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Recipe: Rosemary and Olive Oil Sourdough

Recipe: Rosemary and Olive Oil Sourdough

Ingredients

  • 350g white sourdough starter
  • 500g water
  • 60g extra virgin olive oil
  • 850g strong white flour
  • 20g finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 20g salt

I have made loaves using rosemary and olive oil, but until now, they've all been yeasted breads, so I thought I'd try a recipe that uses these ingredients in a white sourdough. It's not very complicated to make and the resultant loaf is very fragrant, with plenty of rosemary and olive oil coming through, and a very soft crumb.

Fresh rosemary has a slightly softer texture than dried, so do use it where you can, in season. This recipe makes one large and one small loaf: ideally, use 1kg and 500g proving baskets.

Method

This is another recipe that uses, to superb effect, the almost no-knead, minimal method embraced by Dan Lepard in his book The Handmade Loaf: I find that it always works for me and I get a better understanding of how the dough is developing, as the method requires short, repeated kneads over a long period.

Put the wet ingredients (sourddough starter, water, olive oil) into a mixing bowl and whisk to form a lump-free soup. Next, add the dry ingredients, ending with the salt. Using your hands or a dough whisk, mix the ingredients together thoroughly, then leave for 10 minutes.

With both the work surface and your hands lightly oiled, scrape the dough out of the bowl. Using your scraper, lift one edge of the dough and with your hand, stretch it out slightly, before folding it over the centre. Rotate the dough by about a quarter and repeat this lift/stretch/fold-over technique, then keep turning and stretching until you've worked all the way round the dough, possible twice, taking no more than 10-20 seconds in total. Lightly oil the bowl and put the dough back in it, rough side down.

10 minutes later, repeat the above, always keeping the 'neat' side down and working with the rough side. You should find that the dough is already looking smoother and glossier, and is becoming easier to handle. Put it back into the bowl again and 10 minutes later do the same again. The dough will have started to be more smooth and elastic as the flour takes up the liquid present. You should be less dependent on the scraper. This time, leave the dough for 30-60 minutes before stretching and folding it once more, followed by a 1-hour rest.

The dough should have risen by about half in volume, and you can then divide it (I made one piece twice the size of the other, but you can do whatever works for you), then shape it to fit proving baskets that have been dusted with rye flour to reduce sticking. Leave the dough to rise by half in volume again, covered with a tea towel. 

I use a baking stone in a conventional oven, which means that I put the stone into the cold oven and then heat it to about 220°C. When up to temperature, I tip one of the loaves out onto a peel that has been dusted with semolina flour (good to help the dough slide), giving it a quick slash with a grignette or really sharp kitchen knife (I find serrated is best). Then I slide the dough from the peel and onto the stone as quickly as possible. Leave the oven closed for at least 20 minutes, even if the heat is a little uneven and you need to turn the loaf. I tend to work on look, feel and smell to determine whether a loaf is done, but as an approximate guide, 30-40 minutes in total, depending on size - if in doubt, or you like using a scientific approach, you can use a probe thermometer to make sure that the centre of the loaf is at 90°C. If in doubt, cook the loaf for a little longer: over-cooked bread is better than under-cooked bread.