Thursday, May 16, 2013

Garlic Bread with Fresh Herbs & Argan Oil

Track & Trace

Just after mixing this recipe together, when I am about to jump into the shower, the doorbell rings. Since it is 08.05 AM I decide whoever it is deserves to be confronted with my bright fuchsia bathrobe and ditto slippers. I don't care if it's not a manly color, it was the only soft and fluffy bathrobe available. And fluffy trumps color in my book.

It's the mail man.

I ordered a book. Online. A book on Dutch baking, written by a woman with Indian roots, translated and updated from a book aimed at the British market. You understand that I had to have that. So I ordered it. And I got it, though not from where I ordered it.

Two days earlier

So there you are at your computer, punching in the numbers to see where the eagerly awaited package is. It has been *delivered* *delivered* *delivered*, flashes the happy crappy GIF-animation, and would I be willing to participate in a survey to make future client contact even more agreeable...

I don't have it! The postman never rang.

Staring at my computer screen I decide to take action before the sense memory of previous customer service encounters kick in.

Pressing a deluge of ones and twos and sometimes even threes, I switch my tool set to 'customer service mode'. Low voice, both in pitch as in volume (make them listen), focus on the introduction. If it's a man, level out your voice to match his. If it's a woman... well, that somehow always works better, for me at least.

I level my voice with the guy, make sure to note his name, and throw all the necessities at him. More numbers. Yes, the package has been delivered....

But it hasn't.

The guy is good and tells me exactly what I need to know. The sender (a big online book store) has negotiated the lowest possible price for delivery. That means that they, as a sender, give permission to cut the costs (in case a recipient isn't there to receive the package) by, for instance, leaving your package at your neighbor and putting a note in your mail box telling you where it is.

I didn't get any note in my mail box.

"I can only see that it has been scanned, so that means it has been on your doorstep. That means the driver didn't bring the package back with him, because then he should have un-scanned it There is something more though....."

Always listen attentively when customer care people say this. It means you're in for an insider info treat.

"The sender's policy, in regard to this matter is to give you a full refund if your mail gets lost."

Okay, so I'll get a refund, that is something. But can you back up there a little. Did you just say that, rather than making sure their customers get what they order and have payed for, their policy is to throw it in my general direction and HOPE it gets there? And, if that goes wrong, they pay for it and are very happy to give it another try?

"Yes Sir, it's cheaper for them. They take it as collateral damage that an X percentage of transactions go wrong.

Repo mission

I suppose it all makes sense on an economical level, but boy, does it NOT make ANY sense for a customer who thought he was embarking on a simple  and cheap transaction in order to get the product he really wanted and needed. Instead I now have embarked on a repo mission.

So there is the mail man at my door. He clearly hasn't come with my lost book. He is empty handed. His cap says he works for PostNL. The rest of his uniform says TNT. It's confusing from the get go.

"There has been a complaint" he says.

I expect the good man to go on with whatever it is he rang my door bell for.

He is finished though.

"Yes, my package hasn't been delivered"

The man is trying to ask a question. His Dutch is too bad to make any sense. I tell him I don't understand. After a back and forth it becomes clear that he wants to know whether the item was sent with TNT or with PostNL.

By now, I'm thinking the guy should have read his brief before he disturbed my morning shower. Is he here to contest my complaint?

I point at his cap. Then I point at the logo on his chest, and make a universal "same difference" gesture.

No no, I should not be looking at the uniform, that's old. The cap says who he works for. And who the carrier is makes a big difference.

I try explaining him it really doesn't. Whoever he works for and whatever carrier I sent my package with; customer service has sent you to my door after punching in the numbers of a package that went missing that you should be holding in your hands right now to humbly hand over to me, mumbling excuses.

If he understands anything at all of what I am trying to explain doesn't even really matter any more. There is a point where I realize both of us have ended up in this situation because of some corporate protocol-spitting software. Customer service is out sourcing their customer care to... the customer itself! Brilliant move, I have to say. Bring the complaint straight to the customer to solve it there on the spot. Cheap and easy. So here we are; a tall skinny guy in a fuchsia bathrobe, talking to a friendly yet under qualified mailman who speaks as much Dutch as E.T.

