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Rosemary and Olive Oil Sourdough


I have tried a few recipes for breads using the combination of rosemary and olive oil, but only in yeasted breads and so I thought I'd work out a recipe that uses these ingredients in a white sourdough. It's not very complicated to make and resultant bread is very fragrant with plenty of rosemary and olive oil flavours coming through and a very soft crumb due to the presence of the olive oil. There is quite a bit of fresh rosemary in this recipe to ensure that the distinctive flavour is there. The freshness is important and fresh rosemary has a slightly softer texture than dried and a much better flavour. I used an extra virgin olive oil and found that its flavours really came through: this is a bread that we were happy to munch with just a little butter to savour the taste of the bread. This is an ideal dinner party loaf.

Ingredients:

  • 350g white leaven (41%) See this article for looking after your sourdough
  • 850g strong white flour (100%)
  • 500g water (59%)
  • 60g extra virgin olive oil (7%)
  • 20g fresh, finely chopped rosemary (2-3%)
  • 20g good salt (2%)

Method:

If you have scales with baker's percentages (like these), you can easily scale the recipe to the quantity that you need. Otherwise, this makes one large and one small loaf (I used a 1kg and one 500g proving basket).

The method I use for making bread is based on that set-out in Dan Lepard's 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.

In a bowl, add the wet ingredients (water, olive oil and leaven) and whisk to form a lump-free soup. Next, add the dry ingredients, ending with the salt. Using your dough whisk, mix the ingredients until roughly mixed, then leave for 10 minutes (you can clean the whisk at this point).

10 minutes later, with a lightly oiled work-surface and hands, using a scraper, tip and scrape the dough from the bowl. Using your scraper, pull the dough from the work-surface and fold over, stretching it out again with your free hand. Doing this for about 10-20 seconds starts to bring the ingredients together into a dough. Lightly oil the bowl and put the dough into it.

10 minutes later, repeat the above, but you should find that the dough is coming together much more and is becoming easier to handle (less sticky). 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. Back in the bowl, this time leaving it for longer - I tend to leave it for ½-1 hour then knead for a short time again and return to the bowl.

Do this once more and then divide the dough into portions that you require (I did one third and two thirds), then shape into cobs and place, upturned into proving baskets that have been dusted with rye flour (less sticky than wheat flour). The baskets should then be left until they have risen substantially - roughly doubled in volume. Covered with a damp tea-towel in an airing cupboard works well, but covered in your kitchen will work - it will just take longer.

When the dough is well-risen it is time to bake them. I use a baking stone in a conventional oven which means that I need to put the stone into the cold oven and then set it at about 230°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), give it a quick slash with a grignette or really sharp kitchen knife (I find serrated is best). Slashing looks nice but also helps control how the bread will expand in the oven. Next, slide the dough from the peel and onto the stone as quickly as possible to avoid losing too much heat from the oven.

The oven needs to stay closed as much as possible and in any event for 25 minutes before venturing in to turn it (if you have an uneven oven like me). I tend to work on look, feel and smell to determine whether it is done - it isn't foolproof though, especially with coloured doughs, so will often 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.

As a sourdough loaf, this bread keeps well, but that is unlikely to be an important factor as, certainly in my home, this didn't last long.

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