Olive Oil & Herb Bread

This bread is always welcome at our table. It's aromatic, delicious, and simple to make. It's based on a recipe from a long-gone and much missed restaurant in San Diego, Silas St. John - one of the truly innovative restaurants I've encountered. The bread is a meal in itself: rich, dense, and flavorful. It's best warm, and will keep well. We like it even better the next day, toasted. This is a case where a high-quality olive oil really shines in cooking, so don't be shy about using it.
8 tsp DaVero extra virgin olive oil (Olio Nuovo is even better!) 2 tsp DaVero Meat & Poultry rub (or mix rosemary, sage, thyme, and chervil) 1/2 tsp Fresh black pepper 5 tsp sugar 5 tsp salt 1 envelope active dry yeast (not rapid-rise!) 5-1/2 cups white flour (bread flour is best) 2 cups warm (105°F) water
In a small bowl, combine the herbs, pepper, and olive oil.  Set aside to steep for up to an hour. In a large measuring cup, combine the warm water, sugar, salt, herb/olive oil mixture, and the yeast.  Allow the yeast to proof. Put the flour in the bowl of a KitchenAid-style mixer, add the liquid, and mix well with the paddle beater. Once it's well-mixed, switch to the dough hook and knead well. After a few minutes check the consistency of the dough: it should be moist but not sticky; add water or flour as necessary, then continue kneading for a few more minutes. Turn out onto the counter and knead by hand for a minute or two to finish the process, then place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled (about an hour, but doubling is the key). When doubled, punch the dough down and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Shape into loaves (you should have three roughly 1-lb loaves). You can place them on a greased cookie sheet, or else in loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again until doubled - about an hour. Preheat the oven to 375°F (350°F for a convection oven). Bake for about 40 minutes (20 minutes for a convection oven). Cool, and try not to eat them all before others arrive. It will be harder to resist if you put a little butter(!) on a slice.
Posted in Breads, Side Dishes

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