100 Great Breads: Bread #20 Olive and Basil Focaccia & #21 Potato and Dill [Rosemary]

It has been a strange week or so. M.D. is being a right moody mare (she is teething after all) but has also started walking – which is both brilliant and time consuming. So, I am still making bread at the rate I should be but writing the blogs is becoming more challenging. To enable a harmonious balance to be struck I have decided, for the meantime, to write up 2 breads at once. This should also make them slightly more interesting to read, rather than the concerningly repetitive sections that were arising in earlier blogs.

So, these two breads work very well in written tandem because the olive and basil bread was made to recipe perfectly and was left wanting, where as the Potato and Dill needed tweaking from the beginning.

Mixing and Kneading

O&B – White dough=easy knead [see, repetitive]. Being a focaccia the dough is a lot wetter, within this recipe Paul achieves this by using 50ml of olive oil on top of 300ml of water. Because this creates such a wet dough, with a high amount of fat, it is best to knead this bread on a lightly floured surface. The more comfortable you become with a wet dough, the less flour you will find yourself using. I generally find that it is my hands that need flouring more than the work surface!

The sticky dough is left to rise for 2 hours (I used 15g of dried yeast and found that the dough over-reached itself. i.e. it started to drop in on itself, this isn’t really a problem but shows you how fickle these proving times really are).  Adding olives and basil to the dough, it is knocked back and shaped into a flat rectangle-like shape and put on a baking tray. Indentations are made on the top to give the loaf a dimpled-focaccia look, a brush of oil, and it is left to prove for another hour.

Once ready the loaf is brushed with a sea water solution (100ml water to 30g salt) and the oven preheated to 230.

P&D[R] – Right, well where to start. Firstly I hate dill . . . I know, that is a very strong feeling for such an innocuous plant but it is true. Well, really I hate the aniseedy flavour of that type of herb so I had no intention of making a loaf with dill in it. “Not a problem, I will use rosemary” I thought to myself [in a Winnie the Pooh style monologue], “Oh bother!” I may have said using more extreme language, “if I use rosemary then the entire flavour of the loaf will change, hmmmmmm . . . let’s check the recipe”. Paul uses a fatless white dough and says to make it the day before . . . but there is no kneading involved? This is an odd recipe.

As I read further I noticed that the recipe he gives only says to add the dill sprinkled over the top before baking, but his photo clearly shows it integrated into the crumb, that can’t be right. I also notice his bread in the photo has a beautiful, floured crust and yet his recipe says nothing about flouring the top – I began to suspect foul play. Basically, it is clear that if you follow his recipe you will not end up with a bread like that in the photo. Well, luckily I had already decided to change the recipe because white bread and rosemary is just wrong.

Owen’s adaptation of Pauls Potato and Dill Bread

15g dried, fast action yeast

320ml of water (don’t feel you have to use it all, it is just until you have brought the dough together and cleaned the sides of your bowl of flour)

400g White flour

100g Malted brown flour

7g salt

8 medium sized new potatoes – cleaned

1 garlic clove, chopped

butter and oil for frying

30g chopped rosemary

As I was using new potatoes and rosemary, both quite earthy flavours, I decided to mix the white flour with some brown malted flour (roughly a 4:1 ratio in favour of white) to give this bread some substance. Adding the yeast and salt [not letting the salt and yeast touch at first], then the water (3/4 all in and the rest in increments) I brought the dough together and began to knead on an oiled surface. Oiled because this bread has no fat in it at this point so it is not overly moist, thus any flour added will impact the end loaf. This is left to rise until it was ready: about 2 hours.

Proving Dough

Proving Dough

Whilst the dough was proving, I boiled the potatoes for 5 mins, let them cool and then cut them up into smaller segments and fried them off in a little oil and butter. I also added the garlic at the same time, Paul says to, but the garlic just burns so next time I would throw the garlic in towards the end of cooking; when the potatoes are browning nicely. Leave to cool. Incorporate 3/4 of tato’s into the fully risen dough whilst knocking it back, along with all of the rosemary.

Split the dough in two and, using your hands, flatten them out into a rough oval shape. I did it to a thickness of about an inch. These are left to prove for an hour. Preheat the oven to 230. When the loaves have risen, press the remaining tato’s into the dough firmly, you can sprinkle some rosemary over the top if you want to (I didn’t).

The Bake

O&B – Paul makes some bold claims about this bread. Apparently it will guarantee a house sale if it is baked before a viewing. Hmmmm, a bit of hyperbole I feel. Either way, the smell was rather nice, the olives and basil really work well together. The loaf took on a nice colour but, as I always find with focaccia, my dimples have disappeared! Either I don’t press them in hard enough or the loaves prove for too long . . . I don’t yet know.

The bread itself was fine, too salty for my liking with the olives, and the salt, and the salty wash, it was too much. Even M.D. couldn’t eat much of it, and that is saying something! But my mother in law liked it, as did my wife so it was not a total loss. But not one to make again I feel.

P&D[R] -Oh what a lovely smell rosemary has when it is baking! It fills the house with the smell of woodland and Sunday roast, with a hint of camping holidays for good measure. I just love it. I had decided not to flour the loaves before baking, more as an experiment really, and the crust has crisped whereas if I had floured it it would have remained soft.

Potato and Rosemary Loaf

Potato and Rosemary Loaf

Potato and Rosemary Loaf Crumb

Potato and Rosemary Loaf Crumb

The taste is phenomenal, it has the down to earth smell and flavour that I was going for. The malted flour holds the rosemary brilliantly and the bias toward white flour keeps the bread light and fluffy. M.D. and I sat and ate one of the loaves for lunch whilst my wife and I had some more with dinner – it is a brilliant bread.

This morning I soaked some pieces in egg and fried them off, making M.D. some eggy bread for breakfast which went down very well. I think I will be making a lot of this bread.

History of Bread

You will often find people selling spelt bread today, usually with a line somewhere (verbal or written) saying that spelt was what the Romans made bread from. This is a little misleading because, although the Romans did use spelt like the Gauls and Egyptians and other peoples, it was not their only source of flour. In Pliny the Elder’s Natural History (yes, him again) the section on wheat is over twice the size of the small section made on spelt. Of course this proves nothing but it is interesting that he took more time of wheat rather than the supposed staple of spelt.

Anyway, Pliny also mentions how the Gauls, those barbaric and backward of people, used to make beer and then use the head of that to make bread! Thus making a raised loaf using yeast:

“In Gaul and Spain, where they make a drink by steeping corn in the way that has been already described—they employ the foam which thickens upon the surface as a leaven: hence it is that the bread in those countries is lighter than that made else- where.” Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 18.12

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1 Response to 100 Great Breads: Bread #20 Olive and Basil Focaccia & #21 Potato and Dill [Rosemary]

  1. Hmm these look delicious, thanks for posting up this recipe, looks quite simple to make.


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