Let's Cook with Meg and Ted

Spinach and olive bread

This bread came out beautifully, and looked pretty impressive - the loaf is about 35 cm long, 20 cm wide and 15 cm high. You could change the filling to suit yourself - it's lovely and simple as written here, but next time I might try adding pine nuts and perhaps some crumbly goat's cheese. It would also work I think with roasted mixed vegetables, or even with a bunch of melty cheese, slow-cooked onions and some chopped herbs.

When I made this is was in an enormous hurry, so it's possible that I mismeasured something, but I ended up having to knead an extra 100 g or so of flour into the dough because it was so sticky and wet - I just kept adding till it felt like a normal bread dough. I am curious as to whether this was indeed due to a mistake in measuring the liquid or flour, or a problem with the original recipe, or if it was actually supposed to be like that. Next time I bake this (and I will definitely be making it again) I will be more careful with the measurements and see what happens.

Bread dough
7 g dried yeast or 15 g fresh
500 ml water, hand hot
350 g strong white flour (unbleached is best)
200g fine semolina
2 teaspoons salt

450 g fresh baby spinach
200 g fat black olives
1-2 cloves garlic
8 large sun dried tomatoes in oil
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

50 ml milk, or the white of one egg beaten with a teaspoon of water
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 100 ml of the water, and stir in a teaspoon of flour. Let sit, covered, in a warm place for 10 minutes until it is beginning to froth. Add the remaining 400 ml of water and stir well. Gradually mix in the flour, semolina and salt, adding it in tablespoon by tablespoon. Mix with your hands until a ball of dough is formed.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead vigorously for 10 minutes (this is where I added lots more flour). When the dough is silky and elastic, place it in a lightly oiled bowl and leave, covered, in a warm place, until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Wash and drain the spinach, and remove any tough stems. Put the leaves into a large pan just with the little water clinging to the leaves after draining, and cover and cook over medium heat until wilted. Tip the spinach into a colander, and allow to cool. Taking lumps of spinach between your hands, squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then chop very finely.

Pit the olives and chop finely. Peel and finely chop the garlic, and drain and chop the sun dried tomatoes. In a large pan or frying pan, heat a little olive oil, then add the spinach and garlic and saute for 2 minutes, then add the olives and tomatoes and cook for 1 minute further. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, and let it cool completely.

When the dough has risen, punch it down and roll into a circle about 40 cm in diameter. Lift the dough onto a greased and/or lined baking sheet. Spread the filling over the dough, to within 2.5 cm of the edges. Roll the dough up tightly like a swiss roll. Turn the ends under to seal. Make half a dozen 1 cm-deep slits on the top of the roll with a sharp knife. Brush with the milk or egg wash, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cover and let the bread rise again in a warm place for 30 minutes. While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 200C.

Bake the bread for 35 minutes until golden, then remove to a wire rack. It's best to cool before serving (although I admit when I made this we were eating it about 7 minutes after it came out of the oven).

Recipe adapted from Ursula Ferrigno's Pane di spinachi della nonna.

10 January 2004

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