Bake With The Bake Off - Bread Week
Bread week. It can break even the most seasoned of bakers, but it's my favorite week of the Bake Off. Granted, I don't have Paul and Pru glaring over my shoulder while I guess whether or not my dough has proofed long enough. It's always the most inspiring for me, especially with the change in weather.
This year's bread week was kicked off by an Irish Soda Bread signature challenge, and Sura brought a flavor combination inspired by her Middle Eastern heritage that impressed the judges and inspired me. Za'atar and olives may not be traditional to soda bread, but it sounded so delicious I had to recreate it at home. Conveniently, we just received a shipment of Moroccan Za'atar and Picholine Olives from Villa Jerada.
Villa Jerada was started by Mehdi Boujrada, a Moroccan immigrant who moved to Seattle but missed the flavors of home. When Mehdi started his company in Seattle, his mother flew out from Morocco to help him work out the recipes. Together, they sourced ingredients both stateside and imported that could replicate the flavors of home. His sauces and spice blends are made in Seattle but using traditional Moroccan ingredients and flavors.
Villa Jerada's Picholine Olives are mild, not overly brined, and tender. The combination with Za'atar in this soda bread recipe delivers an exceptionally savory punch. I served my soda bread with a compound butter made from Villa Jerada's Chermoula Spread.
Za'atar and Olive Soda Bread
Za'atar can be hard to find, but we carry a savory blend made by Villa Jerada. Any mild flavored olive can be used in place of picholine. Be sure to squeeze out as much excess moisture as possible from the olives and pat them dry.
Preheat oven to 400º. You can use a cast iron skillet, pizza stone, or regular baking sheet for baking. If using a baking sheet, line with parchment paper. If using a cast iron skillet or pizza stone, place in the oven to preheat.
Whisk together the buttermilk and eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and Za'atar. Cut in the butter using a pastry fork or your fingers, then mix in the pitted and chopped Picholine Olives.
Pour in the buttermilk/egg mixture. Gently fold together dough using your hands or a spatula until it is too stiff to stir. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead just until it comes together.
Work the dough into a 8 or 9 inch round loaf. Using a very sharp knife, score an X into the top. Be sure to cut at least 1/2" deep or the center of your bread may end up gooey and under cooked.
Transfer the loaf to your baking sheet, pizza stone, or cast iron skillet and place in the oven. Bake until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, approximately 45 minutes. Loosely cover the bread with aluminum foil if you notice heavy browning on top before fully baked.
Soda bread is best served warm. Once baked, allow to cool for about 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with plenty of butter, and more Za'atar for seasoning.
- Marguerite Jodry