One of my most favorite-of-all-time cookbooks are what I call the Silver Palate collection of books, written by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. My very first one was The Silver Palate. I received it as a wedding gift while at a party thrown for us by my husband’s family out in Massachusetts when I was just 25 years old. When the festivities were over and we boarded the airplane to come back to Wisconsin, I remember reaching for this cookbook and reading it all the way home. I couldn’t put it down. Recipe after recipe looked so amazing to me… everything seemed so fresh and new… by the time we landed, I had almost a whole book of dog-earred pages. My whole perspective of cooking and entertaining was completely transformed on that very flight home. When I look back on it now, I know that The Silver Palate collection was ahead of its time as it continues to be just as relevant and popular today, as it was then. Unfortunately, Ms Lukins passed away in 2009, but the contribution she made to cooks everywhere will live on forever.
This Olive Rosemary Country Bread is from the book, The New Basics, part of The Silver Palate collection. I had to replace my old copy with a new one, as I used it so much the book literally fell apart! Anyway… I usually make this bread when I’m making Ribollita, which is a thick Tuscan vegetable soup. The two just seem to go together perfectly and is actually a suggested pairing in the recipe. It’s delicious plain… which is how we eat it… or is of course even better with a small smattering of gorgonzola or butter on it.
First dissolve your yeast in the warm water and milk.
(This is when I realized I forgot to get rosemary at the store and I had to make an emergency run! So my mixture sat a little longer than it should have, which resulted in the end, of not getting as high a rise when the bread was baking. No worries though…it didn’t affect the taste one bit!)
Nicoise olives are small, so to get the pits out, I position my knife like this over the olive and sort of smash down the blade with the heel of my hand. The pit either pops out or it at least opens up for you to pinch it out easily. I suggest getting this all ready before starting your yeast mixture.
Mix your ingredients together and put the gloppy, wet-ish dough out on your lightly floured countertop. I start to add some of the rest of the dough at this time and knead for about 3 minutes. Then let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
Add the rest of the dough and knead for 8-10 minutes.
Throw it in a lightly oiled bowl and turn over. Cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
Divide the dough in half and place on baking sheet sprinkled with the remaining cornmeal. Cover with kitchen towel and let rise another 45 minutes.
Olive Rosemary Country Bread
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup coarsely chopped onion
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2/3 cup Nicoise olives
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 cups whole-wheat flour
3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Stir the yeast, warm water, and milk together in a large bowl. Let the mixture stand until the yeast has dissolved, 5 minutes.
Add the sugar, 1/2 cup cornmeal, butter, onions, rosemary, olives, salt, pepper, whole-wheat flour, and 2 cups of the all-purpost flour; beat well. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 to 3 minutes, adding the remaining all-purpose flour as necessary to make a workable dough. Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Knead the dough again, until it is smooth and elastic, 10 minutes. (Sprinkle it with flour as you knead if necessary to keep it from sticking.)
Lightly oil a large bowl, and turn the dough in it to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch the dough down and divide it in half. Shape each half into a round loaf. Sprinkle a baking sheet with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cornmeal, and place the loaves on it, seam side down. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise again until barely doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake the bread until it is well browned and sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped with your finger, about 45 minutes. Remove it from the baking sheet and set it on a wire rack to cool.