Sunday, November 17, 2013

OMG!!! - Cypriot Bread with Olives, Herbs and Onions

I don't know if I have ever mentioned this, but I grew up on an island. I know I told you about Nova Scotia, but you probably don't realize that it consists of two parts, a peninsula (almost an island) and an island. Cape Breton Island is truly spectacular, has been named one of the world's most beautiful spots and is NOT to be missed. If you are ever looking for an out of the way but really beautiful vacation spot... this is it.

And so, I have this soft spot for islands, and for breads that come from islands. There is something about the influence of the sea that attracts me, and just makes me look a little closer. So this bread, from Cyprus, caught my attention for two reasons at least. Cyprus is an island, of course, a big island. And it is our neighbor in the eastern Mediterranean. Israel and Cyprus even share a marine border and some history. And, of course, Mediterranean culinary traditions. Olive oil and olives, garlic, onions and fresh herbs everywhere and in everything. What could be bad?

This bread is loaded with all of those and has the advantage of being quite moist so it lasts. Or at least that's the theory since it's usually gone in about a day or two. But it should last... if you can resist the temptation!

Here's What You'll Need:

about 3 3/4 cups (500 g) bread flour
1 Tbs. instant yeast
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 Tbs. salt
2 Tbs. good olive oil
about 1 cup (250 ml) of warm water

1 medium onion. finely chopped, and slightly drained of liquid
about 3/4 cup (200 g) black olives, chopped coarsely
a good handful fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, coriander, oregano...) chopped coarsely

Here's What You'll Need To Do:

1. In a large bowl, mix the flour with the yeast, sugar and salt thoroughly.

2. Slowly add the water and oil mixed together, while mixing by hand to form a rough dough.

3. Lightly oil your work surface, remove the dough from the bowl, and continue kneading for at least 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and shiny and only a little tacky.

4. Place the dough back into the bowl, now lightly oiled, cover and let it rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

5. Remove the dough to a lightly oiled work surface and deflate, spreading it out into a rough rectangle. Spread the olives, onions and herbs evenly over the surface of the rectangle. Fold the rectangle like a trifold letter to enclose the olive-herb mixture. Then knead to distribute them evenly. You may need to add flour at this stage as the olives and onions might be quite wet. Work gently, adding as little as possible.

6. Finally, form the dough into a fairly tight ball, and place it on a parchment lined baking tray. Cover and let it rise, again, for about an hour.

7. About 20 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Bake for at least 35-45 minutes, until the crust is a deep brown and firm. It will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. At this point your kitchen will have a totally 'other-worldly' aroma!!

8. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.