Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sourdough Starter and Bread Adventure: 3 Rustic Bread

My sourdough starter seems to be surviving. For this third bread adventure installment, it was used in rustic bread or ciabatta. Once again, this was from Nancy Silverton's Bread from the La Brea Bakery. It was a one-day bread, and the process seemed less frightening to me than the basic country white loaf. However, the very sticky, wet dough was not as lovely to work with as the bagel dough. Silverton explains that the wetter the dough, the bigger the holes. The finished loaf is intended to be flat and oval. Ciabatta takes very well to being dipped in olive oil or turned into garlic bread, and I had a feeling this wouldn’t last long once it was baked. The recipe makes enough dough for two large loaves, and I decided to follow the instructions for making one of them a rustic olive-herb loaf.

The starter was measured and combined with water, bread flour, and half a cake of fresh yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. After an initial mixing, it was left to rest for 20 minutes. Salt was added, it was mixed more, and then milk, olive oil, and more water were added. After the dough came together, it was left to ferment for two and a half hours. The big blob of wet stickiness was then turned out onto a well-floured board, sprinkled with more flour, covered, and left to sit a bit longer. At that point, the big blob was divided in two, and each was plopped onto parchment paper that had been heavily dusted with bread flour and semolina. Each loaf was dimpled by pressing my index finger all the way down to the parchment paper. More flour was sprinkled on top, they were covered and left to proof for two hours. Dough must get tired very easily as it requires more resting time than either of my cats. After that nap, the loaves were turned over, dimpled again and were finally ready to bake. The olive loaf was studded with pitted picholine olives in all of the dimples and little sprigs of fresh rosemary were tucked into the surface here and there.

The 500 degree oven was spritzed with water before the loaves were placed inside. Now, if you have no intention of baking this bread, just do this one part. Heat your oven to 500 degrees, spritz it with water, and then put something with fresh rosemary sprigs inside it. That immediate aroma of the rosemary hitting the hot steam is simply fantastic, and when it flavors a loaf of bread with some picholine olives, it’s quite a bonus. The temperature was reduced to 450, and the loaves baked for about 35 minutes. I was concerned that my blobs were a bit wide and didn’t seem quite as tall as most ciabatta loaves I’ve seen. I wasn’t sure I would get the nice porous interior that was the goal.

In the end, it worked fine. I think the dough would be easier to handle if there was less of it, so I’ll probably halve the recipe in the future. Now that I’ve experimented with the dough once, hopefully I can get a nicer ciabatta-looking shape and slightly taller loaves when I try again. What I did get this time was really wonderfully chewy, flavorful bread with a nice, crisp crust. When the loaves were cooled and ready to be tasted, we were kind of like kids in a candy store. We couldn’t stop eating this bread, and we didn’t take the time to dip it in olive oil. It was so fresh and so good. I may need to re-think that idea about halving the recipe next time.

I’m submitting this to Yeastspotting where you’ll find some seriously well-made bread.



25 comments:

  1. MMMMMMMMMMM.....Lisa, your bread looks so delicious!!! Great job!!

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  2. ohh, olive and rosemary! that sounds amazingly delicious!

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  3. My, my, my that's one good looking bread... I love olives in bread. I have a question, does it really make a difference in flavor if we use water or milk in our bread dough?

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  4. Thanks Sophie and Heather!

    Elaine, I'm not an experienced enough bread baker to answer your question, and I'm not sure if the milk adds flavor or protein or what. I did forget to mention in the post that I rarely have cow's milk on hand so in this case I used soy milk. It seemed to work ok, but again, I don't know enough to help much on this question. Sorry!

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  5. Lisa - that bread looks fantastic. Yet another recipe of your I must try. There are just not enough hours in the day.

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  6. I can only imagine the glorious aroma that permeated your house. The crispy crust look wonderful as do the rosemary and olives perched on top. I love your description of a kid in a candy store!

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  7. We have a local bakery that makes an olive rosemary loaf and it's the only one I buy! So delicious. I'm thinking of embarking on the starter journey. I have that cookbook and it's calling to me... :)

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  8. I feel its smell coming from your kitchen. It seems fabulous. And what is surprising, I made a similar version for breakfast this morning and we ate it dipping in olive oil and thyme mixture. I love home baked breads.

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  9. lovely. I wish this was baking up in my oven right now so I can swoon in its awsome aroma. I've never really had much success with bread-baking, though. I always end up letting it proof too much and it ends up tasting yeasty. how do I remedy that?

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  10. upon first glance, i thought the top picture was of a fish! i guess either i'm going blind or i have a vivid imagination. :)
    great recipe, lisa!

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  11. Sophia,
    If you've been using a store-bought yeast and don't like the flavor, you should definitely try wild yeast by making a starter. Breads made with a sourdough starer require longer proofing times and develop great flavor. It takes some time, but the results are pretty amazing.

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  12. This bread looks awesome and I love the whole olives there! Delicious!

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  13. Wow. Beautiful bread and beautiful photos.

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  14. That bread looks mighty scrumptious! Very well done! Yummy!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  15. Wow this bread looks fabulous. My mouth is watering!!

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  16. I have been meaning to make bread in my home, and I have always loved olive bread. If any bread would be worth it for me to make, it would definitely be one of these with really concentrated flavor pockets.

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  17. That does look mighty perfect. Perfect midday snack!

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  18. I can never get those large irregular holes in focaccia. Looks so good with the perfectly browned crust!

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  19. I think this is a difficult bread to get right and it looks like you nailed it! Thanks for joining YeastSpotting!

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  21. I love the addition of the green olives to give that special piquant touch.

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  22. I am so glad I can come over here and look at this bread, since I cannot eat it anymore...

    I am crazy about olives and rosemary, so I know this taste as good as it looks, and bet you also are a fabulous cook...hubby is lucky man...

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  23. I love the olives in this. We actually put some potatoes and bacon in some ciabatta a few weeks ago, but your loaf looks much better than ours did.

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