Sunday, April 4, 2010

Kalamata Olive Bread

Oh man, people. I try not to brag about myself, but I am pretty much on my way to becoming the champion of bread baking. All I need now is several training montages. They shall consist of me kneading, waiting for the dough to rise, and eating the shit out of the finished product.
But seriously, folks, I've baked some awful bread in my day, and I it could very well be something in the air ducts, but bread baking feels pretty much like magic for me now. The yeast comes to life just for me; it says, "Dorie, for you, we will make your bread dough ginormous". If only bread baking weren't such a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, I'd be making it every day.
"But Dorie," you, the hypothetical reader asks, "why don't you just get a bread machine? You can make the dough and leave it for six hours, and then, boom, fresh bread."
Well, hypothetical reader, that is a good question. The answer is twofold: one, I am too poor to afford your fancy-pants kitchen equipment when I have two hands and a table and way more free time than I deserve. Two, how dare you. Can a bread machine knead with the kind of love that I knead my dough with? It can't? Well, then, sir, I rest my case. Enjoy your soulless machine bread, you communist.

So, Kalamata Olive Bread. As mentioned above, delicious. I divided my dough in two when I added extra stuff and made half vegan and half not vegan with feta cheese. Pretty much amaaazing either way.
I wanted roasted garlic in my bread, so start by heating the oven to 400 degrees. Take 1 head garlic and peel away the top layers of skin, keeping the cloves together. Take a knife and gently cut the top off of every clove. Sprinkle with olive oil and wrap tightly in foil. Bake for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, start off with your basic bread recipe: I do 1.5 C. warm water and 1 pkg. yeast. Set aside to let the yeast grow.
After that, take 5.5 C flour. Take one cup of that flour and add the yeast mixture to it, along with .5 C olive juice from the jar of kalamata olives. Mix, then add the rest of the flour and 1 T. salt. Mix till a dough forms, then knead 4-5 minutes. Let the dough rise for 1-2 hours -- the longer the better.
*Now, since I did the recipe half-vegan, half-not, I divided the dough into two halves at this point. If you want to do all vegan or all non-vegan, don't worry about splitting up the bread yet, and double all of the add-ins.*
 Vegan dough, post first rising.

For the vegan bread, add 1 handful torn spinach leaves, 1/2 C. Kalamata olives, and half of the bulb of roasted garlic. Knead.
For the non-vegan bread, replace the spinach with 3/4 C. crumbled feta. Or you could just add it in addition to the spinach, it's all good.
Let the bread rise for another 30-60 minutes. Shape the dough into two loaves and transfer to bread pans; let rise another 45-60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Slash the tops of the loaves and brush them with olive oil. Bake 25-30 minutes until the loaves sound hollow when you knock on them. If someone answers after you knock, you baked it wrong.
Overall, nice crunchy crust, nice pockets of feta -- the spinach might have to be done differently; perhaps minced or cooked down before adding.

Up next: Strawberry-mango pie! Mmmm

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