Olive Ciabatta

From Luke Joyner

[Ed: Luke brought this, and the chorizo cornbread that follows, on a whim – and fresh out of the oven to boot. Adapted from basic ciabatta in Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s Bread Bible, this recipe doesn’t actually take very long in active time, says Luke, but you’ll have to budget a night and most of the next day in total.]

Ingredients

Starter

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon yeast
1/2 cup water, room temperature

Dough

Scant 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/4 to 1/3 pound pitted kalamata olives

Preparation

The night before you plan to bake the bread, right before you go to bed, make the starter.

Combine the flour and yeast, then the water. Mix with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes. It will be sticky; do the best you can. Put in a slightly oiled plastic quart container, put the cap on, and leave overnight at room temperature.

The next day, make the dough.

Mix the flour and the yeast until fully combined.

Add the salt to the flour/yeast mixture (do not do this until the yeast is fully mixed into the flour; otherwise, the salt will kill the yeast). Then add the water and all your starter, and stir to combine with a wooden spoon, just until the dough is combined enough that you can use your hands.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes with your hands, pressing it down and folding it into itself to increase air content. Place in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and set aside.

Let the dough rise in a slightly warm place. About 2 hours will do … the dough should be doubled or tripled in volume.

Shape the dough and let it rise again.

Turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled counter, and shape (handling as little as possible) into a long rectangle. Place half of the olives on one third of the rectangle, and push them into the dough slightly. Fold that third over onto the middle third of the rectangle. Place the remaining half of the olives atop the now double-height middle portion. Fold the final third of the dough over this, so that you have a dough/olive/dough/olive/dough sandwich. Poke the top of the dough down with your fingers. Push in the sides of the dough slightly. Repeat the poke/push a couple times.

Flip the dough over onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise again, about 1 hour in a slightly warm place.

Bake the bread. 30-45 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 475 F. If you have multiple sheet trays, put one in the oven as you preheat. Put a pan on the floor of the oven that can withstand that kind of heat.

When ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap, brush the surface of the bread with olive oil, and sprinkle a little salt on it. Put the bread’s tray into the oven, nesting in the other sheet tray that’s already in there. Throw two handfuls of ice cubes into the pan on the floor of the oven, and quickly close the door.

After 5 minutes, reduce heat to 450 F. Continue baking for 20 minutes after this. Turn the oven off, and open the door halfway for 5 minutes before removing the bread.

Let bread cool. Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool. Eat and enjoy!

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