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Working with yeast is a tricky skill to master and there’s no better way to learn that than to bake your own bread.  I’ve taken an interest in bread making, although this is only the fourth type of bread I’ve ever made.  The first was an attempt at dinner rolls and it was a big failure.   After my first successful venture(focaccia), I realized that homemade bread is well worth the effort and it tastes a million times better than store-bought.  My latest challenge was the Olive Oil Bread from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.

This recipe is relatively easy, but as with any bread you have to plan ahead.  There was about 4 hours rising time with some work in between.  I was intrigued by a bread that had such a large amount of olive oil.  You can definitely taste it, and it’s delicious.  We ate ours with a shrimp penne pasta and tomato cream sauce.  Yum!

Combine 2 cups warm water, a pinch of sugar and 1 2/3 packets of dry active yeast.  Stir until the yeast is dissolved and let sit for 5 minutes or until foamy.  Add 3/4 cup olive oil, 1 1/2 lbs bread flour (about 4 1/2 cups) and stir until well combined.  Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm place for about an hour.

Using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix in 1 T. coarse salt.  Beat on medium until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Turn out dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 1 minute.  Place in an oiled bowl covered with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour.

Place the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and fold in the following way.  Fold the bottom third upwards, the top third downwards and the sides over.  Be sure to tap the dough after each fold to release excess flour. Press down to seal.  Flip the dough and cover with plastic wrap.  Let it rest 15 minutes.  This is what mine looked like after folded.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and dust with cornmeal.  Now shape the dough by cupping the dough between your palms and rolling in a circular motion.  At the same time, pull down on the dough to form a smooth round.  This is what mine looked like after that step.

Preheat the oven to 450°. Place the dough on a the prepared cookie sheet and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let it sit for 30 minutes until slightly puffed.  Using a sharp knife, make four slashes on the top of loaf to form a square. Bake for about 35 minutes.  If you’d like a real authentic crispy crust, use a spray bottle to spray the bottom and sides of your oven several times during the first ten minutes of baking.

Here’s mine after baking.  As far as appearance goes, it’s not perfect, but it tastes great!

I do hope you try baking your own bread, and I dare you not to eat half of the loaf warm out of the oven!

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