From the category archives:


A million years ago I had the pleasure of living in Cortona, Italy. A picturesque Tuscany town way up in the hills. As an art student (well for that year anyway) the simple upended nature of a town older than Rome perched almost sideways on a mountain was astounding. Just beyond what you imagine Tuscany.

But being me, my favorite thing was a breakfast sandwich made of focaccia with garlic, rosemary and olives with a thin rolled up omelet and house made mayonnaise tucked inside. Yes, Saint Francis lived there; never saw his room. I never did draw a sunrise or even bother to photograph one, but I would get out of bed to get one of these treasures. At about 6:30 AM I would climb a few thousand steps down to a small bakery that sold these little sandwiches wrapped in butcher’s paper. By 7:00, they would be gone. The bells for the monks would go off at 6:00; If you did not get up, you did not get one.

I did need to get up. I needed to get back up to the convent of Santa Margherita before school to start the sauces and prep the kitchen for the chefs. 4 millimetri a cubetti padrone? Si! Well my Italian sucks, but I did learn to cook.

Anyway, I never liked to get up early. But this, this was about the same as the Sistine Chapel. Artistry. From a bakery several hundred years old.  Magic.

Ok, it’s out and the kids are attacking. One walked off with a letter sized chunk. I can’t wait for breakfast. Go make this now!


6 tablespoons olive oil divided
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 heaping tablespoon yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan
½ cup Kalamata olives roughly chopped
Sea salt or Kosher salt optional as a topping.


Combine yeast, sugar and warm water in your mixing bowl and let stand 15 minutes

Add the flour and salt and mix for about 60 seconds with an electric mixer with a dough hook. Add a bit more water if the mix becomes a thick dough. The mix should be somewhat runny and sticky.

Add the rosemary, garlic and olives and mix until blended in for about 15 to 30 seconds

Drizzle 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 9 x 13 sheet pan. Make sure to coat the sides and let the rest settle on the bottom.

Spread the dough in the pan and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes. Well at least 60 minutes, a little more won’t hurt.

Drizzle the dough with the last half of the olive oil. Use your fingers to poke down the dough (see the picture below). Let it rest for 15 minutes.
If you plan to eat the loaf warm and fresh, sprinkle the top with the salt. If you plan on cooling the loaf for the next day, skip this step. The salt will make then to soggy overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Bake the bread until for 25 minutes. Turn the oven up to 425 and bake another 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and wait 5 minutes. You can turn it out on a rack to cool, or better just set it on a cutting board and eat it hot.


I had planned to write-up a pasta dish; rigatoni with roasted butternut squash, garlic, sage  and shiitake mushrooms. But along the way I decided to make some bread. It was noon and that seemed like an idea too late.

About two years ago I had read a no kneading simple bread recipe but I forgot about it since it needed 12 to 18 hours to rise. Who has 18 hours? And it sounded just wrong. Mix up flour, water, salt and yeast in a bowl and let it sit. Bake it in a Dutch oven and done. Perfect crust. Perfect texture. Bread baking is hard. Right?

Here is the article by Mark Bittman and you should probably check out Jim Lahey at The Sullivan Street bakery: He came up with the basic technique.

Anyway, what I wrongly remembered was that it was quick. And with the gloom and doom of Sandy washing in, I thought filling the house with the smell of fresh olive bread might make the family happy. The other thing I know is that I don’t bake – too many rules. It’s not that I can’t, it’s just the weighing and timing and all that. With cooking, I can fake just about any technique. Not that I do, but I can. Baking? Not so much.

But now, I can cheat baking as well! Well not really. But for a good loaf with a perfect crust and texture? Yup. This still needs several hours, but little work. It works. For basic bread, just use 1 1/2 tablespoons salt and replace the brine with water.

Cheaters Olive Bread


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
½ cup chopped kalamata olives
1 tablespoon garlic salt
½ cup olive brine
1 ¼ cups water
1 ½ 2 packets quick rise yeast (it has to be quick rise) 10.5 grams.
1 oven proof Dutch oven with a lid – required.

Reserve for the last part:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour


Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
Cover with damp kitchen towel and let rise for 4 hours or so in a 70 degree spot.

Make sure to use a cloth and not a terry towel.

Lay out the towel  and flour the center with half of the flour and the semolina flour.
Turn out the dough onto the towel and cover both sides with a bit of the mixed flour.
Add more as needed.
Fold the dough in 1/2 twice and form into a round
Cover with the towel and let rise ½ hour.

Place the Dutch oven in the oven and turn on to 450 degrees

When the oven reaches 450. Fold the dough into the pot and cover.
Bake for 30 minutes and remove the lid.
Bake for another 15 minutes and remove

Let the loaf cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Other than the cooking time, time is flexible. If it needs to rise for 8 hours, let it rise. And really, once it’s in the towel, it can rise for up to 2 hours.


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