Monday, 5 September 2011

Go to bread.

The weather has been too nice in Vancouver. I say "too nice" because I have to painstakingly sit at this very computer all day long. I should be writing my thesis right now but I can't muster the mental strength. Any offers of taking a break at the beach are impossible to turn down. In fact, I have been at a beach three times in the past four days.

On Sunday, Mike's parents stopped by with a picnic in tow. Fortunately I had mixed up bread dough the day before and had enough left to make a loaf to contribute to the picnic. We headed to Spanish Banks for a couple of hours and dined on some Quinoa salad, a Greek salad and a watermelon salad. Refreshing, healthy and delicious.

This bread is one of the first things I ever learned how to make on my own. Several years ago I acquired a bread maker. After about 5 tries I realized bread makers are terrible for making bread. Instead, I opted to just use the thing for mixing and because it warms up, sometimes also for rising. After the rising step, the dough can be removed, shaped into loaves and placed on a pan and the bread can be baked in the oven. Or you can put the dough covered in the fridge when its done mixing and bake when ready.

Learning to bake bread, experiencing the excitement and satisfaction of making something that tastes great, something that was previously assumed to be impossible, is a great feeling. I know its just bread but its something that everyone loves. This bread recipe is especially awesome. It has an artisan feel but it is not complicated to make.

Olive, Red Onion and Herb Bread 

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 4 tsp active rapid yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion (small), fried until soft in pan
  • A few tablespoons of your favorite herb, chopped
  • 1.5 tsp salt 
  • 6-7 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups chopped pitted kalamata olives
  1. Chop the olives and herbs. 
  2. Fry thinly sliced red onion in olive oil over medium-low heat until soft - without burning or browning too much.
  3. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the onion, oil and herbs.
  5. Mix in 6 cups of the flour and the salt.
  6. Mix in the olives. *See note at bottom. 
  7. Slowly keep adding more flour until the dough is a smooth but still sticky ball (you should not need more than one cup, but use your judgment), knead for about 8 - 10 minutes.
  8. Cover the dough with a lightly oiled bag or saran and let rise until doubled in size (about 30 - 60 minutes).
  9. Preheat the oven with pizza stone on middle rack at 400C 
  10. Divide the dough into 3 loaves.
  11. Place one at a time on a lightly oiled baking sheet. You can keep the ones you are not using in the fridge for a few days or just keep them to the side, covered until you are ready to bake.
  12. Score the top of the loaf three times.
  13. Let loaf double in size (about 30 minutes) under a kitchen towel or oiled plastic wrap.
  14. Bake on the pan, on a pizza stone, in the middle of oven, at 400C for 25 minutes or until brown.
  • If you a have a bread maker or a mixer, just throw everything in it (starting with 6 cups flour then gradually add until you have a smooth sticky ball) and mix for a total of 10 minutes.
  • If you use really soft kalamata olives your dough might turn purple. For this reason you can add your olives last, or stop mixing when the purple colour starts to spread. It wont really ruin your bread but it looks weird. If you use green olives or firmer olives you dont really have to worry about this. 

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