Bread. Ahhhhhhhhh. Few, if any, foods smell as yummy and comforting as baking bread. And as I was already making a lasagna and tossed salad and cake for my father-in-law’s birthday celebration, I decided to give this bread a try, as well, to round out the menu and to offer a change of pace from the more traditional garlic bread.
As Wikipedia tells us:
Sun-dried tomatoes are ripe tomatoes which are placed in the sun to remove most of the water content from the tomatoes. Cherry types of tomatoes will lose 88% of their initial (fresh) weight, whilst larger tomatoes can lose up to 93% during the process. As a result, it takes anywhere from 8 to 14 kilos of fresh tomatoes to make a single kilo of sun dried tomatoes.
Sun-dried tomatoes can be used in a wide variety of recipes and come in a variety of shapes, colors, and tomatoes. Traditionally they were made from dried red plum tomatoes, but they can be purchased in yellow varieties of tomatoes as well.
The olives called for in this recipe are Kalamata olives, which are large, black olives named for Kalamata, Greece. Until I made this bread, I’d never had Kalamata olives before. I’ve had the taste differences between the more traditional black olives (California black olives are the kind I can get here easily) and the Greek Kalamata olives explained to me by friends. Having eaten them now, I would describe Kalamata olives as a being a rich black olive with a bit of the tang and yummy bite of a green olive.
This bread comes together easily and requires relatively little in the way of hands-on effort: I’d say that the single task that took the most time was drying and quartering the Kalamata olives — but then again, I kept pausing to sneak a sample of those delicious olives. 😉
As with so many such breads, one starts by making a kind of sponge. The bread is dairy-free and contains little in the way of sugar or oil. It uses bread flour instead of all purpose flour. Bread flour differs from other flours in that it is higher in protein than all-purpose flour. The protein produces more gluten, which gives breads baked with it different structure and more volume than all-purpose flour would do. If a recipe calls specifically for bread flour (or for a combo of bread flour and all-purpose flour), that’s what you’ll want to use to assure the ideal texture.
You can shape it into rounds — which is what I did — or as baguette-shaped loaves.
This recipe went over really well with the family, most especially my guitar man — my beloved hubby. 🙂 (Go on, take less than 240 seconds out of your day and enjoy this classic song by Bread — you know you want to!)
Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Bread (Makes 2 loaves)
- 3 to 4 cups bread flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) regular or quick active dry yeast
- 1 1/4 cups very warm water (120/130F, hot from the tap)
- 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup boiling water (I used about 1/3 cup or so, maybe a bit more)
- 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil (I suggest olive oil)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives (cut into fourths and drain/dry very well)
- In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the tablespoon of sugar, and the yeast. Add in warm water and beat with a wire whisk or electric mixer on low speed about 1 minute or so, scraping bowl frequently. Cover tightly with cling wrap and let stand in a warm place about 1 hour (it will get quite bubbly).
- Meanwhile, pour the 1/4 to 1/3 boiling water over the chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Let stand until mixture is completely cool and tomatoes are re-hydrated.
- Pour tomatoes AND their liquid over the batter in the bowl. Stir in the basil, oil, and salt. Stir in enough remaining flour, 1/2 cup or so at a time, until a soft dough forms. Let rest for 15 minutes.
- On a lightly floured board, turn out dough an knead, until soft, adding more flour as necessary to keep it from sticking. Knead until a smooth, springy dough forms (about 5 to 10 minutes of kneading). Lightly oil or grease a large, warm bowl. Place dough into the bowl, turning it to grease all sides. Blot the olives and scatter them over the top of the dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour (dough is ready when indentations remain when dough is touched).
- Lightly grease or oil uninsulated cookie sheet. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until olives are worked into the dough. Divide dough in half. Sprinkle top of dough with flour. Shape each half into a round or into a 12″ baguette-shaped loaf. Place dough with smooth side up on cookie sheet. Lightly spray cling wrap with water and lightly cover loaves. Let rise in a warm place for about 45 to 60.
- Place square pan (8″X8″X2″ or 9″X9″X2″) on the bottom rack of oven. Add hot water to pan until about 1/2″ from the top. Heat oven to 475F.
- Carefully cut three or four 1/4″ deep slashes on top of the loaves with a sharp serrated knife. Spray loaves with cool water. Place in oven on middle rack and spray with water again.
- Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400F. Bake approximately another 10 minutes, or until loaves are deep golden brown with a crisp crust and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack lined with a clean dish towel; cool. Wrap leftovers.