Last week had been my birthday. Since my family and most of my friends are not living on the same city country continent as I am, I couldn’t get the urge for a big party. I wasn’t even in the mood for a party and time would have been tight for preparation anyway. And to add to all of this, most of my local friends had been traveling for work, studying for a soon exam or had been on vacation… my birthday had bad timing. Actually that’s ridiculous!
My expectations had been a dinner in a fancy restaurant and afterwards me eating most of my birthday cake and a nice bottle of something bubbly to wash it down… and it doesn’t sound bad at all. This had been the plan until two days prior to my special day and it had been a good plan.
Suddenly my invitation list went from zero over 5 to maybe 10 to unknown, it just happened. As much as I was looking forward to celebrate my birthday, I am also a planner and a list maker. I told myself: don’t sweat it! All I needed was another plan. Preparing much ahead hadn’t been an option due to lack of time. But all fell into place with a little help and it worked out great. It had been new friends from different parts of my life, but a bunch of mostly strangers among themselves and all of them having a blast. Mr. F took care of the grill, so I had time to enjoy the party, chatting and clinking glasses. And I nibbled on some of these little herbed olive breads. They were luscious with a slab of salted butter, just to keep me alive until the cake was served, I still have my priorities.
This is one of those recipes that is so very versatile, which I appreciate about a recipe. You can swap the herbs for other herbs or spices. Substitute olives for nuts or a mix of both. Just make sure not to forget to make the starter a day ahead, and you are halfway there. I prefer starting kneading with my stand mixer and finishing this dough by hand, to make sure to incorporate all of the ingredients nicely. Forming the little breads are as easy as it could be, just make pieces of the same size (to make sure everything is baked through at the same time) and simply press it into logs, the more uneven the more rustic. You like rolls? Go for it! But remember to shorten the baking time. And now I am imaging you all with a basket full of fresh home baked bread on the way to the next BBQ party like Little Red Riding Hood hopping through the forest on the way to her grandma… but without the wolf story please.
little herbed olive breads
make the starter a day ahead:
- 120 g / 4.2 oz. all-purpose flour
- 120 ml / 1/2 cup water (lukewarm)
- ¼ tsp. active dry yeast
- Add to a medium size bowl and stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at a warm place for at least 12 hours up to 24 hours.
for the dough:
- 800 g / 28.2 oz. all-purpose flour, more for dusting and forming
- 150 g / 5.3 oz. rye flour
- 1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
- 500-600 ml / 2 1/8 – 2 ½ cups water (lukewarm)
- 1 ½ Tbsp. fine sea salt
- 1 tsp. granulated sugar
- 200 g / 7 oz. green olives, sliced
- 60 ml / ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ Tbsp. of each: dried oregano, basil, za’atar
- Add the starter and the remaining ingredients for the dough into the bowl of your stand mixer with the hook attachment or knead by hand. Add only as much water as needed for a firm but smooth dough. Knead for at least 3-5 minutes, dust with flour to prevent drying out, cover and let stand on a warm place for 1 ½ to 2 hours.
- Dust your hands and counter top with flour before kneading the dough shortly. Cut into 10-12 pieces of about the same size. Form logs while pulling and stretching the pieces (the more uneven the more rustic).
- Preheat your oven to 425 F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the logs on the baking sheet and let rest while oven preheats.
- Make cuts on the top of each little bread and bake 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack or serve still warm.
Swap olives for nuts