Serendipity, and a Sourdough Kalamata Bread

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Last Saturday we woke up to an expected high temperature of 60F degrees and sunny, blue skies. So we decided to take advantage of the unseasonable weather, put the home renovations on hold, and headed out for a walk and picnic lunch. Fortunately, I had been forced to bake a sourdough bread the night before, so we threw half a loaf together with some cheeses, cold cuts, and roasted tomatoes and headed for the Trail. That’s the Appalachian Trail, by the way, which is about a 10 minute drive from our house. This was our picnic view from the base of the original Washington Monument (did you know there was more than one?!) on South Mountain, which straddles Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland, and over which the Appalachian Trail traverses. The town of Boonsboro lies just beyond the treeline, and in the distance are hills in Pennsylvania (to the right) and West Virginia (to the left).
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And this is the view of our serendipitous picnic.

One of the truths of caring for a sourdough starter is that it does force you to innovate. With regular feedings, you end up with use-it-lose-it-or-give-it-away sourdough every 4-5 days. This is where I was last Friday, while in the midst of home projects that did not allow for the careful timing of no-knead sourdough bread or for testing the bookmarked and drool-stained new recipes for sourdough pancakes or crumpets.

What I wanted was something relatively quick and a recipe I was already knew — so I adapted the method for the sourdough multi-grain loaf and substituted all bread flour and kalamata olives. Without too much thought or planning — Voila! a nice olive bread just waiting for an occasion.

We liked this bread so much that I will probably make another loaf this week when it’s time to feed the starter again. A subtle tang from the sourdough, and plenty of savoriness from the tapenade, olives and olive oil — this bread is an olive-lover’s dream. Alone with cheeses and/or cold cuts, or to sop up a savory stew or soup, this is a loaf that will turn any occasion into an event!

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By the way, here’s what the first Monument dedicated to our first president looks like — it was erected by the townsfolk of nearby Boonsboro in 1827, and is just a couple hundred feet off the Appalachian Trail. We actually didn’t think about it on Saturday, but last weekend was Presidents’ Day weekend, commemorating the birthdays of our first president, George Washington, as well as our sixteenth, Abraham Lincoln.

Bake some bread — you’ll be prepared for anything! (Yes, we’re talking to YOU!)

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SOURDOUGH KALAMATA OLIVE LOAF
Makes one 2½-lb. loaf

Before you begin, you will need a sourdough starter. If you choose to make a starter from scratch, it may take 7-10 days before it is ready to use so plan ahead. If you already have a starter, this is a good way to use even a groggy starter or some you are ready to cast off. The sourdough lends more flavor than leavening since active dry yeast is also included.

½ cup sourdough starter
½ cup lukewarm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 TBL olive oil
3 TBL olive tapenade (optional, but highly recommended)
(if using, taste for saltiness and decide whether to include sea salt with dry ingredients)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together well.

250g bread, aka strong, flour (Typ 500)
½ tsp sea salt (optional, may not need if using tapenade)
2 tsp vital wheat gluten

In a separate bowl, mix well to combine, and add to sourdough. Attach dough hook, and knead for 7-9 minutes. Or knead by hand for 10-12 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. If kneading by hand, the dough may become stickier as you knead so sprinkle board and top of dough with more flour if it becomes unworkable. By the end of the kneading time, I did find the dough a little tacky but not clinging to my fingers.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic, or a shower cap. Set in warm, draft-free place for first rise, about 2 hours, or until about double in size.

To finish:
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, about 100g

Punch down the dough and gently knead to stretch. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Gently flatten dough into a large rectangle. Add half the olives, fold dough over and flatten out again. Add remaining olives and fold dough over. Gently knead to distribute olives.

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Shape dough into a round, or your favorite shape. Sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet. Place dough on baking sheet and cover (I used an overturned bowl — the one the dough rose in earlier, or just plastic film).

Allow dough to proof, about 2 hours, or until you can press the dough and the imprint does not immediately spring back.

About 15 minutes before the dough will be ready, pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

Remove cover, and score dough, if desired. Bake on middle rack of oven for 40-50 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190F/88C, or the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when rapped with your knuckles.

Remove from oven and brush with olive oil. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Enjoy!

More sourdough bread recipes:
No-Knead Sourdough Boule
Sourdough Multi-grain Bread
New York-style Light Rye
Raisin Rye