My go-to dinner when people come over to us is a kind of Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern spread of inspecific origin; it accommodates the vegans, the gluten-frees, the egg-frees, the peanut-allergies and the lactose-intolerants (this list may sound scornful, but it isn’t. I feel very happy to live in a world where diagnosis is sharp enough to help everyone feel their best, but that’s a whole other conversation), but you can also roast a huge piece of meat for the middle of the table too and it works with everything.
Anyway. this is a useful loaf of bread to stick amongst your various sauces, dips and salads that everyone can tear into at will. It’s the type of bread any old fool can knock together on the afternoon of a dinner party, with no great kneading or anything involved.
I like to make it in a springform tin as I have here, but you can use anything you have, even if you just plonk the dough on a baking tray. It’s a very forgiving recipe.
If you don’t want to use olives, rosemary and garlic, use anything else you fancy: sun-dried tomatoes, capers, chilli, artichoke hearts, grilled vegetables, thyme, sage would all work nicely. You can even just use a drizzle of oil and some flaky salt. Whatever you feel like at the time.
This loaf does for four to six people, but you can scale the recipe up (and use a larger tin) with no problems at all.
You will need
For the bread –
- 250g strong white flour
- 5g salt
- 4g active dry yeast (or the equivalent amount for another type of yeast you prefer using)
- 20g olive oil
- 230g tepid water
For the rosemary, olive and garlic topping –
- A handful of black olives, roughly chopped
- A sprig of rosemary, leaves stripped and roughly chopped
- A clove of garlic, grated or crushed
- 3tbsp olive oil
- A large pinch of flaky salt
Put the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl, then add the oil and water, and mix til thoroughly combined and uniform. This will probably be an awful lot wetter and stickier than a regular bread dough, so you might be best off using a wooden spoon or something similar. It’ll almost feel like a cake batter.
Cover it with clingfilm, or a damp tea towel, and leave it somewhere warm-ish for 40 minutes.
Take a look, and check that it’s grown a little (this is a tiny batch, bread-wise, so the rising won’t be too drastic at this stage). Oil your fingers, slip them under one side of the dough, stretch it up, and fold it over to the opposite side. The dough should now be capable of holding its shape a little. continue stretching and folding, giving the bowl a quarter-turn each time, the the dough gets a good working, and begins to look more like a coherent, solid mass than a batter. Keep this up for a minute or so (it doesn’t need a proper kneading) cover it, and let it rest again for 50 minutes.
After this second prove, the dough should’ve grown again, and might begin to look a little bubbly too. Pull it away from the bottom of the bowl and transfer it to a generously oiled 22cm springform tin (or, as mentioned above, whatever other baking surface you like). Push the dough out to meet the sides of the tin. It’ll spring back, and be resistant to being spread out, but be firm and persevere. Cover the tin, and leave for a further 50 minutes, setting your oven to 220°C ready to bake.
Whilst you wait for this final prove, mix together the ingredients for the rosemary, olive and garlic topping. You should end up with a very loose, oily paste.
After the 50 minutes have passed, your dough should have grown yet again, and be comfortably covering the bottom of the tin. Tip over the topping, and gently spread it out so it evenly covers the top of the dough. Clean your hand thoroughly, and dip your fingertips into a bag of flour. Push down hard and repeatedly into the dough, making little indentations. The dough will bubble up around the holes. Keep going until the entire thing is evenly pocked with indentations.
Sprinkle over a large pinch of flaky salt, and put the bread in the oven, for about 20 minutes, or until there are deep, golden-brown patches on the surface of the bread.
Leave it to cool slightly in the tin, then turn it out and transfer to a rack to finish cooling, or eat straight away, warm.
If you aren’t eating it immediately, it’ll keep happily for several hours, wrapped in a clean tea-towel.
Either cut into generous sized pieces, or let everyone tear what they want from the loaf, and enjoy!