Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Village Baker's Olive Bread

I managed to get hold of a copy of The Village Baker, by Joe Ortiz, a book that I've heard many good things about and which is now out of print. It was originally published in 1993, and some of the relatively recent bread-baking innovations aren't used here; for example, Ortiz uses active dry yeast, which requires proofing, rather than instant yeast, which doesn't. He doesn't talk about making use of a stand mixer to knead wet, artisan doughs--something that makes them much easier for a home baker to handle. Most seriously, he uses volume measurements instead of weighing, and he doesn't even tell you the method he uses for his measurements. These shortcomings don't make the book unusable, but they do require you to make some substantial changes to the directions. Still, I ended up with a very good loaf of green olive bread, made with Picholine olives.
What makes the bread so tasty is its long, slow preparation. First you make a compagnon levain, just a variation on a bread starter. It uses yeast, flour, water, and salt, and is left to rise slowly at room temperature for about 8 hours, and then to rise even more slowly in the refrigerator for another 24-36 hours.
The bread itself is made with the starter, more bread flour, a little whole wheat flour, a little more yeast, salt and some olive oil. The relatively small amount of whole wheat flour gives the dough a rustic, speckly brown look. The dough is pretty sticky, so I let it rest for about 20 minutes and added a little more flour.
Then you flatten the dough, and sprinkle a cup of chopped olives on top. Suddenly a cup of chopped olives looks like a LOT of olives. Roll up the dough, and knead it so that the olives are distributed more or less evenly. They'll also try to pop out of the dough, but you can pop them right back in.
The dough isn't as sticky as it was before its rest, but a dough scraper is handy to use so that it doesn't stick to the counter.
The dough rises again, and then is shaped into a boule. It's brushed with a little olive oil before going in the oven.
This would be an ideal bread to bake in a banetton because it doesn't hold its shape well enough to make a nice round boule, but I didn't think of that. So I ended up with a flat-top boule. But, of course, no one knows what you had in mind, so it's unlikely that anyone is going to criticize the shape of the bread.
Whether you like the bread will depend on how you feel about olives. The olives are a very assertive flavor, and because there are so many of them, it would be difficult to eat your way around them. It's definitely an olive-y olive bread, and so, in my opinion, it's best as a stand-alone and not as an accompaniment to other food. Just let it cool for a while, and eat it dipped in olive oil. (However, if you want it to accompany, say, a roast chicken or broiled fish, I don't think anyone would report you to the food police).

Panne alle Olive
--adapted from The Village Baker, by Joe Ortiz

To make the Compagnon:
About 3/8 cup water
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup bread flours

Mix all ingredients by hand, or with a stand mixer with a flat blade, kneading until the dough is smooth and firm.
Let the dough rise in the bowl, covered with a damp towel, for 8 to 10 hours.
Punch the dough down, and transfer to covered bowl. Refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.

To make the bread:
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup compagnon (see above)
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped green olives.

Using a stand mixer, mix the yeast, water and all but about 1/2 cup of the flours until blended. Add the compagnon, bit by bit, until it is broken up and mixed in with the flour mixture. Add the salt and two teaspoons water. Knead in the rest of the flour, as needed, until the dough becomes elastic. It will still be wet.

Turn out onto the counter and knead by hand, adding more flour if necessary for the dough to be workable. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Flatten the dough and strew the chopped olives on top. Roll the dough up onto itself, and knead it until the olives are necessary. Add more flour only if necessary to keep the dough from becoming too sticky.
Cover the dough and let it rise for one hour.
Flatten out the dough and fold the edges over into the middle to form a round loaf. Place it on a parchment-covered baking sheet and let it rise for about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 400, putting a baking stone on a rack on the lower third of the oven.
When oven is hot, brush the loaf with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil, slash it 3 times on the top with a razor blade or sharp knife, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.


Lois B said...

What a nice looking loaf.

I understand what you mean about a book showing its age. One of my favorite cookbooks is a Pillsbury, 3 ring binder that my mother gave me in 1974. Talk about not including recent innovations - no mention of microwaves, food processors, etc.

breadbasketcase said...

Yes, you're right--I got a number of cookbooks as wedding presents (in 1967!), and I still use them sometimes, but there've been a lot of changes since then.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie,

Glad to see a bread post! I like that you try new recipes and books, just for variety. Please do share if you make some bread for Thanksgiving. I am always interested to see what you choose.

Laura NYC

breadbasketcase said...

I have a couple of possibles in mind for Thanksgiving, but I haven't decided anything for sure. Stay tuned!

doughadear said...

This olive bread looks quite nice and served with a really good olive oil I think it would make a great pre dinner nibble.

breadbasketcase said...

Yes, it was--only "nibble" is too polite a word for how we devoured it.

Blair said...

This bread looks absolutely delicious! I also really enjoy your blog!

Blair, editor @ RecipeLion.com