I have written before about the Autolyse method for Sourdough Bread baking. Yesterday I realized I had been neglecting my starter “Audrey” quite badly. She had developed a really impressive top layer of brown “hootch.” I poured that off and spent the day refreshing her every few hours until she was once again bubbly and beautiful! Then I scooped a couple cups and got to work making my dough.
I haven’t made olive bread in some time and since I had a half jar in the fridge decided that would do just fine. The thing I love about autolyse baking is that it is not regimented, but rather a relaxed method, relying on your touch, sight and nostrils to achieve your final product. You take a wet shaggy dough and instead of kneading it to death with a lot of flour, you use your bench knife to give it several turns on a floured board and return it to its rising bowl and box every half hour or so.
So I can go about my business, which lately is creating as many Pique Assiette frames as I can in preparation for the upcoming Harvest Festival in town. And just check on the dough, folding it with a little fresh flour on the board, doing this over and over until it is at kneading stage. Then I give it a couple of kneads and risings overnight, shape it (give it a half hour or so to do a final rise) slice the top and bake it.
The Autolyse baking method suits me too … you start with a 500F oven, put the shaped loaf in pouring a half cup of filtered water in the bottom of the oven and turning the heat down to 450. With Olive Bread, it takes 3 “steam shots” and about 45 minutes to achieve a nice “ear” and brown crust and “thumpable” finish. Cooling now, and soon to be “Chompable.”