As usual in preparing to bake bread, the first step was to feed my starter and get it ready to do its thing. The dough here was a mix of whole-wheat flour, bread flour, water, liquid levain or starter, and salt. Vatinet points out that by adding the water to a bowl first and then adding the levain, you won’t risk the levain partially sticking to the bottom of the bowl. The olives were chopped in half or quartered, drained, and then patted dry before being tossed with some flour. After mixing the primary ingredients, the floured olives were added and mixed into the dough. This recipe makes a sticky dough, and Vatinet provides good guidance for working with it. He assures you that after folding the dough at intervals during the first fermentation, it will have developed some body and lost some of the stickiness. I actually doubled the recipe to make two loaves. So, after the first fermentation, I divided the dough in half. In my case, two loaves were shaped, and I refrigerated them overnight for a slow final fermentation before baking. The issue of adding steam to the oven while the bread bakes is something every baker seems to address in a different way. A technique that has become popular is to place a shaped loaf in a pre-heated cast iron pot with a lid to allow the steam rising from the bread as it bakes to be captured inside the pot. With that method, you have the difficulty of gently placing a risen loaf in a very hot pot and then having to reach in to slash the surface of the loaf while not burning your hands on the pot. Vatinet offers a different approach to achieve the same effect. He suggests you place the loaf on a cornmeal-dusted peel, slash the top of the loaf, slide the loaf onto a baking stone in the oven, and then place a stainless steel mixing bowl over the loaf for the first ten minutes of baking. The bowl is easy to remove with oven mitts after it has done its job of capturing steam. It worked great, producing nice, crusty loaves.
An idea mentioned in the recipe headnote is what convinced me to try this bread, and that was to use the olive bread for a tuna Nicoise sandwich. I ended up doing a tuna-less twist on that by toasting pieces of the bread, topping them a white bean spread, setting an anchovy fillet on each pieces, and drizzling with olive oil. It was a delicious combination of flavors from bottom to top. The more I learn and the more I bake, there are fewer mysteries to the process. But, I think there’s still a bit of magic involved.
Kalamata Olive Bread
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from A Passion for Bread: Lessons from a Master Baker. Copyright © 2013 Lionel Vatinet. Little, Brown and Company.
Makes 1 boule
One of the stops on my Guild Tour de France was Nimes, where a fougasse (a French take on focaccia) with olives is the bread of choice. When I began baking in the United States, I added olives to my sourdough bread. It was instantly popular, which did not make me happy because the only olives available still had their pits. I spent more time pitting olives than making bread—not a fun job! Thankfully, pitted kalamata olives are now readily available in the United States. Try this bread to make a tuna Nicoise sandwich—a very French lunch.
3.23 ounces/92 grams/about 3⁄4 cup pitted kalamata olives, well drained and patted dry
2.28 ounces/65 grams/1⁄2 cup unbromated whole-wheat bread flour, plus .35 ounce/10 grams (2 teaspoons) for the olives
11.03 ounces/315 grams/21⁄2 cups unbleached, unbromated white bread flour
0.21 ounce/6 grams/1 teaspoon fine sea salt
9.5 ounces/270 grams/1 cup plus 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon water
3.5 ounces/100 grams/1⁄2 cup liquid levain
Cornmeal for dusting
Scale all of the ingredients.
Using a chef’s knife, cut each olive into 6 pieces and place them in a small bowl. Add the .35 ounce/10 grams whole-wheat flour and stir to lightly coat each piece of olive, allowing the flour to absorb any remaining moisture. Set aside. Using an instant-read thermometer, take the temperature of the water. It should read between 65°F and 70°F. Record it in your Dough Log.
2. MIXING AND KNEADING
Place the 11.03 ounces/315 grams whole-wheat flour, the white flour, and the salt in a medium mixing bowl, stirring to blend well.
Pour half of the water into a mixing bowl, and then add the liquid levain, stirring to blend.
Pour the levain-water mixture into the bowl of the electric stand mixer. Add the flour-salt mixture. Then, attach the dough hook to the mixer. Begin mixing on low speed (“1” on most mixers) and continue to mix until the dough becomes soft and moist, about 5 minutes, frequently stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to make sure that all of the ingredients are incorporated into the dough.
