Olive oil herb slab

This past weekend, I had some of my best friends come over for a Sunday brunch potluck. Mmm, nothing better than enjoying our last day of the weekend over some cheese, organic fruits, Belgian waffles, and mimosas. One of my favorite Sunday’s of the year, thus far.

*Side note: Speaking of the Belgian waffles – after I had already started making them, I realized that we didn’t have milk. Rummaged through the fridge to find any dairy substitute and found plain yogurt. Gave it a shot. (Based of this waffle recipe, and substituted milk for plain yogurt with a dash of water and vanilla extract.) Turned out to be really, really good. I think the yogurt added a moistness to the waffle, and also gave it a light texture while maintaining enough density to resemble a classic Belgian waffle. Maybe I’ll write up a recipe for it one of these days. Improvisation at its finest!

brunch1 brunch2

Though after our brunch, I found myself with a lot of leftover cheese. Although cheese is so good I’d eat it by itself, I thought it’d be nice to make something to go with it so I don’t finish all the cheese all in one sitting (highly likely).

So I decided on some sort of bread. Before my move to San Diego, I used to go to the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market in San Francisco quite often with my family, and my go-to items would be some sort of triple cream cheese from Cowgirl Creamery (I recommend Red Hawk or Mt. Tam) paired with Acme Bread Company’s herb slab. Yum.

Unfortunately there’s no Acme Bread anywhere near me, so I had to do the next best thing. Make my own herb slab. It’s surprisingly easy – good for those afternoons when you’re just lounging around the house and don’t mind waiting for your dough to rise. I just picked up my guitar and let the yeast do its magic, and before I knew it, it was pretty much ready.

While this makes a lot of bread, there are so many uses for this that it’s hard to get sick of – I’ll probably use some of the leftover bread to make some sandwiches and/or croutons this weekend.

Ingredients
2 cups warm water
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 tsp fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic, finely chopped

1. In a large mixing bowl, pour the warm water and yeast in. Stir gently really quick, and let it sit for about 15 minutes or until the top of the mixture has a foamy layer.

2. Prepare a separate large bowl by coating the inside of it completely with olive oil. Set aside for now.

3. In the first bowl with the yeast, add in the flour, sugar, salt, and 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Knead the dough thoroughly for about 20 minutes, or until it’s not sticking to your hands and the sides of the bowl anymore (as much). It’ll appear smooth and elastic. It’ll be really sticky at first, but be patient and keep kneading!

Olive oil herb slab

Olive oil herb slab

 

3. When the dough is ready, transfer it to the well-oiled bowl, cover with a cloth towel, and place it somewhere warm to rise for 1 hour and 30 minutes. *Tip: The cloth towel helps the dough retain both moisture and heat for a more effective rise.

4. Kick back and relax for a bit while it’s rising.

5. After the first rising period, your dough should have at least doubled in size. On a baking tray lined with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, place the now-risen dough. With your hands, gently flatten it out evenly over the sheet – doesn’t have to be perfect, and don’t make it too thin!

Olive oil herb slab

 

6. Place the cloth towel over it again, and set the tray in a warm place and let the dough rise for another 45 minutes.

7. Preheat your oven to 400°F.

8. While waiting for the dough to rise, mix together the remaining (2 1/2 tbsp) olive oil, fresh herbs, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. I like to use the back of my spoon and press the herbs into the olive oil a few times just to release more of the flavor. Let the olive oil/herb mixture steep while you wait for the dough.

Olive oil herb slab

Olive oil herb slab

 

9. When the final rising is finished, use either your knuckles or fingertips to make little indentations throughout the dough. *Note: Make sure you don’t press too hard or you’ll deflate the dough. Brush the olive oil/herb mixture all over the top of the dough.

Olive oil herb slab

 

10. When the oven is ready, pop tray in and bake for 20 minutes, or until set and the entire top has browned evenly.

Olive oil herb slab

 

11. Let the bread cool completely (about 20-30 minutes) before slicing and serving. Serve with creamy cheese, balsamic vinegar + olive oil, soup, or whatever you want!

Olive oil herb slab

Olive oil herb slab

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