The mail man is throwing me friendly stares for a few minutes now.

This is pointless.

I decide to force an ending to this awkwardness. I put on my friendly face as well, slap the guy on the shoulder and tell him I'll be really happy to see him again, when he has found my book. He doesn't have a clue as to what I'm saying, but with the back slapping, the smiling, and the hand shaking he realizes that it is a 'good bye, see you next time'- sort of situation.

As he walks down the flight of stairs, I suddenly remember it is the same guy who, a few months earlier, handed me his handheld computer to sign for the delivered goods. The handheld was dead as a mouse. So I gave it back, saying; "this thing is as dead as a mouse". But he wouldn't take it back. Instead he told me, in that same E.T one syllable way of communicating, to "make it work again".

Garlic Bread with Fresh Herbs & Argan Oil
(based on the recipe found here)

the dough:
160 gr / 5.6 oz corn flour
250 gr / 8.8 oz bread flour
237 gr / 8.4 oz warm water
10 gr / 0.4 oz cake yeast (or ⅓ of that in active dry yeast)
5.6 gr / 0.2 oz salt
4.2 gr / 0.14 oz sugar
42 gr / 1.5 oz olive oil

the filling:
42 gr / 1.5 oz olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
fresh basil, parsley, rosemary
pine nuts

suggested toppings:
3 sun dried tomatoes in oil
2 TBS of argan oil

Dissolve the yeast into the warm water. Mix the flour, sugar and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the water, followed by the olive oil. Mix the dough on low speed until well developed, for about 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, cover it and let it rest in a warm, draft free place until it has doubled in bulk. Depending on the ambient temperature in your kitchen and the temperature of your dough, this will take 45-70 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the olive oil with the chopped fresh herbs, pine nuts and minced garlic. Season with pepper and salt. Don't be tempted to use argan oil for this; it does not tolerate high temperatures!

Preheat your oven to 200° C / 392° F

When the dough has risen, roll it out into a disk of about 1 cm / ½ inch thick. After a short rest, brush the oil mixture onto the dough and cut it into strips of about 2½ cm / 1 inch wide. Starting with the smallest strips, drape them in circles in a well oiled pan of around 23 cm / 9 inches ⌀. Leave to rest for about 30 minutes until the dough has plumped up nicely.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is a nice golden brown. If you want to add sun dried tomatoes, add them 10 minutes in the last ten minutes of baking. When done, take the pan out of the oven and leave to cool for about 10 minutes.

Use the argan oil to brush the loaf after it comes out of the oven to give it that special flavor.



  1. I really enjoyed reading your blog post. Poor you, poor guy. Stuff got lost in translation, apparently. Your bread looks lovely. I love that you used Moroccan argan oil. Didn't know it was readily available in Holland now. I think I know which book Indian-roots author you're talking about but the name escapes me. I found her book at a local library over here (a total but pleasant surprise). I have only baked her Nutmeg cake and it was awesome. Please share with us the book you tried to order :o)

    1. ow! the book was "het nederlands bakboek", as you suspected, Isuppose :-)

  2. Hanaå!
    The argan oil is the newest craze here, or so it seems. It is not readily available, but a few more players have entered the Dutch market. I was lucky enough to get a big bottle in the mail. Pity it doesn't like to be heated, because I was contemplating a bread version of amlou. Nevertheless there are a lot of culinary ways to enjoy it, even if baking is not going to be the main focus :-) Hope you are doing alright!

  3. And the Author is ??????????

    1. found it in your April 4th post..

  4. Very funny, Freerk, I always thought that outsourced service phone calls were the hight of absurdity, but a real life in person call is even better!
    I never heard about argan oil, but the bread looks very nice.

    1. Hey Karin, try the argan oil when you come across it, you will not be disappointed.