Tu Bishvat Appetizer: Olive Bread with Ricotta, Pomegranate Arils & Silan Drizzle
Tu Bishvat, or the 15th of the month of Shevat, is a Jewish holiday marking the New Year for trees. Though there are halachic implications for Tu Bishvat, Jews in Israel and the diaspora largely celebrate it as an ecological awareness holiday. One of the most common customs is to eat new fruits, or to eat fruits that are of the seven species described in the Bible as being abundant in the land of Israel. The seven species are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. It's customary among food bloggers (*ba dum ch*) to create dishes that integrate many of these seven species, if not all of them. Far be it from me to break the custom...
The obvious choice is something sweet since wheat and barley come in the forms of flours, olive in the form of oil, and the remainder are quite sweet. My love of sweet things is well documented (here and here, for example) but what I like even more than sweet is sweet and savory.
This bread is shockingly easy to make. Though it does require a lot of rising time, it requires almost no hands on time. Make it in the evening, let it rise overnight, and you need just an hour to make it come morning. The rest can be plated just before dinner; all in all an easy and impressive appetizer that uses FOUR of seven species.
For the bread:
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1.5 cups lukewarm water, divided
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading
1/4 cup israeli olives, pitted
olive oil spray
For the ricotta mixture:
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (or more)
2 tablespoons silan (date syrup)
3 tablespoons pomegranate arils
maldon salt for garnish
1. Start by proofing the yeast: in the bowl of your stand mixer add the yeast, 1/2 cup lukewarm water and sugar and stir to combine. Allow to sit for 5 minutes until the yeast appears foam-like and bubbled at the top.
2. With the mixer on low, add in the bread flour and the rest of the water. Lastly, add in the salt and allow the machine to run until the dough forms of a mass. If the dough is too watery, add in more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue to mix until no dough sticks to the side of the bowl, then allow it to mix an additional five minutes.
3. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, turning the dough in the bowl to coat it in grease. Cover and allow to rise 12-24 hours in a warm place. (I rose mine overnight in the oven turned off with the light on.)
4. Once you're ready to make the load preheat the oven to 450°F.
5. Place a large dutch oven (4 quarts or more) into the preheat oven and allow it to heat while you work on the dough.
6.Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently use your hands to work the dough into a rectangle. Place 1/4 of the olives in the center of the dough and fold the dough in half. Flip over the dough and continue this process 3 more times until you've used all the olives. Then use your hands to shape the dough into a ball.
7. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and gently place your formed dough into the dutch oven. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Then remove the cover, spray with a light coating of olive oil, and bake another 15 minutes. You should have a nice crust at the end.
8. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and transfer the bread to a cutting board. Allow it to cool slightly.
9. Meanwhile, plate your ricotta mixture by drizzling the ricotta with silan and pomegranate arils. FInish with maldon salt. Serve alongside sliced olive bread.