Olive Bread

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My first experience with yeast was not using it, even though I was supposed to. I’d followed a recipe in the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls cookbook, except not really. It was my thing to do when I was 11-12 years old, to get up early on Sundays and bake some kind of coffee cake.

I chose a recipe for yeasted cinnamon buns that morning, but when it came time to the yeast, being that I didn’t know what is was, I ignored it. I also noticed this kneading thing, which seemed like it would take too long, so a win-win for me.

Until my mother came downstairs and I proudly announced that I’d made these buns, and would she do the honors of removing them from the oven. Well she almost dropped that baking dish. What should have been cinnamon buns were round, heavy bricks. And then I learned about yeast.

When I started teaching myself to cook, I learned how to bake bread by following recipes. When you do it on your own, there’s no fear, even though I have memories of my mother not even letting us walk through the kitchen if she had bread rising. Heck, we were hardly allowed to exhale.

But it seemed pretty easy to me, a few ingredients, some kneading, and I even walked around my kitchen while my breads rose. It’s just not hard to bake bread.

Then a cookbook entered my life called Supper Club chez Martha Rose, which was published in 1988. This book wasn’t extraordinary by any means, but it was a fun read, because it was Martha Rose Schulman’s actual experience with her supper club in Paris that she started in 1983 after she moved to France from Austin, Texas.

Her supper club menus are organized by months, which I love. Some menus reflect her love of Texas, but most all as a Francophile, a lover of Mediterranean flavors. But what got my attention was what she did with her yeasted breads. She added stuff to them!

I’d always made whole-grain bread, because I believe that bread should be nourishing, not just pretty. But when I first saw pesto bread in her cookbook, it was my Hallelujah moment! It was Martha Rose Schulman that changed my life with bread baking. And I’ve never looked back.

So for all the years my husband required bread, for all of the years I catered, and was a private chef, I put stuff into the breads I baked. It could be nuts, it could be grated zucchini, tomato paste, onions and cheese, or chili powder.

Ms. Schulman also had country bread with olives in her cookbook, and today I’m making my version of olive bread for you.

Olive Bread

2 ounces warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
8 ounces whole milk, warmed
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
Extra white flour, for kneading
5 ounces mixed olives, drained

Place the water in a large, warmed bowl and add the yeast and sugar. After the yeast softens stir the liquid, then set aside.


After the yeast bubbles up, about 5 minutes, add the warm milk. Then add 1 cup of white flour and whisk well.

Cover the bowl and place in a warm place for one hour. Meanwhile, chop the olives coarsely and make sure they’re free of any liquid; set aside.

Add one cup of whole wheat flour to the slurry, and whisk or stir in well.

Place a generous amount of white flour where you’re going to knead, and remove the dough from the bowl. Begin kneading the bread, using only as much flour as needed. Knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth.

Grease the bottom of a large clean bowl, put the dough in it, then turn the dough over so the top is coated in the grease. Place this bowl, covered with a towel, in the warm place for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the chopped olives where you knead, then “pour” the dough over the top. Using only a little flour as necessary, gently force the olives into the dough until they’re evenly incorporated.


Form a ball with the dough and place it on a greased cookie sheet. Set it in a warm place for 15 minutes, then put it in the oven.

Bake the bread for at least 25 minutes. Times and ovens vary. If you want to check on the internal temperature using a thermometer it should be at 195 degrees F. Anything much less than that and the bread will be doughy on the inside.

Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

I served the bread with a soft goat cheese; the slices can also be toasted first before serving.

If you love olives, this is a great bread. And it goes so well with cheese and charcuterie.

Ghent Cheesecake

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We have a friend named Ghent. His mama chose the name because she wanted her son to grow up and be a gentleman. Which he is, by the way. She thought the name was unique, but she’d never heard of the city in Belgium, although it’s pronounced with a hard “g.”
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I’ve only been to Belgium once, back when I was 18, which is where I memorably ate mussels for the first time. This was in Brussels. From what I have seen, I need return to explore Belgium and more of its foods.

Recently I came across a Ghent Cheesecake recipe that I’ve saved for years, or Plattekaastarte, which I have no idea how to pronounce. The Flemish language is beautiful, a mixture of French and Dutch. Not enough French to help me out, though!

