.  If you have a favorite method to create steam, use it in the initial baking. I prefer to use a roasting pan previously filled with water, emptied of the water and quickly inverted on top of the loaf as my steam source.

Let the bread completely cool on a rack before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Wild yeast purists, forgive me, because I cheated.  Yes, I admit, I added commercial yeast to this bread.  It turns out that I baked it the day after arriving home, and my schedule for that day was a bit iffy.  I wanted to make sure the bread would be ready to bake before too late.  Also, I was hoping for a crumb  a little more tight, to use the bread for sandwiches, so I proofed a little less and reduced the number of kneading cycles.

The bread has intense olive flavor, and a nice hint of heat every now and then.   The rosemary flavor was not as strong as I had hoped for,  so next time I’ll increase that amount.   A delicious bread, fantastic as an open face sandwich with a slice of ham, cheese, tomato slices, and a run under the broiler.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…

and you can also see it on Tastespotting

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Thanksgiving officially marks the beginning of gastronomic over-indulgence. With the end of the year approaching, the celebrations start: departmental parties, lab parties, neighborhood parties, family get-togethers… every one of them loaded with caloric temptations…    This Thanksgiving we took a back seat in the kitchen, as we were guests at a fantastic dinner thrown by our dear friends (and neighbors).   Our hostess, knowing how much I love to cook, asked if I’d prepare  an appetizer for the Thanksgiving party, a question that I answered with the most enthusiastic yes!   I opted for something light and refreshing, to provide a counterpoint to the substantial meal ahead, that included a turkey with chestnut dressing that we won’t soon forget!

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

50 skewers
mozzarella mini-balls (like these)
3 mini-cucumbers
30 grape or cherry tomatoes
30 black Kalamata olives, pitted

for the dressing:
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground fennel
salt and pepper to taste

When you are ready to start prepping your ingredients, put some music on and go to work: slice the mini-cucumbers 1/8 inch thick, cut the tomatoes and black olives in half.  If some olives are too small, leave them whole. Reserve.

Assemble each skewer starting with one small mozzarella ball, half a black olive, another mozzarella ball, a cucumber slice, and finish with half the tomato.  Arrange the skewers on a nice serving platter.

Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients in a small bowl, drizzle over the skewers half an hour before serving.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  The inspiration for this recipe came from two different sources:  “Greek Salad Skewers” from Fine Cooking, and a dressing found in “Small Bites,” but  I modified them enough to make it “bewitching.”  😉  One of my changes was to use mozzarella instead of feta cheese because feta tends to crumble and I am forced to eat all the cheese that disintegrates as I stab it.  If you don’t find mini-cucumbers, use regular ones, but peel them and cut the slices in halves or quarters, depending on the size.

Fennel seed is the secret for the dressing.  I like to use ground and let the dressing sit for a while before using, but next time I’ll use whole fennel seeds and warm them up gently to make an infused oil. Might be even better.

These skewers are very colorful, a nice addition to any cocktail party, but particularly great to open a multi-course dinner. Consider making them for your end-of-the-year festivities.

ONE YEAR AGO: Dundee Cake Bake-Along (and great fun was had by all!)

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