Taste the dough to see whether you have forgotten the salt. If so, add it now and mix for another minute. The dough should just be beginning to come together.
Stop the mixer and move the dough hook out of the way. Using your bowl scraper, scrape down the sides to make sure that all of the ingredients are combined in the dough.
Return the dough hook to its original position. Increase the speed to medium-low (“2” on most mixers) and mix until the dough is soft and smooth, with a moist, tacky surface, about 2 minutes.
Add the floured olives, reduce the speed to low, and continue to mix until the olives are completely incorporated into the dough.
3. FIRST FERMENTATION
Using an instant-read thermometer, take the temperature of the dough. It should be between 72°F and 80°F. If it is not, immediately make the necessary adjustments. Record the temperature of the dough and the time you finished this step in the Dough Log, and note the time the first fermentation should be completed. This dough will be in the first fermentation for 3 hours, with a fold each hour.
Lightly dust a large glass or metal bowl with flour. Transfer the dough to the floured bowl, throw a light film of flour over the top to keep the plastic from sticking, tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place in a warm (75°F to 80°F), draft-free place for 1 hour.
Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour.
Uncover the dough and place it on the floured work surface. If the dough is very sticky, lightly flour your hands, but do not add more flour to the dough. If the dough sticks to the table, use your bench scraper to lift it up; do not pull and stretch the dough. Let the dough rest for 30 seconds. Using cupped hands, pat the dough into a thick square. Lift the right corners and fold them into the center of the square, lightly patting the seam down. Lift the left corners and fold them into the center of the square, again lightly patting the seam down. Repeat this process with the top two corners and then the bottom two corners, meeting in the middle of the square and lightly patting down the seams.
Lightly flour the bowl and return the dough to it, seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and return to the warm (75°F to 80°F), draft-free place for another hour.
Repeat the above process and again place the dough in a warm (75°F to 80°F), draft-free place to rise for a third and final hour. At this point the dough should have increased in body and be less sticky.
Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour.
Transfer the dough to the floured surface and, using a flat hand, lightly press the dough into a thick rectangle. Lift the dough to make sure that it is not sticking to the work surface. If it is sticking, use the dough scraper to lift it. If it continues to stick, again lightly dust the work surface with flour. Then, carefully shape the dough into a boule.
Lightly dust a banneton with flour. Place the dough in the banneton, seam side up. Throw a light film of flour over the top to keep the plastic from sticking, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
5. FINAL FERMENTATION
Place the banneton in a warm (75°F to 80°F), draft-free place for 21/2 to 3 hours or, alternatively, proof for 1 hour and then place in the refrigerator for 12 to 16 hours. If the dough has been refrigerated, let it come to room temperature for 1 hour before baking.
If you are using the stainless-steel bowl method to bake the bread, about 30 minutes before you are ready to bake, move one oven rack to the lowest rung and remove the other.
Place a large baking stone on the rack and preheat the oven to 450°F. To determine whether the dough is ready to be baked, uncover and gently make a small indentation in the center of the dough with your fingertip. If the indentation slowly and evenly disappears, the bread is ready to bake. If not allow for additional fermentation.
Lightly dust a bread peel with cornmeal and carefully transfer the loaf to it, top side up.
Working quickly and using a lamé or single-edged razor blade, score the top of the loaf. Cut in quick, decisive slashes, marking into the dough by no more than 1/8 inch.
Slide the loaf onto the center of the stone, taking care not to touch the hot surface. Quickly cover with the stainless-steel mixing bowl. Immediately close the oven door. Bake for 10 minutes; then, lift the edge of the bowl with the tip of a small knife and use oven mitts to carefully remove the hot bowl. Continue to bake until the bread is a deep golden brown, about 30 minutes more. (It is a good idea to check after the bread has been baking for about 20 minutes to make sure it is browning evenly. If not, rotate the bread.) If you are concerned about the bread’s doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer from the bottom of the bread into the center. If it reads 185°F to 210°F the bread is fully baked.
Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack and let it cool for at least 1 hour before cutting with a serrated knife or wrapping for storage.
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