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.”
Autolyse Sourdough Olive Loaf
My Sourdough Olive … a first!
Well, that caption should truthfully say, “my second,” because it took a previous try before I got the recipe right. My first attempt utilized 50-50 white to whole wheat and was just too dense. My chickens loved it though!
This batch utilized a 75-25 ratio of white to whole wheat with a very wet dough that was gently “turned,” not kneaded, multiple times over the course of its bulk fermentation. And to achieve the wonderful crust (which often eludes me) I started with a 500F oven, added the loaves and immediately turned the temp down to 450F and added a half cup of water to the bottom of the oven. I did this periodically throughout its bake. (A word of caution about that … my oven has a steam cleaning option so this can be done. But some oven electronics might suffer with this step. Even a great loaf is not worth ruining your oven.)
And the FLAVOR! My first loaf used a different brand of Kalamata olives that were chopped. This time I used a really good salt-brined sliced brand that added tremendous rich flavor. So in addition to the usual health benefits of sourdough, the olives add even more! This is as good as any professional loaf I have ever tasted (so good I had two thick slices slathered in butter), and it is sourdough, so I do feel like I’ve just won the Pulitzer or something … having finally achieved an excellent crusty, open crumb, chewy tasty Sourdough Olive loaf!
Thank you Audrey II!
Our daily bread!
It is actually true, that bread — at least healthy fermented bread — comes pretty close to supplying what we need on a daily basis to live.
But bread has come under fire from dieters and dieticians alike ever since the bastardization of the baking art in the mid-20th Century. Done to achieve shorter baking times, long shelf life and enhance profits, commercially made bread relied on wheat stripped of all nutrition. When that created a nation of sick people (true), companies like Wonder Bread began adding the “health” back into the bread and using that as an advertising tool. But in reality, even with nutrients added, the process and ingredients of most commercial breads to this day do nothing to promote your health, and may in fact be unhealthy. The type of flour used, additives (some of which are known carcinogens, un-fermented gluten and commercial yeast have produced many celiac disease sufferers, but also many more who react to the lack of fermentation, experiencing bloating and other gut problems. Lack of fermentation in bread has also contributed to an epidemic of diabetes and may be responsible for the spike in Candida diseases and allergic reactions that may contribute to cancer. Fermentation actually pre-digests those elements of the bread that produce such discomforts. It releases nutrients in the bread so that your body can absorb them. It helps control candida albicans, where commercial yeast encourages it. And it contributes to a healthy microbiome, slowly recreating the friendly lactobacillus digestive bacteria in your gastrointestinal system, which in turn boosts your immune system.
In generations past, bread fermentation was the ONLY way bread was made. But it took time (at least overnight and sometimes days) to produce delicious healthy loaves. Now, however, the pendulum has begun to swing back. Consumers are starting to realize the health benefits of fermented sourdough bread. Now, please don’t run out and buy a loaf of sourdough bread from your local grocer. It is likely to have no fermentation in it and may not even have any real sourdough in it … just vinegar to produce a “sour” flavor. Real sourdough bread is so easy to make. Even making your own wild caught sourdough starter is easy. And the flavor … I can never go back to store bought bread again.
I bake bread a couple of times a week. I live alone so 2 loaves a week is usually all I need unless I have company. What I don’t eat before it begins to go stale goes to the chickens (who love it) or I make croutons or bread crumbs with it. So there is no waste. Just deliciousness.
I encourage everyone to read my previous posts how to make a sourdough starter, and various approaches and recipes for creating healthy bread. Again, they are not difficult and require little hands-on time, mostly just waiting for the magic to happen.
A new day, a new loaf, a new recipe, and a new approach. Now, I’ve got it. This recipe is sooooooooo easy you can practically bake bread sleepwalking. Take 2 cups of your wild caught sourdough starter. Add one cup warm water (I put it in the microwave for 20 seconds) and 1 cup bread flour. Whisk well and cover with wrapper and clean dish towel. Put in the microwave and shut the door. (Or a proofing box if you have one). Check on it in an hour. If it is active starter you will have a nice frothy foam on top. If your starter is a bit sluggish, you may need to give it more time but be patient and wait for that froth to form. When it does, you have a “sponge.”
Now you will only need 2 Cups of the sponge for your bread, so you can put the rest in a jar for the next time and refrigerate. To your 2 Cups of sponge add 3 Cups of Bread Flour, 2 T olive oil (or melted butter), 3 t sugar and 2 t salt. This is where a Kitchen Aid mixer with bread hook really makes the difference. Use it to mix well until a solid ball of dough forms. Put the dough in a a large bowl rubbed on the inside with olive oil (not too much). Cover, put back in microwave, and let rise until doubled.
You are now ready to “punch down” and knead to form your loaf (or loaves if you want to divide). Shape anyway you want and put on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a towel and let rise until you can lightly press your pinky into the dough without it springing back. Then its ready to bake. Slice the top. Put in a cold oven set to 350 and 45 minutes. When done your loaf should be brown, smell wonderful, and thump (sound hollow when you tap the bottom). Let it cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour. Sourdough bread develops more flavor as it cools, so if you cut too early you are cheating yourself. I cannot claim originality on this, but unfortunately neither can I offer attribution as I have been pushing through so many recipes lately I lost track of where I found this. But enjoy!
A New Loaf