Rustic Olive and Thyme Bread

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After getting a call back about the Great Canadian Baking Show this past week I decided I needed to ramp up my baking “training” in the next few weeks in the small chance that this just might actually happen!  I have an amazing (and intimidating) baking book that John got me 2 Christmas’ ago and after pouring through it on the day I got it, it’s sadly sat almost untouched on the counter since (thanks to my 2 year foray into Ironmans). It’s basically a textbook on every type of baking you can imagine ie. perfect for Baking Show prep! Also, it’s just got so many interesting tips and explanations for all those frustrating baking mishaps.

So after getting home last night at midnight and waking up this morning to an empty fridge (not even any milk to make coffee!) before heading off to the store to pick up groceries I decided to find an enticing bread recipe to try out. I thought I’d start my baking training off with a new and interesting type of bread because although I make bread almost weekly, every time I try to branch out to something new, John insists that his favourite is a plain and simple 50% whole wheat loaf. And while I also really enjoy it, I can’t imagine it would be a show winner… But Rustic Olive and Thyme Bread? This one looked and sounded delicious and all I’d need to buy was some fresh thyme – easy! Plus with all the rising time and a longish baking time, I find that it’s relatively easy to fit in other activities throughout the bread making process (like 2 workouts and a shower!) so despite being a long process it doesn’t actually consume your whole day.. And bonus – I’d been wanting to try a sourdough loaf for a long time and finally looked up a starter recipe this morning, but I’m heading to Vancouver in 5 days for the weekend to guide a triathlon with Christine so I won’t be around to look after it. But this bread has a similar concept- a poolish which is a pre-ferment that is added to the dough to give it a slightly sour taste similar to sourdough. Perfect!

Rustic Olive and Thyme Bread 
Ingredients: 
Poolish:                  Bread: 
1 cup warm water          1/2 cup warm water               1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast             1 tsp sugar                      2 Tbsp olive oil 
1 cup flour               1 1/2 tsp yeast                  1 Tbsp + 1 tsp finely
                          3 cups flour                     chopped fresh thyme
                          1 cup pitted and chopped olives

Steps: 
1. Make the poolish: whisk the yeast into the warm water until dissolved and let 
stand until activated and creamy (about 10 minutes.) Mix in the flour until 
completely mixed and moist. Cover in plastic wrap and let sit for 4 - 6 hours. 
Make sure your bowl is big enough to accommodate it doubling in size. I had to 
switch bowls half way through after realizing this!
2. Mixing the dough: Activate the yeast by mixing the warm water, sugar and yeast 
in the bowl of a stand mixer and let sit for 10 minutes. My bowl is metal and our 
cupboards are always freezing in the winter so I pre-warm my bowl with hot tap water before starting the yeast
mixture. Add the poolish and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and using the dough
hook attachment mix well for a few minutes until dough comes together. 

Drape a damp towel over bowl and let dough rest for 20 minutes to let the dough fully hydrate 
(had never heard of this step before!). After hydrating knead for about 5 minutes 
with mixer until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough into lightly oiled 
bowl, cover in plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1.5 - 2 hours.

3. Once dough has doubled in size, place it onto lightly floured surface and pat 
down to remove air bubbles. Divide in two and shape into round loaves, pulling the
dough taut as you round them out. Place on baking tray with silicon mat or parchment
paper, cover loosely in plastic wrap and allow to rise again until doubled in size.
About 45 minutes. Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 450 F (but lower temperature to 425 
after loaves are in the oven). 
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4. Cut a pattern into the loaves before placing them in the oven. Cuts should be 
about 1/4" deep (NOT like the loaf on the left. Circles were really tricky and
completely ineffective!). Place tray on a rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. At the same time you can spritz some water or add a handful
of ice cubes to the oven to give the loaves some extra moisture during the initial
baking. I opted for the ice cubes thinking they'd be easier. I'm not so sure it did 
anything, but it definitely made me feel like I was a pro! 


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5. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes (or until 200 C internal temperature). Let cool on wire
rack for at least 30 minutes before ENJOYing! This loaf was sooo delicious. Mine 
was a little on the salty side (probably due to the olives) following the original recipe so 
I've adjusted the salt here.  


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