Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Overnight sourdough cheese and olive or sundried tomato bread - and resilience

When you read about all the people taking up sourdough during the corona virus lockdown, they are the ones learning about sourdough basics.  For people like me who have been baking sourdough for years, the lockdown has given time to play with fun ideas.  Not only have we barely brought bread over the past couple of months but I have also made quite a few loaves of cheese and olive bread and cheese and sundried tomato bread. 

I was initially inspired by Karen at Lavender and Lovage who posted a recipe for sourdough pizza bread rolls in February.  In mid March as we were starting to work at home, I planned to make a cheese and sundried tomato bread.  The vision of sundried tomatoes in the fridge turned out to be a figment of my imagination.  But I had olives.  I had thought Sylvia might try sundried tomatoes but I knew she was not a fan of olives.  I put them in the bread anyway!  As you can see in the below picture from this batch, I usually make a loaf of bread and some bread rolls with each batch.

Since then I have made bread with different but quite strongly flavoured cheeses and either sundried tomatoes or olives quite a number of times.  These are our latest favourite bread.  Especially the cheese and olive bread!  Today Sylvia is fascinated with olives and trying them in different meals such as sprinkling on a pizza or fried egg.  So many times I have tried to encourage her to eat new things, with little outcome other than pain and disappointment, that I am still a little astounded that she has started to eat olives with no pushing from me!  Those of you who think I should just stand back and let her try things when she wants would not get much support from me.  I still see her reject a lot of what I cook for dinner. 

Now, a couple of months after my first attempt at olive bread, Sylvia is delighted when I make cheese and olive bread.  Her face falls a little if I make plain sourdough now.  Some days I don't have the energy to chop and grate.  I am thankful that lockdown has given me more time and motivation to bake bread.

The bread and rolls have often been part of our lunch.  Sylvia loves hers with a fried egg between the halves.  I love it with some soup, if there is any about.  I enjoy being able to heat leftovers for lunch while working from home and not having to cart it to work and make sure it does not spill.  And having nice bread makes any lunch feel special.  It is a nice pick-me-up when lockdown feels a bit grim.  (Actually we are gradually easing away from lockdown with 5 visitors now allowed, schools planning to open within weeks and bars and cafes opening in a couple of weeks but I am not sure when we will stop working from home.)

But I have wondered if one reason Sylvia has started to try olives is that this seemed a small change compared to all the big changes she has had to face.

When people ask me what I think about her doing school from home, I say that it is a great learning opportunity.  Her school talks about resilience a lot.  But never in their wildest dreams could they have presented the kids with such an amazing exercise in resilience.  I understand that not every kid will thrive but I think this will make for an interesting cohort of kids.  I expect there will be a lot of study on the long term effects on their development. 

For Sylvia who is to finish primary school this year, I hope this experience will make it much easier for her to start high school next year.  She has been given a taste of changing how she studies, learning to be independent, coping without her friends about, and undergoing huge changes.  Surely this will stand her in great stead next year when she faces more change.  I tend to focus on this rich experience more than on the possibility that her end of primary school might not have all the events that it usually would.  After all, if if if we can manage to dodge a second wave lockdown, she is luckier than some of her cousins overseas who are finishing primary school or high school without returning to their classrooms.  And I am sure there will be more appreciation for her last couple of terms of school after schooling at home.

And it is not just school kids who are experiencing massive change.  I am finding it all quite tiring and sometimes sad, but also rather fascinating.  People are experimenting and adapting to new ways of communication.  And we are all seeing each other in a new light.  We are seeing:

We might all have Zoom Fatigue but we are seeing lots of innovation.  There is lots of war analagy being used that is a bit off the mark, but one similarity is that we are going to have opportunities for self reflection, scientific discoveries and compassion that we might not have imagined beforehand.

And if we are baking more sourdough bread than before, well that is one of the positive changes from the corona virus.  While I always love to support local bakers, there is nothing like freshly baked bread in your kitchen.  Not only does it taste wonderful but the kitchen smells so good too.  Because I can appreciate change but I love cosiness!

More interesting sourdough breads on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Carrot, onion and poppy seed bread
Charcoal sourdough bread
Malted loaf with chocolate, figs and brazil nuts
Roast potato and rosemary bread
Sourdough cheesymite scrolls

Cheese and olive/sundriied tomato bread
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 2 loaves (or 16 rolls)

Cheese and Olive Bread:

300g of bubbly starter
570g water
150g smoked cheese, grated
120g olives
1 tbsp lemon juice
16g salt
1 kg of flour

Cheese and SunDried Tomato Bread:

300g of bubbly starter
570g water
150g red Leicester cheese, grated
100g sundried tomatoes, drained of oil
3 tbsp sundried tomato oil
1 handful basil leaves, ripped
16g salt
1 kg of flour

[A few hours before making the loaf, take sourdough starter out of the fridge and feed it so it gets nice and bubbly.]

About an hour before going to bed (or first thing in the morning) mix everything together.  It is easiest to mix everything except flour first and then add flour.  Use hands to mix if required.  It is very sticky at this stage but settles into a more manageable dough.  Set aside covered with a tea towel for half an hour.  Knead in the bowl for about 15 seconds.  Cover with greased clingwrap or a bowl cover and leave at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured board.  (I used fine semolina to "flour" the surfaces.)  Shape into a loaves (or cut and shape into rolls - if doing rolls I let them rise in the casserole as they don't need much in the way of slashing but slashing loaves is hard in the casserole). Place on a sheet of baking paper or a floured surface and cover with the lightly greased clingwrap or beeswax. Set aside to rise for 30 minutes.  While the loaves rise, preheat oven to 240 C.  I use enamel casserole dishes and don't heat them but used to heat them when I used ceramic casseroles.

Slash the loaves and put in the casserole dishes with lids on (or on a tray or in a tin).  I transfer the loaves on the baking paper but this is optional.  Bake for 20 minutes with lid (or foil cover) on.  Remove lid/foil and bake another 20 minutes.  Bread is ready if it sounds hollow when tapped.  If needed, reduce heat to 180 C and return to oven for another 10 minutes to make sure the crust is crispy and sounds hollow.  Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.

On the Stereo:
The best of the radio songs: The Church


  1. Your savory cheesy olive breads look most excellent! Our tastes do change; glad your little girl now likes the joys of olives. Around here, there is a total shortage of flour. I've found enough to make treats like cakes and cookies every couple of weeks but daily bread baking is totally out of the question.

    Good luck with the reopening and I hope it goes well. This has certainly been a time for reflection and changed attitudes in the middle of the chaos.

  2. Your observations about how this all affects children are very interesting. I can think of so many ways that we can experience longer-term effects of this whole experience, no matter what our ages. My 17 year old granddaughter says its "historic," and her yearbook staff are making a special supplement about it (she's the editor). But she seems pretty upbeat about the whole thing.

    be well... mae at

  3. My sourdough efforts were always middling at best, but I do like a flavoured bread. I've been just making standard white or wholemeal loaves, but I've been getting a bit bored, so maybe I need to dig out the olives and sundried tomatoes, both of which I love!

  4. That's an amazingly beautiful bread, love it!

  5. Beautiful! Love the deep slashes and the golden hue. I think the current times are about the changes that happen in our lives and how it reminds of what is and isn't in oir control

  6. This looks delicious Johanna. And yes 2020 is definitely the year of resilience! I hope there's nothing after COVID-19 to challenge us even further though. What a year.


Thanks for dropping by. I love hearing from you. Please share your thoughts and questions. Annoyingly the spammers are bombarding me so I have turned on the pesky captcha code (refresh to find an easy one if you don't like the first one)