Yeast #3: Olive Bread!

086Ok, I may not have given the yeast a fair fight.

I definitely put the odds on my side for success by picking these long-rise, no-knead bread recipes.

There’s almost no way you couldn’t have success. Thank goodness.

When this resolution began to try to make something with yeast every month this year to get over my “killing of yeast” phobia, I had no idea these kinds of recipes existed. Recipes that used basically cold or cool water because they had to rise slowly for 12-18 hours. Since my history had been to kill yeast by heating the liquid too hot, these recipes were a way to eliminate the very thing that had caused failure in the past.

First it was pizza dough. Delicious and perfectly easy and successful.

Next came a lovely artisan loaf of bread. Delicious and perfectly easy and successful.

For this month, I wanted to replicate last month’s bread but do a variation to keep things interesting. I googled and came up with olive bread from this website. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was another Jim Lahey recipe and sure enough he was credited at the end as coming from a book called “My Bread.”

Lahey makes things easy. The basic dough comes together in seconds. The only difference from this recipe and the last was the omission of salt since the olives have salt in them which gets absorbed into the bread. This recipe advocated for a higher bake temperature – 500 degrees instead of 450 – so I split the difference. After all of that time waiting for the bread to rise and the small fortune of olives in the recipe, I wasn’t willing to watch the end result be a burned up, terrible mess.

It really was simple:

  • 3 Cups Bread Flour – I used regular all purpose flour because who has bread flour?
  • 1 1/2 Cup Kalamata Olives, pitted, drained, roughly chopped – for me this was a full bottle of T. Joes pitted Kalamata olives, so lots of olives!
  • 3/4 Teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 Cups cool water

The hardest part was chopping up the olives. Once the craggy mess is combined, it just goes into the oven. And does its slow-rise thing for the next 12-18 hours. Or longer.

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The challenging part of these recipes is getting the timing right. It’s not like you can wake up on a Saturday and have bread by Saturday afternoon. You have to start the day before you want bread and you have to start early enough to get enough rest time before you want to back. On the other hand, if you need to leave it rising for more than 18 hours, it’s ok too. It’s very forgiving of giving you more time if you need it in the slow-rise phase.

I got the bread started just before 3 p.m. with the idea that I hoped to be baking it in the late morning of Saturday. For the February loaf, I hadn’t started it until almost bed time which meant it was pretty late the next day before I could bake. Ideally, I think it would be best to start the bread around noon and then just know you could bake late morning the next day or even early into the afternoon. That still gives time to allow the bread to cool before you cut into it if you’re someone like me who won’t necessarily eat a whole loaf at one sitting (like a family of 4 or more might). Or always plan to have company on bread baking days.

As usual, when it went into the oven, it looked pretty lumpy. In three hours, it had already started to look a lot smoother.


By 11:30 the next morning, it looked great – yeasty, bubbly. At that point, you just turn it out on to a board with flour, give it a few folds, and then let it rise about 2 hours and bake.


Last time, I had issues with sticking to the towel in the last rise so this time I decided to try letting it rise on my plastic cutting board and just putting it into the hot pan. It did release a bit better than using the floured towel, but it didn’t release evenly. My bread was still fine, but it did end up a little lopsided since it hit the pan off to one side. It’s not a big deal, but it wasn’t as show stopping as my February loaf.

For more pictures on the folding and second rise process, last month gives more detail.

This loaf was always sticky from the moisture of the olives. After the second rise of 2 hours, most of the flour had been absorbed in and I did still have trouble getting it to release from the plastic board. Still, it was easier for cleaning than the towel. I may still try a few other ideas and see if I can come up with a “lazy person’s” solution.


The dough went into the hot dutch oven and then into the over for 30 minutes covered and then about 20 minutes uncovered. It was beautiful. Smelled great.

Since I had plans to meet a friend at a movie, this loaf got a chance to cool fully before I tried cutting anything. That made a huge difference to my cutting compared to the first loaf when I had too eagerly cut into it while hot. Things kind of jelled together making the cuts from my bread knife cleaner and not compressing the loaf as much.

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112It made lovely toast with a frittata that night and I’ve been eating it for breakfast and often for lunch for several days. I would happily make it again with only one change – maybe fewer olives. I love olives, but I think it seems a little heavy handed. Maybe 2/3 or 1/2 of what was suggested might be plenty. Still, it was an excellent variation on the Lahey standard. I would happily make it often.105

Yeast #3 is in the books.  Next month my goal is to start making things where I could kill the yeast and have to finally figure out the warm liquid temperature that will make things work as I expect.  Or hope.  I still want to keep it simple, so it’s likely to be something like a loaf of basic white bread.    We’ll see.

By the end of the year, I hope I can make things like pastry where the yeast dough is just one lovely component.

Hamburger helper, sort of…

049I was looking at food blocks a couple of weeks ago and saw something from Glamour magazine.   It referenced a woman’s blog where it first appeared where she wrote about making your own grown up hamburger helper.  The Glamour link looked identical.

It sent me back to my adolescence when I was just a novice cook.

As a kid, my mom cooked a lot of lovely, delicious food, but we didn’t eat much in the way of meat and pasta since my dad was not such a fan of pasta.  Or cheese.  Or Italian food and flavorings in general except for spaghetti and pizza.  We did eat “goulash” which had hamburger and elbow macaroni and a tomato/ketchup sauce, but that was pretty much it for the “exotic” stuff I saw on boxes at the store.