In any case, this recipe is quite unique, with a yeasted dough for a crust, topped with a layer of applesauce, and then a filling of macaroons and cottage cheese! It’s pictured below from the recipe page.
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I contacted my Dutch blogger friend Stefan, from Stefan Gourmet, to help me figure out what kind of macaroons the recipe listed. He recommended Italian amaretti cookies – for both the texture and almond flavor.

Although I should have listened to Stefan, when I was at recently at a Trader Joe’s I found these cookies, which are from Belgium. They’re spiced a little differently, but because I’ll never know what the cheesecake is really supposed to taste like, without the real macaroons, I figured it couldn’t hurt. But I decided to also use some almond extract for a more almond flavor.
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I ground up the cookies using a food processor. They’re quite pretty cookies.
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So here’s the recipe:
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Ghent Cheesecake

Crust:
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup or 2 ounces butter, melted, cooled
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups flour
5 tablespoons applesauce

Filling:
2 eggs, separated
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup crushed macaroons, about 2 1/4 ounces
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds, about 1 ounce
1/4 cup vanilla sugar or 1/4 sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make crust, in a large bowl, stir yeast and sugar into water until dissolved. Stir in milk, egg, salt, and butter.

Beat in 1 cup flour until smooth. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.
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Stir in enough remaining flour to make a medium-stiff dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.


Butter a 9-inch springform pan; set aside.

Roll out dough to a 14-inch circle. Fit into buttered pan. Spread applesauce over bottom. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.


To make filling, beat egg whites until stiff; set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat together egg yolks and cottage cheese; beat in macaroons, 2/3 cup sugar, almonds and vanilla sugar. (I used almond extract and vanilla extract.)

Fold in beaten egg whites. Spread mixture over applesauce. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until golden.

Makes 1 (9-inch) cake.
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I served fruit with it.
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The cheesecake filling is fantastic – you can taste the cookies, the cinnamon and almond flavors, plus it has a meringue-like texture.
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The crust isn’t my favorite part, however. It’s really like a pizza crust, even with the butter and milk.
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Perhaps there could have been some sugar and vanilla in the dough.

But it was fun to finally make this cheesecake. I’m now going to share with Ghent! (And his lovely wife!)
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Canapé Bread

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Many years ago in the United States, there was a cooking company that was built on having a hostess sponsor a party in her home, and a representative of the company would demonstrate all of its kitchen gadgets. It was one of those parties that you felt obligated to go to, and also buy something, because your friend was having the party. Even if you’d just been to one the week before!

So for the few years that this company was popular, I collected quite a few gadgets. (I don’t remember the name of this company, and I don’t know if they’re still around.)

Something I did purchase were canapé molds. I thought they were pretty cool. I purchased 2 flower-shaped molds, 2 star-shaped, and 2 heart-shaped. I used the star breads for a New Year’s party once and they were so pretty!

Here are the flower molds I’m using today:
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Essentially, you bake a yeasted dough inside these molds, and slice the breads to use for canapés.

Recently I was asked to be part of a special event, and I wanted my contribution to be unique. So I decided to practice with these molds since it had been such a long time since I’d used them for caterin. Fortunately, after a little digging, I discovered the recipe that was created for these molds, although the recipe is for 3 and I only had two of the same flower-shape.

I wanted to use the recipe because I remember once I made my own bread dough and filled the molds up too much, and there was a lot of bread overflow in the oven. I think I even remember some flames.
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Here is the recipe:

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So here’s what I did. If you need a more involved tutorial on baking bread, there is a recipe with many more photos here.

Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the warm water. I keep my yeast in the freezer, and it lasts for years.

Once the yeast has dissolved, give the mixture a stir, then let the bowl sit in a warm place for about 5 minutes. The yeast will cause the mixture to rise and bubble.

Heat the milk and butter together until the butter has melted and the mixture is warm. Pour it in to the yeast mixture.

Begin adding flour 2 cups of flour. I typically keep the dough moist for the first rise. Cover the bowl, and after 1 1/2 hours, the dough will look like the second photo.

Add a generous amount of flour to your work surface and remove the dough from the bowl. It will be very soft. Carefully work flour in to the dough as you’re kneading it.

After about 5 minutes of kneading, the dough will be nice and smooth.

Add a little oil to a clean bowl, place the dough in the bowl top-first, then turn over. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise for about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in to 3 parts, and gently roll each part lengthwise.

