Bread and Soup Season

I love soup during the winter months.  Lately, I’ve been on an Italian leaning soup kick, having made ‘clean out the freezer/fridge/pantry’ Minestrone Saturday night and Northern Italian Spinach and Cornmeal Soup last night.  Or rather, Arugula and Cornmeal soup, as I have arugula in the garden attempting to bolt because it’s been so warm this winter.  February and the arugula is bolting.  Go figure.
The arugula was a good substitute – the peppery bite gave an otherwise mild soup a nice flavor.  The little food critic that lives in our house that generally finds this soup rather ‘boring’ gave it a two thumbs up.  
What better to go with a big pot of homemade soup than a fresh baked loaf of bread?  For years I have been on the hunt for the perfect bread recipe.  I have read with some fascination about no knead loaves, but I find when I feel like having fresh baked bread, I want it NOW and not in a few days, for fresh baked bread takes time.  A good number of the no knead recipes I’ve seen call for starting the dough at least a day ahead of time, which is well and good, but sometimes I really need immediate satisfaction.  A few months ago, I found this recipe for a no-knead olive bread.  It calls for a two hour first rise, an hour long second rise and it’s no knead.  How could I not try it?
As if that wasn’t enough, it was also an olive bread.  When I worked at a local non-profit, Tuesday was Free bread day courtesy of a grocery store chain that likes to donate their day olds to local ‘charities’ (I’ve actually heard employees of this store say that to customers).  I once grabbed a loaf of what looked to be Rosemary bread, only to find it was Rosemary Olive bread and we fell in love with it.  After that, I grabbed a few loaves every week.  I have since been unable to find this bread at said grocery store and we have missed it.  Pat kept telling me I could make the bread myself, but honestly, I’ve yet to really perfect homemade bread.
Until now. 
That is my finished loaf last night.  I have baked two loaves of this in the last three days and we have eaten them.  Both Pat & I agree, this is the best bread I’ve ever made.  I have stopped searching for the best bread recipe, because this is it.  I started the dough 3:30 Saturday afternoon and we were eating it by 7 pm Saturday evening.  It’s good.

I used what I think are Black Cerignola olives from the grocery store olive bar.  (I’ve been able to find them at both Kroger and Whole Foods.)  They are large, meaty and pitted.  I cut around the stone in a way similar to how I chop mangos.   Edie, who swears up and down she can’t stand olives, eats these without complaint.   For the most part, I followed the recipe as it is on the website, with a few exceptions:
  • Adding fresh chopped rosemary along with the olives. 
  • Sprinkling sea salt on the top before putting it in the oven
  • Omitting the cornstarch wash
  • Doubling the amount of water poured into the broiler pan
  • Making two loaves, rather than four.
I imagine this bread would be good plain as well.  In the past I’ve used leftover Rosemary Olive bread in savory vegetable bread puddings, for grilled cheese and for a different take on French Toast.  I think I’ll have to track down the original cookbook and take a gander at it for sure.

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