note: I like to use a stand mixer for this bread as kneading in the olives by hand can be quite messy.
See my recipe for a basic boule for more info on starters and instructions for mixing the bread by hand.
1 – 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or 1 – 2 teaspoons dried)
1/2 cup pitted oil cured olives, whole
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, whole
It’s a difficult thing to admit, but: Jay doesn’t have a sweet tooth. He didn’t even eat fruit when I first moved in, several years ago, and would turn his nose up at sugary vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and winter squash. While creamy custards and ice cream make me weak in the knees, he can take or leave them, passing them up any day for a bag of salty chips or a plate of greasy french fries.
For the muffins, brown the butter by cooking it over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until it browns, smells nutty and makes you swoon with olfactory pleasure. Let cool to warm.
One night, like many before me, I got hooked. Molly Wizenberg’s exquisite blog, Orangette, sucked me in with her crack-like writing, spare photography and mouthwatering recipes. Guided there by rave reviews of a chocolate granola recipe, I sifted through her blog for hours, unable to pry my eyes away from her addictive writing style, driven by a lust for chocolate granola. I envisioned something like what you see above, baked granola coated in chocolate, but figured the recipe had to be something really innovative to garner such attention. But when I finally came upon the recipe, at around 4am, I felt a bit disappointed at the image that greeted me: plain granola with chunks of chocolate mixed in. I could have come up with that.
The first sourdough bread I ever baked, four years ago, turned out as hard and dense as a brick. Living in the sourdough capital of the world, I felt like a real loser. I had followed a lengthy recipe, raising my own starter from flour and water, nurturing it for three whole days until it began to bubble and smell tangy. My failure probably had more to do with a weak, newborn starter than anything else, but that was cold comfort. As my starter matured, though, the bread I baked with it came out better and better.
Since then, I’ve raised a few different starters, but I’d always end up killing them out of neglect when the summer months came and it was too hot to fathom cranking the oven up to 500º. Then, last spring, I inherited the most active, robust starter I’ve ever had the pleasure of baking with. I don’t know the origins of this starter, and have suspicions that it may have been started with commercial yeast. But that doesn’t matter to me now. I can ignore my starter in the fridge for weeks, then take it out and feed it with nary a pout or obstinate refusal to rise. Instead, it bubbles up beautifully, like a wagging dog greeting you at the door after you’ve been gone all day, leash in snout, eager for a walk. “No need to make pancakes,” it tells me, “I’m ready for the big guns.” This one’s a keeper.
Over the years I’ve equipped myself with the proper bread baking materials: a baking stone, a coiled willow rising basket, and a lame for slashing the unbaked loaves, as well as the sourdough bible, Nancy Silverton’s Breads From the La Brea Bakery, which includes, aside from dozens and dozens of sourdough loaves, boules and flatbreads, recipes for sourdough pancakes, doughnuts, onion rings, and even a souffle-like sourdough chocolate cake. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone interested in sourdough, novice and pro alike.
A few years ago, I got an exciting phone call. I had won a recipe contest from Cook’s Country, the sister magazine to Cook’s Illustrated. The subject was “interesting sandwiches,” and my entry consisted of french style, slow-cooked eggs on multi-grain toast with goat cheese and arugula. I was to receive $100, and a one-year subscription to their magazine. I was elated.