My dad keeps telling me that I need to share the bad with the good – so here we go (and hi Dad!!)
One of my favorite items that we made while in school was an Olive Bread that we made first quarter. Let me start by saying that I don’t like olives. At all. I think they have a weird texture, a funny flavor, and are kind of, well icky. But olive bread… wow. When we made it, I think I ate half the loaf myself (and that was a BIG loaf).
I decided to try making this at home, because, hey, I’ve done this before – how hard can it be? Ha ha, famous last words. VERY hard. Ruining-the-bread hard. At least in my tiny lil kitchen in Chicago.
For this recipe, you start with a Biga, which is a basic yeast starter – basically a little yeast, some water, and some bread flour. Mix it up until combined, and then let it sit for 12-18 hours. When you open it, it will smell like warm beer. (yurcklh)
When mixing the olive bread, you use 2 oz. of this biga (although the recipe you make gives you about 23 oz – I’m so glad I bought the big container of bread flour!), some bread flour, salt, more yeast, water, olive oil, and obviously, olives. In the original recipe I was supposed to use a large amount of bread flour with slight amounts of rye and wheat flour – neither of which I had. So I stuck with bread flour all the way (that was probably when I should’ve stopped myself).
Important note: almost all of the breads I have recipes for call for fresh yeast. Fresh yeast, you say? Active dry I’m sure does the same thing, you say. Um, not for me! I think that was another problem I had -pr at least I’m blaming those lil things (I still can’t quite classify them – are they creatures? plants? I mean, they eat sugar… so they are something alive!). If I didn’t blame them, that would mean I would have to blame myself, and since I’m so perfect, that just can’t happen (insert sarcasm here). So let’s also blame my parchment paper, mixer, and the top of my refrigerator (where I store bread while fermenting) while we’re at it.
So along I went with my active-dry-yeast biga, my active-dry-yeast-and-only-bread-flour bread, and then we got to the resting. You have to let the olive bread rest for 90 minutes before baking, and halfway through you fold it over to release all the air building up. When I did this – I noticed no air building up. I’m sure it was a sign for me to toss it and just go to sleep, but did I? Nooooooo.
When you bake olive bread, you need to have an oven with steam. This allows the outside to develop a really nice crust but stay soft while it expands, and also gives it a nice sheen when it’s done. But do I have an oven with steam? Are you kidding?? Of course not! So what I did was take my big 16″ cake pan and fill it 2/3 with water and stick it in the oven while it was preheating, figuring that 425 is more than hot enough to force some steam to come out of that water. Unfortunately, I don’t think the pan agreed with my logic, and while it definitely produced some steam, I don’t think it was what I needed.
At the end, after the flour mishap, yeast mishap, oven mishap, there was only one more thing to mess up – the timer. It was getting late, so I decided to take the timer to bed with me and just doze with the radio on, all the lights on, etc etc (thus making it uncomfortable to sleep). I bet you think you know where this story is going – but you’re wrong (kind of). The timer decided not to work (for the second time that evening), and my bread ended up being in there a wee bit longer than I wanted – by about an hour.
One good thing – when I pulled it out, it WAS done. And when I flipped it over and knocked on it, it did sound hollow (the test if a bread loaf is done). Unfortunately, it was closing in on the color of a charcoal briquette. Sigh.
I cut into it this morning (midnight last night was just too late for any sort of knife wielding), and while the outside was as hard as a rock, the inside was barely done (if that).
So all in all, don’t make this bread at home. I have learned my lesson. I will go searching for another olive bread recipe that will actually work in a home oven with active dry yeast, until the day comes where I walk into a store and find it full of fresh yeast (I really do look forward to that day. Imagine the possibilities!)