My early cooking was cans of condensed soup — especially tomato — where all I had to do was add milk or water.  Somewhere as I approached adolescence, I saw an ad or something for “souped up minute rice” where my condensed soup met instant rice to make a casserole-ish, risotto-ish concoction.  To be honest, it’s terrible, but I ate TONS of it as a kid.  When I tried it as an adult, I had a hard time believing I ever thought instant rice was rice.  After 3 years in Japan and then getting in the habit of cooking grains myself, instant rice is no longer possible for me.  If I need fast rice, I have to plan ahead by cooking a lot when I do have time and then freezing it in containers.  They microwave quickly in just a few minutes and the rice tastes fresh like it was just made.

After souped up minute rice, I moved on to the boxes of XX helper (hamburger, tuna, pasta, etc.).  It was amazing to me that I could just brown some meat or open some tuna and in just a short time I could be eating a creamy or tomato-y or cheesy pasta dish.  It satisfied my childhood macaroni and cheese gene.  We made the ones with pasta.  We made the ones with dried potato slices.  Mostly I ate it with my mom since my dad had no interest.  Or I ate it on my own.

In my early adulthood (college), I was still eating these helpers once in a while.  Less frequently, but not eliminated entirely.

In Japan, convenience cooking foods took a different direction.  Instead of a box of some kind of powder and pasta to which you added water/milk and meat, the Japanese quick help was mostly about the sauce.  For example, if you intended to make a meat and vegetable stir-fry of some kind, you had to come up with all of your own veggies and meat and the packet of liquid seasonings would be your shortcut to dinner.  A lot of it leaned toward Chinese flavors.

There were some powdered flavor items but they were usually one ingredient you might use in cooking rather than a “meal in a box.”

Coming back from Japan, those boxes didn’t hold the same allure for me as they once did, but seeing the article about making your own hamburger helper did get my attention.

It made me nostalgic.  And curious.    I figured it had to be better tasting that anything from a box.

I decided to give it a try.039

Some caveats, though.  I used ground turkey instead of beef.  No biggie except I had less fat to drain off and I was careful not to overcook the turkey to dry it out.  Second, I don’t use garlic powder or onion powder.  I find it pretty fast to just peel garlic and put it through my garlic press.  For onion, if I’m worried about cooking time being too short to thoroughly cook it, I will grate it into dishes.  Looking at the recipe, I knew I’d be adding fresh garlic and onion using these technique rather than using the powders.


Grating onion with a microplane.


Fresh garlic!


Grated garlic and onion instead of powder.

Still, it’s quite easy.

  • 1 pound ground beef — I used ground turkey
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked whole-wheat pasta — I used regular pasta since I had it
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. whole-wheat white flour — I used the flour I had in my house
  • 1/4 tsp. onion salt — I grated some fresh onion instead, maybe several tablespoons worth of grated onion
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder — I put 2-3 cloves of garlic through my garlic press
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 3/4 cup sharp Cheddar cubes or freshly shredded sharp Cheddar — I had grated cheese so I used grated cheese
  • Pink Himalayan salt to taste — I used Lawry’s seasoned salt to season my turkey but I think salt could be fine
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • [Editor’s note: I add a dash of Tabasco sauce for an extra dose of flavor] — I used smoked paprika since I had it.  I was looking for something more smoky than spicy.

The other thing I really liked is this is an example of a recipe that cooks pasta in a risotto style which means you put everything in one pot — including the dry pasta — and then have enough liquid to cook the pasta and thicken into a risotto-like mixture.  I saw this years ago and use it every so often if I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to clean a pot or don’t want to have to wash a dirty pot by hand to be able to make pasta.

053After browning the meat and draining off the fat, you add in the pasta, onion, garlic, flour, cheese, milk and water.  Over a medium/medium high heat, you stir everything together and then bring it to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and keep stirring.  It could scorch quickly due to the milk and the cheese.  The recipe said to cover which I think was to help the pasta to cook both by boiling and steaming.  I found it needed to be stirred so often that it was hard to manage the covering.  Still, even with that challenge is was only 10-15 minutes or until the pasta was tender.

054It looked like hamburger helper — creamy, cheesy meat pasta.  It defiinitely tasted better than the box stuff.  I made some vegetables to go with it to try to cut through the richness, but it was an easy and satisfying lunch.  The leftovers weren’t as pretty because it “seized” as it got cold, but once reheated it was still pretty tasty though I’m not sure I’d make it regularly.

Maybe only when I get nostalgic for my early cooking memories.

Stove toast


Buttery and crispy on the outside but still soft and chewy on the inside. YUM!

I made a lovely loaf of “artisan” bread (to me, this basically means round, not loaf-shaped, and with that super crusty crust) on Saturday.  I had been happily eating on it through the weekend and into Monday.  This morning I was faced with one solitary piece of bread.  It still appeared to be good and would certainly be fine for toast, but I had cut it too large to fit into the slots of my toaster.  It wasn’t a tragedy but I knew the bread might be a bit stale for fresh eating.

Undaunted, I began to think about the best of grilled cheese sandwiches — the buttery, crispy outer bread.  I decided to try the same idea with just the bread and make ‘stove toast.’  It was awesome.  And easy.

Heat pan.  Put butter in pan.  Coat both sides of bread in butter.  Continue to swirl toast around the pan and flip from side to side until you get the desired brownness.  Remove and indulge in very yummy toast.

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My only advice:

  • Use salted butter.  You need the extra saltiness unless you’re going to gild the lily by adding honey or jam or other toppings.  I ate mine “plain” so I was happy to have the salted butter.
  • The process is kind of like browning butter and toasting at the same time.  While you still have butter in liquid form in your pan, things go pretty slowly.  As the butter is absorbed and the pan appears “drier,” you really need to keep an eye on things.  At that point, you could go to burned toast very easily.  This is not the time to walk away or try to do something else.

011 012013 014Otherwise, it’s very tasty.  A little less work than making french toast.  A little more work than making regular toast.  I was happy and it seemed a fitting end to my homemade loaf of bread.