Rosemary Olive Oil Sourdough
I have always been an avid gardener and was thrilled that this summer I would be in one place long enough to take care of one. Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Teller County Colorado, my home this summer is perched on a windy ridge at 9,000 feet. I thought the greatest obstacles I would have to overcome were high winds and lack of moisture in the air. These, however, I believed I could combat readily by bringing inside my plants during particularly vicious windstorms and watering daily. So, I naively went about planting a container garden on my back deck consisting of two tomatoes, a bell pepper, some sweet potatoes, salad greens, and various fresh herbs. And then I waited for my bountiful harvest.
At last, it never came. I noticed that the chipmunks and ground squirrels seemed intrigued by my pots and even came up to the edge of them and sniffed curiously at the plants. I didn’t suspect any trouble from them though. Why eat an acidic tomato plant when there was a tasty seed block nearby? My innocence was short lived. I came home one day after work to an utter massacre. The ground squirrels had not simply nibbled on my plants, they dug down deep to the roots and carried away the plants in their entirety. I didn’t even have a single leaf left over to mourn. Both tomatoes and the bell pepper had vanished, the sweet potatoes (weighing close to a kilo each!) had been dug up and hauled away to some winter root cellar of the rodents, and even the tiny salad seedlings were strewn about the soil surface, the squirrels using those pots similar to playground sandboxes.
I took action fast. The pots that had remaining herbs, such as basil, rosemary, and mint, I quickly took inside and I replanted the salad mix and spinach seeds inside. I let them get a good start and then constructed a wire cage to put around my pots. Recently, I relocated them outside, surrounded by this new fortification and a boyfriend on guard with a large mallet. Now they will be able to enjoy the sun and soaking rains up here without the fear of certain death by chipmunk.
This post so far must seem utterly unrelated to bread. But, now here is the connection. As homage to my resilient rosemary plant, which withstood both the dry weather and the voracious chipmunks, I decided to make a rosemary olive oil sourdough. This dough contains a mixture of whole wheat and white flours, is enriched with olive oil, and requires a long slow rise to let the sourdough develop. The final loaf is imbued with the strong taste and aroma of rosemary and fills in your mouth with the lovely nuttiness of both the whole wheat flour and olive oil. I was very satisfied with the outcome. I’m eager for many a smug meal outside on the deck, a slice of this bread in hand, watching the ground squirrels hungrily eye my bread that they will never have a taste of.
Rosemary Olive Oil Sourdough
Yield: ~1900 g
575 grams water
355 grams ripe starter at 100% hydration
450 grams all purpose flour
510 grams whole wheat flour
23 grams salt
5 grams chopped fresh rosemary
55 grams extra virgin olive oil
Combine the water, starter, and flours in a large bowl and mix until combined. Cover and let sit (or autolyse) for 20 minutes. Add salt and knead for 5 minutes. Add rosemary and oil and knead again for 5 minutes. Knead until the dough reaches a medium level of gluten development or it passes the windowpane test.
Let the dough ferment for 3 or 4 hours in a large oiled container with folds at every hour except the last.
Divide dough into two pieces and shape into loose balls. Let rest for 15 minutes. Shape the dough as desired and proof for 1½ to 2 hours in a proofing basket at room temperature. Retard for 8 to 12 hours by covering the loaves tightly and placing in the refrigerator. Remove the loaves from the oven and finish proofing at room temperature for another 2 to 2½ hours.
Preheat the oven to 500 °F with a steaming pan. Score the loaves and put in the oven. Once the loaves are in the oven turn the temperature down to 450 °F. Bake for 20 minutes with steam and another 30 minutes without. Turn off oven, crack the door, and leave the loaves in for 10 more minutes. Cool completely.