As I mentioned last week, Sunday was my birthday. I spent the whole weekend with friends and family and ate more than my fair share of cake (so much so I have taken up running again!) and cheese. In fact on Saturday I was invited to have it for lunch and dinner (though we passed on the second serving). Luckily my fantastic new cheese board from Getting Personal arrived just in time (literally within an hour of lunch) so I got to break it out.
Dan’s gorgeous sister loved the personalised cheese board, and hinted that it would make for a lovely gift for her upcoming nuptials. What she doesn’t realise it that I’ve already seen something on the site and bookmarked it as a present for the big day!
I would love to say that I treated the family to a loaf (can you call it that?) or two of this bread, but in the interest of simplifying my timetable I passed this time. I made the green olives in pesto focaccia to accompany some salmon whilst we were still living in the old flat. I have been eager to get back in the kitchen to remake it but that has yet to happen.
I am almost certain that I have only ever eaten supermarket focaccia before which I found to be pretty uninspiring. I probably wouldn’t have given the loaf two thoughts again until I happened upon the right recipe at the right time. Convenience plays a heavy hand in baking, and this recipe filled my two requirements. It used up the surplus strong white flour I had left before I moved, and its timings fit around me pottering around the house packing.
The recipe, whilst not difficult, is a little on the needy (or kneady – bread pun!) side. It requires you to fold the dough in half three times over the space of two hours. This isn’t a bread to be rushed. The results make it worth the wait, it is fluffy on the inside with a satisfying crunch from the crust. Salty moist olives on the inside make a for delightful contrast both in flavour and texture. I used Waitrose’ olives in pesto from the deli counter, which were amazing, but any type of olives will work in this recipe.
Salt in bread is really important, which I learnt the hard way. I made a batch of breadsticks to accompany some soup a few months back and omitted the salt as I know the soup was more than well seasoned. The bread had the flavour of flour and water paste, and no real taste of it’s own. The olives in this (as well as a generous pinch of salt) helped to firmly restore my faith in my bread making abilities.
makes one loaf
500g white bread flour
pinch of salt
½ tbsp caster sugar
300ml lukewarm water – I usually use about ¾ tap and top the rest up with water from the kettle then test the temperature
100g green olives
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
In a jug mix together the lukewarm water and the yeast, and leave for a minute until slightly foamy.
Mix the flour, salt and sugar together briefly in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.
Add the yeast and water and ‘knead’ in the machine for 5 minutes, this forms a very moist dough.
Using olive oil grease a large bowl liberally, place the dough in it, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes fold the dough in half, cover with the tea towel again and return to the warm place for a further 30 minutes.
Repeat this step another two times.
Preheat the oven to 220C and line a (preferably) deep baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Stretch the dough out over the baking tray, which I found easiest by slightly massaging the dough to spread it out.
Place the olives evenly over one half of the dough and then gently fold the other half over the top to envelope them. This prevents the olives from catching and burning whilst the bread bakes.
Using your fingers create dimples in the dough.
Cover with slightly oiled clingfilm and return to a warm place to prove for a final 20 minutes.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.
Leave to cool before serving – though I am rarely that patient!