Bread Baking Season


As the weather cools (although this past weekend was glorious!), my thoughts always turn to baking: bread, cookies, scones – you name it. I look for any excuse to pull out a cookbook and make a real mess in the kitchen.

Last week, my inspiration for baking was not only the weather, but some extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) from California Olive Ranch that we received here in the office.  It boasts not just a pretty bottle but a flavor profile that “delivers a distinct fruity nose, grassy and floral notes, with a smooth and buttery tongue, and a slight peppery finish.” This seemed the perfect excuse for a SacFoodies bread and olive oil tasting.


I narrowed the bread choices to three: rosemary/onion focaccia, an old standby that I’ve made many times, as well as two new recipes – fresh tomato-basil loaf and savory golden pumpkin. I used the California Olive Ranch EVOO in all of the recipes, and poured generous amounts for us to taste with the breads.


The rosemary/onion focaccia was by far everyone’s favorite pairing. The bread is flavorful and calls for sea salt sprinkled on the top, which really brought out the flavor in both the bread and the olive oil. The recipe actually calls for sage, but I’ve always used rosemary since it’s what I have in my garden. This bread is really beautiful and versatile – and always a crowd pleaser.

Onion Focaccia (Recipe Courtesy of The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Bread Machine Baking by Jennie Shapter)

scant 1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups unbleached white bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon rapid-rise active dry yeast
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped red onion

For the Topping
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
5 fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
coarsely ground black pepper

1. Pour the water and oil into the bread pan.  Reverse the order in which you add the wet and dry ingredients if necessary

2. Sprinkle the flour over, ensuring that it covers the liquid.  Add the salt and sugar in separate corners.  Make a shallow indentation in the flour and add the yeast

3. Set the bread machine to the dough setting.  IF your machine has a choice of settings use the basic or pizza dough setting.  Press start.

4. Lightly oil a 10-11-inch shallow round cake pan or pizza pan.  When the cycle has finished, remove the dough from the pan and place it on a surface lightly dusted with flour

5. Punch the dough down and flatten it slightly.  Sprinkle over the sage and red onion and knead gently to incorporate.

6. Shape the dough into a ball, flatten it, then roll it into a round of about 10-11 inches.  Place in the prepared pan.  Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Uncover the risen focaccia, and, using your fingertips, poke the dough to make deep dimples over the surface.  Cover and let rise for 10-15 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

8. Drizzle the olive oil over and sprinkle with the onion, sage leaves, sea salt and black pepper.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden.  Turn out onto a wire rack to cool slightly.  Serve warm.


The fresh-tomato basil loaf was a tricky little recipe, albeit a great way to use up those final tomatoes and fresh basil from your garden. The loaf wasn’t as flavorful as the focaccia, although it makes a beautiful presentation. If I make this again, I would sauté the tomatoes with the fresh herbs and a bit of sea salt, which would make both the liquid for the bread and the tomato mixture more flavorful. I think this would be lovely with some fresh parmesan, too.

Bread EVOO 005

The savory golden pumpkin loaf was my least favorite – at least as a pairing with the olive oil. The texture of this bread is really lovely, thanks to the corn meal and pumpkin seeds (I omitted the pumpkin seeds, only because I didn’t have them on hand). It’s fantastic toasted with a little butter or even pumpkin butter. It also makes for great croutons atop a wintry soup.

The fresh-tomato basil loaf and savory golden pumpkin loaf recipes can be found in The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Bread Machine Baking by Jennie Shapter.

If you’re feeling inspired to bake this week – tell us about it! By leaving a comment, you could win a bottle of extra virgin olive oil from California Olive Ranch. We’ll choose a winner at noon on Wednesday.

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • savorysimple | Oct 26, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Your pictures of olive oil are making me drool (the bread looks pretty tasty, too!)

    Does it make me weird that I notice the oil before the bread?

  • Dan | Oct 26, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    When my bread machine broke, I got into No Knead bread (thanks Mark Bittman and the Sullivan Street Bakery), it’s the best! Just four, water, yeast, salt, almost no work, just let it do it’s thing. I think i’ll bring it back this week!

  • Southern Cookbook | Oct 26, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    This bread looks awesome! Great photos and the olive oil looks very tasty as well. I will try this recipe soon. Thanks! 🙂

  • cakegrrl | Oct 27, 2009 at 2:03 am

    Bread and olive oil with balsamic vinegar is my biggest diet weakness, but did you know you can also use olive oil to make cakes? Here is a pic of one I did with pinenuts:

  • Nico | Oct 27, 2009 at 8:10 am

    I love bread baking season! As of last month, my wife and I want to try our hardest NOT to buy anymore bread and bake it all at home. In the last few weeks, I successfully grew my own sourdough starter and made my first few sourdough breads. I like to bake whole wheat which can be a little bit of a challenge to make lightly, but I think I had my most successful bread recently: rosemary + thyme + garlic whole wheat boule loaf. I let the fermentation go on for about 24 hours which really developed the gluten and left the dough to rise nicely inside a dutch oven, in the oven!

    I’m also concentrating on whole wheat pizza dough, and that’s loads of fun also.

    EVOO is my main staple for everything and I’d love to try more local offerings!!!

  • Selena McKinney | Oct 28, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Wow–your bread looks beautiful. I can only imagine how good it tasted. Yum.

  • Monica Crumley | Nov 4, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Hi Maria, The bread looks like it’s from a fancy Italian ristorante. I’d love to learn how to bake bread w/o a machine. I am so “afraid” of yeast, so have never tried it.