Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bake The Book: Rustic Olive and Thyme Bread

My second baking adventure was a little different. I made two round loaves, studded with olives (of all things). I'm not a big fan of olives, but what could I do? It was the second recipe in the book, so I rolled with it.

I have actually started measuring my ingredients, especially the flour, with a scale now. The cookbook speaks to the inaccuracy of most plastic measuring cups, which is exactly what I have, so I've started weighing my flour by ounces on our food scale. It is much more precise and this recipe as well as the prior one both turned out very well.

The procedure was somewhat similar to the white loaf, however this time I had to make a poolish, which is just a pre-ferment--some flour, water and yeast mixed together that sits around for about 6 hours prior to making the dough. It's eventually mixed in with the final product and it gives the bread a slightly sour note. Needless to say, since there are such large "sit and wait" times, I started this early in the morning and didn't finish until late at night.

Once the pre-ferment was almost through doing its thing, I just had to chop some (icky) kalamata olives to include in the dough. I didn't have enough olives of the kalamata variety on hand, so I threw in some green ones too. along with the fragrant thyme.

The part I was most unsure about was forming the dough into round loaves, but it wasn't nearly as difficult as I was expecting.

I slashed a couple of different simple patterns on the top of the loaves. They baked and browned very nicely and once they were cooled, I froze them as well.

However, just last night we defrosted one, popped it into the oven to warm and crisp it, then sliced it, and made a salmon panini out of it. The crumb was very nice and overall the bread was quite moist. When I bit into the panini the first time, my initial thought was, "Wow, that tastes like olives!" Well, duh. But for someone who doesn't necessarily flock toward the olive bar in the supermarket, that was a drawback indeed. Very tasty though, for those who like that sort of thing.

Recipe #2: Rustic Olive and Thyme Bread

Poolish (Pre-Ferment)
1 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 cup pitted and coarsely chopped olives, such as kalamata

1. Pour the water into a medium bowl and whisk in the yeast. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and looks creamy. Stir in the flour and mix until no patches of dry flour remain. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 4 to 6 hours at room temperature, or 24 hours in the refrigerator.

2. Pour the warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar and yeast, whisk by hand to blend, and allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. Add the poolish and whisk by hand to blend well. Add the flour, salt, olive oil, thyme, and olives. Knead the dough on low speed until is comes together in a cohesive mass, about 3 or 4 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading. Turn the mixer to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is firm, elastic, and smooth, 3 to 6 minutes.

3. Lightly oil a bowl, scrape the dough into it, and lightly cost the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic warp and let the dough rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 3 hours.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don't knead the dough again or it will be too springy and difficult to shape. Divide the dough in half and shape into two round, taut loaves.

5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat and place the loaves on the sheet about 5 inches apart, seam sides down. Brush the loaves lightly with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow the loaves to rise until they are almost doubled in size and look like they have taken a deep breath, 45 to 60 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Slash a pattern into the top of the dough with a chef's knife. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until their internal temperature registers 200 degrees. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Slice with a serrated knife.

Source: The Art and Soul of Baking



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