I love soup during the winter months. Lately, I've been on an Italian leaning soup kick, having made 'clean out the freezer/fridge/pantry' Minestrone Saturday night and Northern Italian Spinach and Cornmeal Soup last night. Or rather, Arugula and Cornmeal soup, as I have arugula in the garden attempting to bolt because it's been so warm this winter. February and the arugula is bolting. Go figure.
The arugula was a good substitute - the peppery bite gave an otherwise mild soup a nice flavor. The little food critic that lives in our house that generally finds this soup rather 'boring' gave it a two thumbs up.
What better to go with a big pot of homemade soup than a fresh baked loaf of bread? For years I have been on the hunt for the perfect bread recipe. I have read with some fascination about no knead loaves, but I find when I feel like having fresh baked bread, I want it NOW and not in a few days, for fresh baked bread takes time. A good number of the no knead recipes I've seen call for starting the dough at least a day ahead of time, which is well and good, but sometimes I really need immediate satisfaction. A few months ago, I found this recipe for a no-knead olive bread. It calls for a two hour first rise, an hour long second rise and it's no knead. How could I not try it?
As if that wasn't enough, it was also an olive bread. When I worked at a local non-profit, Tuesday was Free bread day courtesy of a grocery store chain that likes to donate their day olds to local 'charities' (I've actually heard employees of this store say that to customers). I once grabbed a loaf of what looked to be Rosemary bread, only to find it was Rosemary Olive bread and we fell in love with it. After that, I grabbed a few loaves every week. I have since been unable to find this bread at said grocery store and we have missed it. Pat kept telling me I could make the bread myself, but honestly, I've yet to really perfect homemade bread.
That is my finished loaf last night. I have baked two loaves of this in the last three days and we have eaten them. Both Pat & I agree, this is the best bread I've ever made. I have stopped searching for the best bread recipe, because this is it. I started the dough 3:30 Saturday afternoon and we were eating it by 7 pm Saturday evening. It's good.
I used what I think are Black Cerignola olives from the grocery store olive bar. (I've been able to find them at both Kroger and Whole Foods.) They are large, meaty and pitted. I cut around the stone in a way similar to how I chop mangos. Edie, who swears up and down she can't stand olives, eats these without complaint. For the most part, I followed the recipe as it is on the website, with a few exceptions:
- Adding fresh chopped rosemary along with the olives.
- Sprinkling sea salt on the top before putting it in the oven
- Omitting the cornstarch wash
- Doubling the amount of water poured into the broiler pan
- Making two loaves, rather than four.
I imagine this bread would be good plain as well. In the past I've used leftover Rosemary Olive bread in savory vegetable bread puddings, for grilled cheese and for a different take on French Toast. I think I'll have to track down the original cookbook and take a gander at it for sure.