Olive Oil Loaves

A wonderfully soft loaf of bread, with a hint of olive oil.

Ingredients:

  • 1000gr bread flour
  • 20gr salt
  • 20gr dried yeast
  • 150gr olive oil (gram, not ml)
  • 700ml water

Makes 4 loaves

Recipe:

Place the flour in the bowl of your mixer (preferably freestanding). Add the salt on one side, scoop the flour over it, and do the same on the other side with the yeast. This will avoid the salt and yeast from touching directly, which would cause the yeast to die.
Add the oil and water to the bowl.

Mix on a low setting with a dough hook for about 10 minutes. Occasionally push down any dough that is stuck high up in the bowl and not reached by the dough when turning.
When done, the dough will come away from the sides, is stretchy and not very sticky, and can be pulled to form a membrane which does not tear easily.
The rule is that you should be able to read a newspaper through it, but I hold mine up against the light to see if it’s really transparent.

So, now that you have kneaded your dough, you leave it to rest. Take out the dough hook, cover the bowl with a lid or clingfilm and set it in a warm place. The ideal teamperature for bread to rise in is 30°C. Colder will cause the bread to rise slower, warmer will increase the rising speed, but will make the dough weak and you may kill the yeast if it gets too warm. Be patient for it to rise, you can make it rise faster in the sun (or by placing the bowl in a tin of warm water, my trick in winter), but a slow rise does produce a tastier bread. If it’s warm and sunny outside, don’t put the bowl directly in the sun.
Leave it to rise until more than doubled in size. I aim for just over two times the original size. I won’t give you a time to let the dough rise, as it is so highly dependent on the temperature of your room, and I am assuming you are a home-baker like myself, without a proving cabinet or other fancy bread baking tools (which you don’t need to make really good bread at home).

Heat your oven to 250°C.

Ok, so your dough has doubled in size. Very lightly oil your countertop (add a drop or two and spread it by rubbing your hand all over the counter) and tip your dough out onto it, using your scraper to get everything from the bowl. Be gentle, don’t push too much air out.
Cut the dough into 4 long parts, somewhat equal in size. Fold the sides to the center, push down some to seal, then turn it over while stretching the dough out to form a long loaf.
Place the loaves on a baking tray with flour-rubbed (cheese)cloth in between them. The flour keeps the dough from sticking, while the cloth will support the bread while rising, making the bread higher instead of a flatbread.

Cover the dough loosely with more flour rubbed cloth or with a plastic bag without the plastic touching the dough. Leave to proof (which is the last rise) in a place without drafts.

The bread is proofed when doubled in size. As it is a very soft dough, the finger pushing test will not be very accurate.

Take the cloths gently out of the trays, careful to not pull or push on the bread.
Spray the bread with some water from a plant spray. I have a “bread spray” in my kitchen at all times. Quickly place the bread in the oven, spray water into the oven and close the door. The water creates steam, which stops a crust from forming. This, plus the initial very hot temperature, creates an extra boost for the yeast.
Lower the temperature to 220°C and bake for of 18-20 minutes.

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