The garlic butter can be made ahead of time, wrapped in a parchment paper or plastic wrap role, and kept in the refrigerator for three days.
You can even make up the entire bread without toasting it, wrap it well with plastic wrap, then freeze. It will thaw within an hour, ready to toast up in your oven or broiler and serve hot.
Great as a side with soup.
1 large ciabatta loaf, cut in half horizontally
1/2 pound butter, softened
3 – 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 – 2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
1 – Pre-heat oven to 400˚ F.
2 – In a bowl, put the softened butter, the garlic, and parsley. Mash and mix thoroughly with a fork.
3 – Layout the bread onto a baking sheet, cut-side up.
4 – Divide the butter in half, putting one half onto the center of each half of bread. Spread evenly with a spatula, making sure you bring it to the edge of the bread. Sprinkle on the cheese over each half.
4 – Put the baking sheet in the center of a 400˚F oven for 5 – 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the edges of the bread are becoming toasted.
5 – Remove from oven. Using tongs, place the bread on a cutting board, then, slice across the loaf into 2-inch strips. Serve immediately.
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars and see yourself running with them.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
We tasted extra virgin olive oils at the last public meeting…
… of the Culinary Historians of San Diego (CHSD) (CHSanDiego.com). Mary Platis and Laura Bashar (TwoExtraVirgins.com), authors of Cooking Techniques and Recipes with Olive Oil, walked us through the tastings and the history of California olive oil.
We learned that “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” is a recent designation, indicating the first, cold pressing, (without heat or chemicals: so-called “refining”). Our mouths learned that even among extra virgin olive oils, the taste can range from mild and buttery to fruity, even to catch-the-back-of-your-throat peppery.
As with wine, the flavor of olive oil depends on several factors: geography, age of the trees, variety of fruit, as well as the pressing. The best infused olive oils are those in which the flavoring, like jalapeños or herbs or citrus fruits, are cold pressed along with the olives.
Mary and Laura stress the importance of tasting before you buy — find suppliers with a tasting room so that you can choose an oil that you like. Even with a range of top quality extra virgin olive oils, it is the particular flavor that appeals to youthat matters.
Olive trees were first planted in all the California missions during the 18th century. That original variety became known as Mission, with other varieties following.
After the American Civil War, the first commercial orchards were planted in Santa Barbara, producing olives for the market within four years.
Even before the turn of the 20th century, nearly 90,000 trees were growing throughout the state. Today, California ranks as the world’s third largest producer of olive oil.
As half of the CHSD Hospitality committee, I needed to come up with a treat or two that would reflect the theme of the talk. (Carole, the other half of the committee, was recovering from surgery, so I was playing on my own this month.)
Focaccia – a flat Italian bread made with olive oil – seemed a good choice.
I ordered a platter of little sandwiches from Pan Bon (www.panbon.us), a new café/bakery/deli/restaurant that’s one of my favorite new places in Little Italy. (Their other place is in Verona, Italy.) The bread was light and fluffy, with a delicious vein of prosciutto and fontina. The sandwiches were perfect as a traditional offering.
But, I also wanted something a little different. I wanted to get my own hands into dough and olive oil. I wanted something sweet to marry with the coffee and tea we serve after the talk. What’s better than dark chocolate, with a breath of cinnamon, a sprinkle of sugar? That’s what my muse whispered to me.
Besides, maybe at first glance, it might look like a more typical focaccia, studded with black olives and flaked sea salt, a sort of culinary joke.
Baked in one half-sheet (jelly roll) pan (12” x 17” x 1”), the yield is 48 – 2” square pieces, fewer if cut larger. Overall, this takes about 3-4 hours in elapsed time to make, but most of this is time for the two risings, then baking.
1 3/4 cup warm water (110 – 115˚F)
2 packages active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar (for yeast growth)
5 cups (about 2 pounds by weight) organic unbleached Artisan Bread Enriched Flour (for example, Bob’s Red Mill, plus more for kneading)
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup fair trade organic dark (bittersweet) chocolate chips
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup (2 separate measures) extra virgin olive oil + a little more (1/4 cup) for coating bowl when rising and brushing on at end
1/4 cup coarse-grain, sparkling white sugar
1 – Proof the yeast by adding it to water (not hotter than 115˚F), along with the granulated sugar for yeast and stir. Let it stand for 5 – 10 minutes for it to become bubbly and fragrant.
2 – In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, salt, coconut palm sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate chips to distribute evenly. Attach the bowl to the mixer.
3 – Attach the dough hook. Stir yeasty water, then add it to mixer bowl, along with 1/2 cup olive oil.
4 – Mix on low speed at first, gradually increasing to medium speed, kneading for 5 – 6 minutes. Bits of warmed chocolate and the cinnamon will turn the dough a pale, streaky brown.
5 – Flour a board or other clean surface, and turn out kneaded flour mixture. Knead it by hand a few more times, then shape it into a ball.
6 – Drizzle 2 – 3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a large mixing bowl, making sure that the inside of the entire bowl is well coated.
7 – Put the ball of dough in the bottom of the large mixing bowl, turning it around in the olive oil to coat it completely.
8 – Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm (up to 115˚ F) place for at least 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
9 – Remove dough from bowl, and knead by hand a few times to remove excess air. The dough should be springy, smooth. and stretchy.
10 – Onto the half sheet pan, pour 1/3 cup of olive oil.
11 – Stretch the dough out on the oily pan, pulling it to the edges and corners, poking your fingers through to make little holes. These will fill in as the dough rises, and give your bread a nice bumpy top crust.
12 – When the dough is stretched over the full pan, brush on a thin coat of olive oil. Sprinkle on the coarse sugar.
13 – Cover the pan with a clean linen towel and let rest for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough has risen to the top of the pan.
14 – After 45 minutes of the dough resting and rising, preheat the oven to 425˚F.
15 – When bread has risen to the top of the pan, bake at 425˚F for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the bread has a golden crust and registers 205 – 210˚F on an instant-read thermometer.
16 – Cool bread in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes to let it set. Then, using a long spatula, remove from pan and cool on a rack at least 5 – 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature with coffee or tea.