Early this morning (like every morning) I stepped out to my little garden hoping to find just one ripe tomato ready to eat—not yet! The heat here in the Southwest slows everything down, keeping me well away from the tomato party, but I’m getting close. In an attempt to channel some of that vibrant tomato flavor usually so abundant during this time, I turned to the mighty sun-dried tomato preserved in olive oil. While these are a staple here in the winter months—I use them most often on sourdough pizza and in pasta—they’re also an incredibly delicious ingredient to mix into loaves of sourdough bread.
In this bread, the tomatoes bring an intense sweet-tart flavor, one which seems to subtly permeate the entire loaf. I also added chopped kalamata olives, which add a pleasant, briny note that magnifies the flavor of the tomatoes. (If you don’t have or like kalamata olives, Castelvetrano would be an excellent substitute.) And while these flavors sound like two heavy and rich mix-ins, I’ve included them in moderation—making this not so much an olive and tomato-stuffed loaf, but rather a savory, tangy, long-fermented sourdough with a complementary of flavors.
This is a rather straightforward naturally leavened bread, and it doesn’t require you to make a specific levain (an off-shoot of your sourdough starter); instead, simply use some of your ripe, liquid sourdough starter to get started.. This loaf tastes excellent sliced thick and topped with fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar; covered with a spread of ricotta; or simply dunked in fruity olive oil. To say it goes well with a plate of fresh pasta would be an understatement.
A note on mix-in preparation:
When weighing out the sun-dried tomatoes, don’t drain the oil clinging to the tomato (but try not to introduce too much additional oil). The oil brings additional flavor to the end loaf of bread and imparts a softness to the crumb and crust. I prefer chopping the sun-dried tomatoes into small pieces, to distribute little pops of sweet-tart flavor in each bit of bread.
For the kalamata olives, drain them of their brine and rinse with water to remove as much as possible. I prefer slicing the olives in half to ensure no pits remain, but this also gives them wider distribution throughout the loaf of bread. —Maurizio Leo
- Prep time 14 hours
- Cook time 2 hours 20 minutes
- Makes two 900-gram loaves
whole wheat flour
sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, drained (but not rinsed) and chopped
kalamata olives, pitted, rinsed, and chopped
fine sea salt
ripe sourdough starter (liquid)
Mix the dough:
When your sourdough starter is fully fermented and ripe, add the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, water, and ripe sourdough starter to a mixing bowl. Mix everything by hand until no dry bits of flour remain. Stretch the dough up on one side and fold it over to the other, rotate the bowl some, and perform another fold. Continue to perform these folds for 2 to 3 minutes, turn the bowl a bit after each set, and strengthen the dough. At the end of mixing, the dough should be cohesive yet still shaggy and sticky (don’t worry about this—we will strengthen the dough further during bulk fermentation). Transfer the dough to another bowl or container for bulk fermentation.
Bulk ferment the dough and add mix-ins:
Cover the dough and let it rise at room temperature (72-74°F) for a total of three hours. During this time, you’ll give the dough three sets of “stretch and folds” to give it additional strength.
Before giving the dough its first set, spread the chopped olives and sun-dried tomatoes (with residual oil) over the top of the dough in the container, tucking some slightly down the sides of the dough. Using wet hands, give the dough its first set of stretch and folds, which will help incorporate the ingredients into the dough.
For each set, use slightly wet hands to grab the dough farthest from you in the container, stretch it up and over to the side nearest you. Then, grab the dough on the side nearest you and stretch it back up and over to the farthest side of the container. Repeat two more folds, one at the right side of the container and one at the left.—you’ll now have a folded up square in the container.
Let the dough rest, again covered and at room temperature, for 30 minutes, stretching and folding again. Repeat this process one more time for three total sets. After the third set, let the dough rest for the remaining time in bulk fermentation.
Pre-shape the dough:
After three hours, your dough should have smoothed out and risen in the bulk fermentation container. It should show signs of vigorous fermentation, and that it’s ready to divide: You’ll see bubbles here and there, plus an overall smoother texture on the dough; if you gently tug on the dough, it’ll feel stronger and more elastic. Gently scrape out your dough to a clean, unfloured work surface and divide it directly in half. Using a bench scraper and your other hand (floured or wet with water), preshape each half of the dough into a loose round. Let the rounds rest, uncovered and at room temperature, for 30 minutes.
Shape the dough:
After 30 minutes, lightly flour your work surface and the tops of the dough rounds. Using a bench scraper and a floured hand, flip one of the rested rounds over to the floured work surface and shape it into a boule. To do this, fold the bottom one-third of the dough up to the middle. Then, fold the left side up and over to the center, and finally, repeat for the right side. Finally, fold the top up and over to the bottom of the dough, forming a dough shape that resembles a folded-up mailing envelope. Flip the whole thing over so the seam is on the bottom and use two hands to drag the dough toward your body as your pinky fingers create tension in the dough against the work surface. If the dough needs further tightening, rotate the round as you push it away from you, and drag again. In the end, the dough should have a consistently smooth and taut surface.
Transfer each shaped round, seam side up, to an 8” proofing basket or clean kitchen bowl lined with a tea towel.
Proof the shaped dough:
Cover the baskets with a reusable, breathable bag and place them into the refrigerator overnight (for at least 12 hours). During this time, the dough will proof and be ready to bake the next morning or early afternoon.
Bake the loaves:
The next morning or afternoon , heat your oven to 450°F. Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven, and place a Dutch oven or combo cooker inside to heat inside the oven.
Remove one of the baskets with dough from the refrigerator and uncover. Cut a piece of parchment paper to cover the opening of the basket and place it on top. Place a pizza peel or large cutting board (or even an inverted baking sheet) on top of the paper and flip the entire stack over. You’ll now have your dough, seam side down, on the parchment paper on the pizza peel. Use a lame (baker’s razor blade) or scissors to score the top of the dough. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and place on a cooling rack on the counter. Then, carefully slide the dough into the hot Dutch oven by dragging the parchment paper (it’s OK for the paper to bake with the dough inside the Dutch oven).
Place the pot back into the oven, cover with the lid, and bake at 450°F for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the top of the Dutch oven from the oven. Continue to bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until the loaf is well colored and the internal temperature is around 206°F. Remove the pot from the oven, and transfer the baked loaf to a wire rack to cool. Return the Dutch oven to the oven, let it heat for 15 minutes, and repeat for the remaining loaf.
Let the loaves cool for 1 to 2 hours on the cooling rack before slicing.