The snow that we got last weekend, I have been on a bread-making kick all week.
I used to have a bread machine, but it broke and I went on a bread-making hiatus. There was just a lot of workinvolved in making bread, and putting in some ingredients and pressing the magic button was just so mucheasier. Then one day, I came across the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking, and my life was revolutionized. 5 minutes a day for homemade bread?! Preposterous. But I purchased the book and tried the recipes. And you know what? It really is possible to have homemade bread in just a few minutes without the bread machine. The secret? You don’t knead the bread (but you really, really need this book – ha. So clever. Sorry, couldn’t resist).
This week, I tweaked the olive oil bread recipe just a bit. I made slow cooker provolone-stuffed Italian meatloaf for dinner, and thought a good, hearty Italian-style bread would go perfectly with it. During my Costco trip, somehow oregano and sweet basil ended up in my cart (please tell me I’m not the only one who gets to the checkout and thinks, “Oh! I don’t remember putting this in.” It’s the Costco ghost. I swear it.), so I thought I’d improvise a bit and use them in this loaf. I also had Kalamata olives staring at me in the pantry, and that seemed like a good addition to the bread, as well. This made 2 huge loaves of bread; these recipes are designed so you can refrigerate the dough for up to 12 days before making the next loaf, but I usually only refrigerate for a few days because that’s how long It takes my family to get through one loaf
Sweet Basil & Oregano Olive Bread
Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur. Our Costco has a huge 25# bag for around $12. Heart Costco)
1.5 T yeast
1.5 T salt
1 T sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1.5 cups chopped pitted Kalamata olives (make sure you buy the pitted kind. I forgot to check and ended up having to pit myself. Clumsy Amy + sharp knife = disaster waiting to happen)
2 T dried sweet basil
2 T dried oregano
Put the flour, salt, yeast, and sugar together in a 5 qt bowl or a stand mixer bowl. Add water and olive oil and mix with paddle attachment or with dough whisk. This is the point where you may need to add a few tablespoons of water, depending on consistency of dough.
When you’re half-way done mixing, add olives & spices. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a warm, wet towel and allow to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse or at least flatten, about 2 hours. Now, if you’re ready to make the bread at this point, you can continue on. If you’re making the bread for another day, this is where you refrigerate for another 3 or more hours (up to 12 days).
Next up: baking! The book recommends using a flat stone sprinkled with cornmeal, but I used a stoneware bread pan sprinkled lightly with flour. Put a small amount of flour on dough, break off the amount you want to use (I used half for my pan), and roll the dough into a ball. You’ll then use the Artisan Bread method of stretching the dough on a side, tucking under and rotating to the next side, until you’ve done that with all 4 sides. Place dough on your stone or in your pan and let it sit for 40 minutes. 20 minutes into it, turn the oven to 450 degrees, and place an empty pan on a separate shelf (this will be to hold your water, and in my experience is an optional step).
After 40 minutes, make a few slashes in the top of your bread, then put it on the stone or in the pan. Pour a cup of hot water into the empty pan, and close the oven door. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, depending on size of loaf you made, or until the crust is brown and you can “knock” on it.
You can view more information and the other amazing books in the series at Artisan Bread in 5.