I have been baking olive bread for 4 years straight. It is the only thing for sure we crank up the outdoor wood burning oven for consistently. I have a bread coach and everythingÂ for when I get stuck or want to try a new technique. It’s been a journey and I am still not there yet, but we have been enjoying the fruits of my labor.
The trick with baking in a wood fired oven is that the bread has to be ready at the exact same time the oven is. Lighting the fire for the oven is a process all it’s own too. I bake all year around, we just run out to the oven and throw the loaves in before they get shocked by the frozen air. Results are always edible, sometimes fantastic, but mostly great for toast- which is what it’s used for. My husband eats it every morning with a smear of cream cheese and Vegemite. (Australians LOVE Vegemite, it’s like what peanut butter is to us) I used to bake free form loaves but now I moved on to baking it in French ceramic loaf pans which seem to produce a better loaf for even cutting.
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Whole wheat French bread with Olives
This recipe is very fluid as they say in the television business; It changes with the times. It’s very much a work in progress.
2 pkg. (2 scant Tablespoons dry active yeast)
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups warm water 90-110F
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4-4 Â½ cups unbleached bread flour
Â¼ cup vital gluten (optional)
1 cup chopped Kalamata Olives
2-3 tablespoons cornmeal
In large mixing bowl, combine yeast, sugar, warm water 90F-110F, and the whole wheat flour. Let it stand a few minutes to let the yeast “bloom”.
On low speed of mixer, blend for 2 minutes (I just stir it up, no 2 minutes)
Fold in salt, dump in kitchen aid mixer add the unbleached flour and vital gluten in cup by cup, folding in with each addition. Add olives. Mix with the dough hook. If dough is too sticky and sticks to the bottom of the mixer, add a little more flour until it comes clean from the bowl. Knead on the second speed for about 5 minutes. Bread should feel like a baby’s bottom and not spring back easily when you stick your finger in it.
Knead about 1 minute by hand. Place in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and cloth, let rise 1 hour until doubled.
Deflate dough, place in 2 pound loaf pan, or you can make two 1 pound loaves. Or if you want shape into rolls or just free form the loaves. You have endless choices!Â Place on cookie sheet, slash about 1/4 inch deep. Let rise about 30 minutes. (It will be noticeable that it has risen).
Place pan of hot water under the bread in a preheated 400F oven. Insert loaves and bake 30 -40 minutes until hollow. Temp should be 175F-200F internally.This is the only reliable test that they are done other than tapping them on the bottoms and listening for a hollow sound. Cool on rack. These loaves freeze great.
Remember there are lots of variables with baking bread- the moisture in the flour, the water, the air, the humidity. They all can make loaves different every time you bake them. I have gotten good, consistent results from this formula over the years and continue to make small changes when I discover something new to try. It’s a life long journey…
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