Triple Rise Olive Bread

A few years ago, my husband was asked to travel to Paris for work the week of our wedding anniversary. Being the awesome guy he is, he arranged for me to go along, and we tacked on a few days of sight-seeing (during which I forced my husband to hike Montmartre while jet-lagged and hungry and then made him walk about 5 more miles before I let him sit, but that's a story for another day). While we were in Paris, we enjoyed some fantastic food. To be honest, I couldn't get enough duck confit or crepes. And then there was this fantastic olive bread that was the perfect mix of smooth and salty and it's been almost five years and I'm still thinking about it, it was that good bread.

I've been searching for a good olive bread recipe since. And there are plenty of them out there. But none were exactly right, for whatever reason. Yesterday, I broke down and created my own (and the results are pretty darn close to its Parisian counterpart). So, without further ado, here's my recipe for Triple Rise Olive Bread.

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Triple Rise Olive Bread

(Yield: 1 loaf)

Ingredients:

3 cups unbleached flour

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 teaspoons sugar

7 oz. container Kalamata olives, halved, and oil reserved (I recommend using olives packed in oil)

1 1/4 cups warm water (115 degrees F)

Instructions:

1. Mix sugar and water and add yeast to proof. It usually takes ~8-10 minutes to get nice frothy bubbles. While you wait, prepare the olives by pouring off the packing oil into a reserve container and halving the olives.

SONY DSC2. Mix flour, proofed yeast, 3 tablespoons reserved oil, and diced olive until all ingredients are incorporated.

3. Turn out dough on a floured board and knead until it's elastic and smooth. Let rise for 45 minutes or until it doubles in size.

4. Punch down dough and kneed until smooth. Cover and rise for 30 minutes or until it doubles in size.

5. Punch down dough and form into a round ball. Let rise, seam side up, for 20 minutes or until it doubles in size.

6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place dough seam side down on paper and brush top with remaining reserved oil.

SONY DSC7. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes, the reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake an additional 30 minutes (or until you tap on the crust and it's crusty). Cool before slicing.

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A few notes:

✒ I'm a firm believer in proofing yeast before mixing dry ingredients, but I know there are people who would prefer to mix all the ingredient together and if that's your thing, go for it.

✒ To help my bread rise, I like to create a proofing oven. I turn the oven on and let the temperature get up to ~150 degrees F before I turn the oven off. This creates a nice, warm, un-drafty area for the yeast to get to work. I usually cover my dough with a bit of plastic wrap and drape a kitchen towel over it, making sure to use a large enough mixing bowl so that the bread has room to rise.

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✒ Don't add salt! You'll notice that unlike most bread recipes, there is no salt added to make this dough. The Kalamata olives are briny enough to season the loaf, and unless you're hoping to bake a salt lick, don't add any more salt. I found that diced olives from a 7 oz. container was the right salt-level for me, but if you want to tone it down, add fewer olives and use regular olive oil in place of the reserved oil.

Comments, suggestions, etc. are always welcome. And if you decide to try some Triple Rise Olive Bread for yourself, please let me know how it turns out. Happy baking!

Christmas Cranberry Bread

My tastes are funny when it comes to cranberries and the foods derived from them. I love cranberry juice: neat, on the rocks, as a lemon-lime soda spritzer, or with a splash of vodka - pass me a glass. Cranberry sauce and dried cranberries - meh, no thanks. And up until last week, I thought the only good use for fresh cranberries was for a bit of color on a popcorn garland. In short, for the birds. Then I spotted a recipe for Cranberry Bread next to the recipe for Shaker Daily Bread, and I thought, "That doesn't sound too bad." A few days later, there was a great sale on fresh cranberries (due to this year's surplus, perhaps?), and I decided to give it a go. The price was so good, I almost couldn't afford not to try it.

I'm glad I did. The bread was wonderful and perfect for the holiday season. It had a nice crunchy crust and a soft, chewy inside that was pretty fantastic. I omitted chopped walnuts, but the original recipe calls for them. I think this bread would be perfect for Christmas morning, especially since you're supposed to bake it a day before you intend to eat it. With all the hustle and bustle, it would make for a great way to start the day.

SONY DSCChristmas Cranberry Bread❄❄

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup sugar (or to taste)

1-1/2 tsp baking powder

grated rind of 1 orange

fresh squeezed juice of 1 orange

boiling water

1 egg, beaten

2 tbs vegetable oil

1 cup fresh cranberries, ground

1. Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

2. Transfer orange juice and grated rind into a measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to make 3/4 cup liquid.

3. Add orange juice, egg, and oil to dry ingredients and mix until dry ingredients are moistened.

4. Fold in cranberries.

5. Bake in greased loaf pan at 325 degrees for 60-70 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Let loaf sit for 12-24 hours before cutting.

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A few notes:

❄ I used the food processor to grate the cranberries. It was quick to pour them in and let the Cuisinart do the rest. I suppose you could substitute in some dry cranberries, if you prefer, and the bread would be a bit more like a raisin bread.

❄ You could always make this a cranberry-nut bread by adding in coarsely-chopped walnuts.

❄ Even though I used fresh cranberries, the bread came out super sweet. If you aren't a fan of really sweet breads or would like the tartness/bitterness of the berries to come through, I recommend dialing back on the sugar.

❄ The original recipe said to wait 24-hours before cutting, but I couldn't wait that long to try it. I'm impatient, what can I say? I think you're supposed to wait a day so that the bread is easier to cut, but I had no problem at all slicing it 12 hours after baking.

❄❄ This recipe was modified from the Cranberry Bread recipe in Jeff Smith's THE FRUGAL GOURMET COOKS AMERICAN.