Sunday, November 6, 2011

Olive Levain

This is another high maintenance loaf from Jeffrey Hamelman's collection. I say this for several reasons.
  1. The loaf requires that cured olives are dried overnight. This is done by pressing the olives overnight in between two lays of kitchen towel and applying some sort of pressure in order to remove the excess moisture from the olives. I weighted the towel down with two novels, but anything can be used.
  2. This bread also requires retarding after the loaves have been shaped. This can be done at either a 50 degree temperature for up to eight hours or at 42 degrees for up to 18 hours. 
  3. Using high octane olives really drives the price of this bread up. It is possible to reduce the amount of olives by 2 or 3%, but for home baking this is irrelevant.
  4. This bread has a reduced salt content due to the olives in the mix
This bread called for a liquid levain starter, which is 100% hydrated, meaning that for every gram of flour in the build there is an equal amount of water by weight. There is a significant difference in the flavor when using a liquid starter as opposed to a stiff starter which is about 60% water by weight. I do not yet have the ability to describe this difference, but I will think about it. Many of the sourdough breads in Jeffrey Hamelman's book do use a very small addition of yeast, but this bread does not.

I have never retarded a dough before in the 'home kitchen' setting and I was a bit concerned about placing a bread in 'my refrigerator' for an extended period of time. I live in a fairly simple apartment, and my refrigerator is probably about 15 years old. There is a temperature setting wheel but it does not seem to be very effective. I decided to retard the dough from 11 am to 9pm. I did not know the exact temperature of my cooler, and since it is a functional fridge (it is constantly being opened and closed by myself and my roomate) I decided to pick an amount of time between the two recommendations made by Hamelman in this formula. I also made sure to flour the board and the bread fairly well in order to prevent the dough from sticking to the board as well as from preventing the dough from getting 'stuck' to the plastic which I covered it . I also covered the dough with a damp rag. (I am not sure this what a smart idea as the rag became very cold from the moisture it contained). 

If any one has any experience with retarding bread in the home setting I would like to hear what your tactics and your results are!

A couple of Notes: 
As I stated earlier I was unable to find Nicoise olives, I was able to use organic Kalamata olives, I am sure the loaf would have been quite different had I used what the formula called for. Nicoise olives have a marvelous and unique flavor, if I recall correctly they have a lighter coloration than Kalamata olives do. 

I think the end result was pretty good. Not my best bread by any stretch of the imagination, and there were a lot of variables that were in play. Perhaps the retarding was not right? Perhaps the bread did not have enough time to warm up before being baked. The crust is very chewy, the flavor is wonderful, but I think the texture could use some work. I wish the bread saw more lift as opposed to spread in the oven. I think that I will come back to this bread, but not right now. It is not very economical, and I am relatively poor at the moment. 

Here is a picture of the finished loaf as well as a picture of the crumb. You can really see how pronounced the olives are in this bread! In the words of Hamelman "They really make their presence known".

It is very important for me to explain the mixing procedure when adding the oliver. This can also be done for other breads, I used this technique in the Pecan Golden Raisin Bread I baked last week.
Once the dough has been fully developed. Turn off the mixer and lower the bowl. In the center by the dough hook, pull off some of the dough and create a well. Place 1/3 of the olives in this well. Raise the bowl and mix for 20-30 seconds. Repeat this process using 1/2 of the remaining olives and then again with all of the olives that are left. This prevents the olives from spinning around on the outside of the dough damaging their integrity. It also prevents the dough from becoming purple from the excessive missing and smashing that can occur if this process is not used.


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