I know we’re firmly in September at this point, but I have to confess that I did a LOT of baking in August. Brilliant, right? Turn on the oven and heat up the entire house during the hottest month of the year. In my defense, August was overall lovely and last week in NYC was Unbearably Hot. Plus, fresh baked goods are delicious!
After my first success with yeast, I got inspired to try more. I recalled a recipe for Dutch oven French bread over at Key Ingredients. The simplicity of prep appealed to me and baking the bread in a closed container (versus a baking sheet, for example) diffused fears of a Bread Blob oozing out of my oven.
Ever the Recipe Rule Breaker, I of course tweaked Allie’s straightforward ingredients. J and I love a restaurant in our neighborhood called T-Bar and their bread basket always includes pieces of olive-dotted focaccia. I had both pitted kalamata olives and fresh rosemary in my fridge and decided to toss those exquisite flavors into the mix as well.
4 cups all-purpose flour (Allie's calls for 2 cups AP and 2 cups whole wheat, of which I had zero cups)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1½ cups warm-water
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
Using my stand mixer, I combined the flour, water, yeast, and salt with the dough hook attachment. After about 5 minutes, I also added the olives and rosemary. At that point I tried used Allie's tip about pulling a piece to transparency and... it just didn't work. Any of the several times I tried it. So after about 10 minutes of mixing I just moved on - I removed the mixer bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and popped it in my storage closet for 4 hours (you have to get creative with space in NYC).
I didn't take a Before picture, so this After picture means nothing to you. The original dough was about the size of a large grapefruit. This EXPLODED over the four (maybe 4.5 oops) hours it was hiding in the closet.
This is what happened when I tried to take it out of the bowl. Stretchy and yeasty. I went weak in the knees. Once recovered, I rolled the dough around on my lightly floured countertop and shaped it into a ball. I wiped some olive oil all around the inside of a Dutch oven and plopped the dough ball inside. I covered it and let it hang out for another 30 minutes on the countertop.
I heated the oven to 450° and inspected the bread. I took Allie's suggestions and drizzled olive oil on top after scoring an X in the dough. I skipped the salt figuring that the olives inside would add enough saltiness. You pop the lid on that Dutch oven and the Dutch oven into your oven for 30 minutes. At that point, turn the oven down to 375° and take the lid off. Let it bake at that temperature for 10 - 15 minutes until the crust turns the color you imagine all fresh bread should have.
Your entire kitchen smells like warm, fresh bread with aromas of rosemary. You knock on the top of it - it sounds hollow, as They say it should.
Sweet baby Jesus (or, SBJ, if you’re into possibly blasphemous acronyms). It's everything I wanted it to be and more. The edges are perfectly crusty and chewy, but the inside tastes like I put yeast and flour into a cotton candy machine. It was fluffy and airy and yeasty and FULL OF GLUTEN. Sorry to those of you who are Celiac and g-free, I'm not gloating, I'm just SO EXCITED about fresh bread.
This loaf is also massive. Of the two halves you see, I immediately sliced one of them up and popped it in the freezer (after cooling on the counter for a bit).
I ate my first piece fully unadulterated, warm from the oven, plain. J of course drizzled some olive oil onto a plate and... I ended up dipping into it a bit. Bread and olive oil is better than peanut butter and jelly and I love me a good PBJ.
This recipe of Allie's is unbelievably easy and delicious and can now say that baking fresh bread is my new favorite thing. I love it so much that I've done it exactly.... zero times since this experiment, but we're not really big Slice Of Bread eaters. But we ate LOTS of this bread with great delight when it was fresh. The frozen second half of this glorious loaf is slowly but surely dwindling as I grab a slice here or there for avocado toast breakfasts. And yes, if you're wondering, olive rosemary avocado toast is that much better than plain bread toast.