Friday, January 17, 2014

olive oil herb bread

I love when neighbors share gifts from their gardens.  A simple afternoon stroll can grant you with a glorious and unexpected bounty.  During early summer, when my husband and I would walk through our neighborhood in Idaho, we'd find boxes of stone fruit along the curbside with the word "Free" scribbled on the box flaps.  We'd load up a haul and enjoy our neighborhood summer fruit during the rest of the week.

In our current neighborhood, I've been gifted plums and pears, tomatoes and herbs.  Neighbors here aren't as old school as my Idaho neighbors.  You won't find as many boxes along the roadside, but an alert on Facebook inviting neighbors to pick up garden produce from their front porch isn't uncommon.  Only once have I encountered a box sitting curbside here in this neighborhood; it was filled to the brim with rosemary.  I picked up a few bundles, plucked some thyme from my garden and returned to my kitchen to make olive oil herb bread.

Olive oil herb bread has an earthiness that I find pairs well with pastas, hearty soups, stews, and rich winter sauces.  It can be enjoyed with a simple swiping of butter or grilled and topped with a tomatoey bolognese sauce.  And because this recipe makes two loaves, my family enjoyed one and my neighbor with the abundance of rosemary received the second loaf.

Olive Oil Herb Bread
yield:  two loaves

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar, plus a pinch for yeast activation
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (AP), plus more for dusting
1 cup whole wheat flour
  1. Combine yeast, the warm water and a pinch of sugar in the bowl of an electric mixture.  Allow it to stand for 5 minutes until it is nice and foamy.
  2. Add olive oil, 3/4 cup water, sugar, rosemary, thyme, whole wheat flour, AP flour, and salt to the bowl.  Attach the dough hook to the machine and mix on low until the dough comes together, about one minute.  Increase the speed to medium high and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil a bowl and form the dough into a ball.  Place ball of dough top side down into the oiled bowl to moisten the top of the dough.  Flip over to bottom side down.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap, let dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until it doubles in bulk.  About one hour.
  4. Punch down dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into two equal portions.
  5. Shape one portion of the dough by flattening it into a 7 inch long rectangle (long ways going left to right).  Roll the side nearest you up toward the farthest end.  Place dough, seam side down, and roll it to elongate to 11 inches and seal the seam to make a free form loaf.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with other portion of dough.
  6. Loosely cover the loaves with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free area for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  7. Dust loaves with flour and bake until golden, around 30 minutes.  Let cool on wire rack before slicing.

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