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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For reasons that escape me,  that might just justify seeking professional help, I bought another cookbook.   Worse yet, it was another bread book.  Considering that my present situation is far from optimal for bread baking, I wonder if even the best therapists are good enough to help me.  However, in my defense,   Carol Field’s  “The Italian Baker” is wonderful!   It covers breads from all over the country, always with some background information on their origins and detailed instructions on their preparation, using manual kneading, a mixer, or the food processor.   The book doesn’t have photos, just simple drawings.  In another cookbook this approach might bother me, but in this case I don’t mind being without pictures, because the richness of the text compensates for their absence. Carol’s descriptions make me want to bake every recipe in her book – which includes almost 100 breads!

(adapted from Carol Field)

2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
4.5 T olive oil
1.5 to 2 T fresh rosemary leaves, chopped fine (or 3/4 T dried)
10 g salt
450 g all purpose flour
1 tsp coarse sea salt for sprinkling over the bread

Mix the warm water with the yeast in a large bowl, wait for a few minutes until it gets bubbly. Stir the milk and oil with the paddle blade. Add the rosemary leaves, flour, and salt to the bowl. Mix gently until the flour is moistened, change to the dough hook and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Remove the dough and knead by hand for a couple of minutes.

Place the dough inside an oiled bowl, cover, and let it rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1.5 hours. Carefully remove from the bowl, shape into a ball, and let it rise for 45 to 55 minutes, but don’t allow it to double in size.

As you wait for the final rise, heat the oven to 450F. Slash the bread with a razor blade forming an asterisk on top, then sprinkle coarse salt inside the cuts. Bake 10 minutes with steam, reduce the oven temperature to 400F and bake for 35 minutes more. Remove the bread to a rack to cool, and don’t cut it for at least one hour.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Carol says this is one of her favorite breads because its simple preparation allows her to have it at the table almost at the spur of the moment.  Although you could make it with dry rosemary, I urge you to use fresh, and go for the maximum amount recommended.  The flavor is not at all overpowering, and the pleasant hint of rosemary  makes this bread a good match for many types of sandwiches.  We enjoyed it in sandwiches of thinly sliced flank steak, grilled medium rare, and didn’t even add any cheese.   But of course, a little burrata on top and a quick run under the broiler will satisfy your most hedonistic inclinations.

The detail of sprinkling coarse salt in the slashes is pure genius!  Every once in a while you get this extra punch of  flavor, as the salt enhances the herbal tone of the bread.  Perfect.

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

ONE YEAR AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken (the most popular post in the Bewitching Kitchen, recipe from Ad Hoc)

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