Schweizer Brot & Tapenade

A few things that are near and dear to my heart: family, friends, food and the German language. My mom grew up outside of Munich, Germany and immigrated to the U.S. as a child. Growing up, I learned the basics of German from my mom like counting and the alphabet, but my study of the language really took off when I was a freshman in high school. In college, I was a German major and an aspiring interpreter for the UN – that is, until life took its course and destiny had its say, and 10 years later I’m obviously not fluently and breezily translating at the UN’s latest human rights conference. But let’s just say that my fiery passion for the language is still there, burning brightly.

One of the first recipes that I ever got my hands on was from my advising professor, Dr. Judith Ricker. Dr. Ricker and her husband, Dr. Cory, would throw the German Department’s most anticipated event of the year, the Cory-Ricker Weihnachtsfest, every Christmas at their house. At this Christmas party was the densest, crustiest, tastiest bread I had ever put into my face: the Cory-Ricker Swiss Bread. The bread is by no means fancy – no complicated ingredients, no sophisticated flavorings, no chichi details – just flour, yeast, salt and water. But these simple ingredients, combined with a little elbow grease and a lot of patience, make for some of the best bread you will ever taste.

When making this bread, I like to start it on a Friday or Saturday night, just before bed. I let the dough rise overnight, and then bake it the next day, after one more (shorter) rise. Because of the time involved, it’s hard to juggle making the bread during the week – so it’s a strictly weekend affair for me. But I promise, the time and effort are worth it. You’ll see.

The bread is delicious by itself, but I wanted to make something salty and savory to go alongside. I chose a simple olive tapenade, that (like pesto) can be a dip, a sandwich spread, a salad dressing or a pasta base. The tapenade gets its deep, salty bite from anchovies. I, like many of you, was wary of putting little salty fish into my perfectly good tapenade, but the fish flavor is undetectable. Instead, anchovies impart a rich, salty flavor that is complimentary to the other ingredients. A few pulses in the food processor and you’ve got yourself a party dip or pasta sauce that only appears – and tastes – extravagant. Enjoy!

Cory-Ricker Swiss Bread

(makes four loaves)

5 lb. bag of Gold Medal “Better for Bread” flour
scant 1/4 c. dry yeast
3 Tbs. salt
6 c. lukewarm water (divided)

Pour the bread flour into a very large bowl, reserving one cup of the flour. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in one cup of lukewarm water. Add the reserved cup of flour to the yeast, stir, and let the mixture rise until bubbly (about 20 minutes). Add the salt to the flour in the bowl and stir well.

Add the bubbly yeast mixture to the flour, along with the remaining 5 cups of lukewarm water. Mix in the bowl, then on a well-floured surface, into a smooth ball and knead for about 10 minutes, folding the dough over itself each time. Place the dough back in the large bowl and stretch a damp kitchen towel over the bowl and let rise overnight.

Punch down the dough and allow it to rise again (about 3 hours). Preheat the oven to 400° and dust two cookie sheets with a small amount of flour and preheat the pans in the oven. Divide the dough into four round loaves, and put two loaves on each cookie sheet and place them on two racks in the oven.

Bake at 400° for one hour, switching the top and bottom pans after 45 minutes. DO NOT open the oven for the first 45 minutes. Remove the bread when it’s golden brown and the crust is crisp. Cool on wire racks to room temperature.

Olive Tapenade

(makes about one cup)

1/2 c. kalamata olives, pitted
3 Tbs. flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 large garlic clove, peeled and halved
1 medium shallot, peeled and quartered
2 Tbs. lime juice
1 Tbs. anchovy, minced (or anchovy paste)
1/4 c. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the olives, parsley, garlic, shallot, lime and anchovy in a food processor and pulse to combine. Slowly add the olive oil to emulsify the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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