(in case you can follow my babblings and want to bake some yourself)
1.25 cups of warm water (105*-115* F not too hot!)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3.25 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1.5 teaspoons salt
0.5 teaspoons dried thyme
20 pitted kalamata olives, halved. (I used green olives and cut them into chunks.)
I started my baking endeavor as any seasoned cook would- by misreading the directions. Yep. I added the warm water to the bowl and sprinkled in the yeast, stood back and expected the magic foam to begin! Uhhh... Why aren't you foaming yeasts? Oh that's right. Because I only woke you up and I didn't give you anything to eat! I went back to reread the directions, accidentally read the directions for the page before and added the sugar and the salt to the bowl in the yeast, stirred gently, and crossed my fingers. Oh crap. I wasn't supposed to add the salt! Just the sugar! Good grief, I've killed them all! This was more or less my exact train of thought as I imagined the poor little yeasties shriveling up in the salted water. Although thankfully they are tough, they were fine, and they began to foam.
Speaking of yeast, does anyone find it weird that yeast are alive? I think about this stuff a lot being the biologist that I am, and I can't help but find it cool to imagine the yeasts as the little sock puppets from Good Eats, chowing down on the sugars and burping carbon dioxide bubbles to give my bread some lift. And no, it actually doesn't weird me out one bit. But that, I'm sure, makes me weird. I imagine if it did make you squeamish, you'd have to choose to believe what most meat eaters believe when their steak arrives at the table- that it's all magic!
Now, while the yeasts were doing there thing, I searched for a jar of kalamata olives. Oh wait. I don't have any. Only the green ones, but I suppose they'll do. I began to pull them out and count them one by one. Realizing I only had 16 instead of 20, I cursed my unpreparedness and promptly sloshed olive brine all down my cabinets. Whoops. Don't worry, this is normal. I grabbed a little knife and went to work pitting the olives by hand. This, you may know, is not easy and took longer than the five minutes the yeast mixture was supposed to be foaming.
Yes. It is as difficult as it looks. No. I will not buy a pitter.
Once the timer dinged, I abandoned my pitting and added the oil, 3 cups of the flour, and the seasonings (which should have included the salt) to the yeast mixture.
I often wonder if I get more flour on the cabinet than I do in the bowl.
I stirred until the dough just began to form, then I kneaded in the olive chunks (which I had hastily finished pitting) by hand.
Now at this point, the recipe tells me to turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead the remaining 1/4 cup of flour in 1 tbsp at a time until the dough is smooth and elastic. This should take about 10 minutes. I look at my club-like dough covered hands and consider getting out my stand mixer and dough hook. I decide it would be too messy. Sighing, I grab a cutting board, toss on some flour, attempt to de-dough my hands, and turn out the bread.
Scary mass of sticky dough-ness
I kneaded. And kneaded. And kneaded. The dough was extremely sticky and I got flour and dough pretty much everywhere, but that's ok. It's quite normal for me- ask my husband. I'm not sure if I kneaded for the obligatory 10 minutes, but I got bored and the dough looked smooth enough for me.
Looks a little better right?
I sprayed a bowl with canola oil, put the dough ball back in the bowl, and then tried to cover the bowl with cling wrap. I say "tried" because I never can get that stuff to cling to anything, so I did the best I could and weighted it down with a dish towel to keep in the warm, moist air the yeasts were so graciously burping for me.
Clingwrap. You lie.
I set the timer for 90 minutes and commenced kitchen cleaning number one.
Yikes. There were three cleanings total if you were wondering.
An hour and a half later, and it's time for more kneading. (Grrr.) Although it was much less messy this time. I grabbed my baking stone, sprinkled it with flour, and then punched down and kneaded the dough with flour covered hands about 10 times.
Yay! No club hand!
After that I shaped it into a 6 in circle, placed it on my floured stone, re-covered it with plastic wrap, and let it rise 30 more minutes.
Back to work yeasties!
Now I'm going to heat my oven to 400*F, cut a big X on the top of the dough and bake for 40-45 minutes until the loaf sounds hollow. Yay! My favorite part!
Dough does not cut very easily.
After a slightly burnt crust...
It looks scarier than it tastes- promise.
and a slightly burned thumb,
This feels scarier than it looks.
I finally got my piece! Was it worth it? Ohhhh yeaahhh. I'm gonna try this recipe again with cherries and see if I can't make a sweet bread!
I've eaten like 12 of these. Just kidding! Or not...