Place the dough into a greased mold. Place the lid on the molds and place them horizontally in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees meanwhile. Then bake the molds for 10 minutes, and lower the heat to 375 degrees. Continue baking for about 25 minutes, then remove the molds from the oven.

Let them sit for 10 minutes, then remove the lids. The photo on the right shows what the bread looked like after I removed it from the oven, the photo on the left shows the bread with the “heel” sliced.
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Remove the breads from the molds and let them cool. Then slice and serve.

I served them with my faux Boursin spread.

Alternative, you can place the sliced breads on a cookie sheet, brush them with oil, and toast them in the oven first before serving. This makes them firmer and easier to spread.

Either way, they add something special to a party spread.
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Now, it does take a little effort to make these, especially for me because I only have 2 matching molds, but I think it’s worth it. If you don’t own molds like these, you can always use cookie cutters and cut shapes out of sliced bread.
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Pesto Pinwheels

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This post is less about a recipe, and more about an idea. And if you love pesto, you’ve probably had many ideas about how to use it – beyond adding it to pasta or minestrone soup.

So the other day I came across a recipe for cinnamon rolls, which are wonderful, but I typically don’t make sweet baked goods for breakfast unless it’s a holiday. But then I thought… rolls filled with pesto. Brilliant!!!

So that’s exactly what I did. And they came out magnificently. They’re pretty powerful in flavor, so should be paired with grilled chicken, fish, or a nice creamy soup. The protein can’t be anything with a strong flavor or the basil and garlic with fight and conquer.

I’m not going to do a tutorial on bread, because I’ve done one quite detailed on making this bread and that bread. But I encourage you to make the bread dough from scratch. It just makes a wonderful difference.

In today’s pinwheel recipe, I used sour cream as the only dairy source within the bread. And it worked out wonderfully!

Pesto Pinwheels

1/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
Approximately 1 more cup of white flour
Home-made pesto, without cheese
Grated Parmesan
Chopped walnuts, optional

Heat the water in a large bowl until you can hold your finger in it. It shouldn’t be any hotter or cooler. Add the yeast and sprinkle it with the sugar. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Give the mixture a stir, then place the bowl in a warm place for another five minutes. The mixture will have doubled in volume, at least. If it doesn’t, you might have some issues, see note, at bottom.

Meanwhile, place the sour cream in a small bowl and add the water. Gently whisk the mixture together. Then microwave it slowly just until it’s warm.

When the yeast mixture has doubled, add the sour cream mixture, the olive oil, and salt.

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Then add 1 1/2 cups of flour.

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Whisk up the mixture. It will be like thick pancake batter.

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Place the bowl in a warm place. I use a warming oven that actually has a “proof” setting. After about one hour it will look like this:

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Whisk the mixture and then add 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour. The mixture will be slightly thicker than before. Place the bowl in the same warm place for at least one more hour. If your warm place is not a moist area, then cover your bowl with a damp towel first.

It will look like this after the second rising.

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Using the last cup of flour, turn out the dough onto your work space, and knead away until the dough is nice and smooth. Form the dough into a ball and let it sit for at least five minutes. This will insure that you can roll it out.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. And also grease a cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan.

Using a rolling pin, first flatten the ball of dough, then gently work it into a rectangle just like you would if you were making cinnamon rolls. Mine was approximately 16″ by 9″.

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Then slather the dough with pesto. Then sprinkle on the finely grated Parmesan. You could also add chopped walnuts if you’d like.

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Roll up the dough lengthwise.

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Remove the ends, about an inch on each side, because they never look good. Then make approximately 1 1/2″ crosswise slices and place them cut side down on the cookie sheet. Continue with the remaining dough. I made ten pinwheels.

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Pinch the end of the dough together with another piece of dough to close up the pinwheel. They’re prettier if they don’t open up.

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Bake them for 20 minutes.

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They should be golden brown and smell really good!

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note: If you’re sure you have good yeast, then there was most likely something wrong with the water temperature. To play it safe, I always rinse the bowl I’m going to use with hot water, because a cold bowl will cool off the water detrimentally, no matter how perfect its temperature is. Alternatively, water too hot will also kill the yeast. Yeast isn’t very expensive, especially if you buy it in bulk. I have always kept mine in the freezer and it continues to work. So throw out the yeasty water and start over. If it’s your only package of yeast, warm the mixture ever so slightly and see if you can get it to grow. If not, sorry.