Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pompe a L'huile (Olive Oil Bread from France)

Bunker and I just enjoyed the most delicious and peaceful dinner on our back porch. Granted...we just finished eating and it is after 10 p.m. I am not what you would call gifted in the time management department when it comes to cooking. However, this dinner was more than worth the wait. Bunker grilled the chicken on the outdoor grill, and I made hand-made pasta with a fresh tomato sauce and this olive oil bread. I will post the pasta dish on Monday!

I found the recipe for this bread, which hearkens from Provence, in The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook. It is a golden round disk of slightly sweet and incredibly delicate bread, a true treat. Of course, I have made some changes, so below you will find exactly what I did rather than the original recipe.

Have you ever been to Provence? You really must go at some point. It is a breath of fresh air and a step back in time. The sun shines brighter, the food tastes fresher, time slows down, the wine shimmers and the air sparkles. Here are some pictures from my trip to Provence with my parents five summers ago!

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3 to 4 cups of all-purpose flour (I increased the original 2 cups to about 4 cups due to my using honey rather than sugar...therefore I had a much moister dough than I would have if I had used the sugar)
1/4 cup of warm milk
1 1/4 ounce envelope of active dry yeast (mine was rapid rise...which shortens the waiting period)
5 tablespoons of Honey (the original recipe called for sugar)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon of salt (the original recipe calls for only 1/2 teaspoon of salt)
1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
(I omitted the 1 tablespoon of orange-flower water and the 2 tablespoons of grated orange zest....I just didn't have either and I honestly just don't care for orange flavors)

1. Put 2 cups of flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center of the flour.

2. Pour the 1/4 cup of warm milk into the center of the flour well.

3. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the milk in the center of the flour well.

4. Set this aside for about 5 minutes so that the yeast can absorb some of the liquid.
5. Add a Tablespoon of the honey to the yeast and milk.

6. Sprinkle some of the flour from the bowl on top of the yeast, milk and honey until it is completely covered with a thin layer of flour.

7. Set this bowl aside for about 30 minutes to let the yeast begin to work.
8. While you wait for the yeast to develop, you can work on the rest of the components for the bread.

(This is what the flour an yeast should look like after 30 minutes, it will be slightly poofy in the well.)
9. In a separate bowl combine 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt.

10. Beat this mixture until it becomes foamy. I used the old fashioned method, a fork and my own muscle power. It took about 10 minutes off and on.

11. After you achieve this foamy consistency, add in the 1/2 cup of olive oil (and the orange-flower water and orange zest if you choose to include these components) and beat for about 5 minutes.

12. Add the egg and olive oil mixture into the flour bowl.

13. Slowly integrate the flour from the edges of the bowl into the well and then begin to mix the dough with a wooden spoon and then with your hands.

14. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and add the remaining one cup to two cups of flour as you knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Kneading dough develops the gluten, essential for the dough to rise and for the texture of the bread to develop correctly. Also, kneading dough is an incredibly therapeutics process.

15. Grease a bowl with a tiny amount of olive oil and place the kneaded dough into the bowl.

16. Cover this bowl with a tea cloth and set aside in a warm place for about an hour.
17. After this hour, punch down the dough and place it in a lightly oiled round cake pan.

18. Cover the dough again and let it rise for another hour in a warm place.
19. The dough should be doubled in size. Using a very sharp knife cut a design of your choice into the top of the dough. Mine was boring, you can be more creative.

20. Beat the third egg together with a teaspoon of water.

21. Cover the dough in a thin layer of this beaten egg, you will only use about half of the egg.

22. Bake the dough in a 375 degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, mine took 25 minutes. It should be golden brown with a glossy sheen.

PS for the day...

Have you wondered what bowls I use for prep work and such? Probably not...but I will share with you what they are anyways!

So these were wedding gifts for my parents wedding in the 70s! I love them, not only because they are perfectly sized, or that they display my favorite color combination (blue and white), but mostly because they belonged to my mom and she gave them to me. Granted, she lives about 4 blocks away from me, but there is just something so comforting about using something of hers on a daily basis. Something to think about. Take a moment today and look around your there something that you use everyday that seems to be meaningless? I bet you can find at least one thing that seems like just a thing, but really carries a lot of meaning due to its attachment or association with someone you love!

The pups say hi!

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