Muffaletta* has always been a four-letter word in my head. Growing up, olives ruined any food they touched. Even picked off a pizza, their residue rendered the slice inedible.
When I was 16 I ate a muffaletta at Central Grocery in New Orleans, which claims to be where the sandwich was invented. I hated it, and I haven’t tried one since. Despite growing to like olives, my opinion on muffalettas has been locked in place for 15 years.
All this to say, there was a lot riding on these rolls.
For the first time in weeks, I made no errors with my starter or the oven temperature. The quality of the bake would depend on all the steps in between.
I had no parsley, but my sources indicated that chervil (which I did have for some reason) is an acceptable alternative. I reviewed various muffaletta salad recipes online and there was no consistent herbal requirement, giving me the green light to substitute.
I made the olive salad while Bradley was feeding to give it more time to marinate. My scale wasn’t recognizing the weight of the herbs, so I eyeballed those additions—shaking until the bowl was sufficiently green. With plenty of garlic and a touch of olive oil, the olive salad was delicious on its own. This was a good sign.
Working this dough made me nervous. Ford instructs very specific and very few folds. There is little added oil, but the olives and capers make the dough extremely greasy. My instincts were telling me to work it a lot more. Reminding myself I’ve never made a roll like this, I left the dough alone.
Everything in the olive salad incorporated smoothly into the dough except the olives themselves. I cut them in half, as instructed, and I was nervous they were simply too big.
I’ve never ever enjoyed shaping bread more than making these little guys. One of my favorite sensory bread experiences is pulling dough into tight rolls, and this recipe let me do that 13 times. Additionally, I love the flavor and crunch of sesame seeds, so I relished covering these with sesame seeds aplenty.
I baked the rolls a few minutes longer than prescribed, chasing that “golden brown” color. I’m not sure if I caught it, but they were fully baked regardless.
All my youthful olive anxiety bubbled up and made me incredibly hesitant to eat the rolls. What if they are underbaked? What if I didn’t work the dough enough? What if the garlic or sesame seeds are too raw? What if I don’t like the olives? What if I’ve had too many carbs from eating off the box-mix brownies I baked while the oven was still hot? (The last concern may have been legitimate.)
When I sucked it up and took a bite, all my inner child’s fears were extinguished. These rolls are incredible. Thick and chewy, with a complex, savory flavor—the word that immediately comes to mind is “meaty.”
Our friend Artisan Bryan is from New Orleans, and I’d like to think he’d be proud that he converted this muffaletta-hater into a muffaletta-believer.
Next week: English muffins
*Ford uses the spelling “muffaletta.” I would prefer to use what appears to be the more accepted spelling “muffuletta,” but since the experts differ, I follow his spelling throughout. Can you tell I am pained to misspell a made-up word?