Cerignola Olive Sourdough
3 Large or 4 Smaller Loaves
1/2 cup rye sourdough starter
1 cup water
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, more as needed
-mix the starter and water with enough flour to make a thick batter, leaving it loosely covered in a large container until it is risen and bubbly (a few hours, depending on the temperature)
bubbly sourdough starter, from above
3 cups water
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, more as needed
1 level Tablespoon fine sea salt
1 pint green Cerignola olives, pared of their pits and chopped course
-mix the bubbly starter with the water, 4 cups of the flour, and the salt to combine, adding more flour and mixing until a very wet dough forms (this is the key to airy ciabatta-type loaves)
-stir/knead the dough with a sturdy wooden spoon, adding just enough flour to make a dough; you will very nearly have to pour the dough into whichever container you wish to raise it in
-once the dough is mixed, stir in the chopped olives and continue mixing until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough
-place the dough in an oiled bowl or bin, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag, in a warmish place for 40 minutes
-after 40 minutes, turn the dough out onto a floured board and fold it like a letter. Rotate it and fold once again like a letter. Use plenty of flour, as the dough should still be very wet and almost batter-like. If you don’t quite understand the folding part, no big deal. Just fuck with the bread a little bit, forming some gluten and maybe incorporating a little flour if it is super sticky. You will notice the dough is getting springier. Return it to rising in the bowl or bin for another half hour, then repeat the folding. Repeat this rising/folding twice more
-after all the rising and folding, turn the dough out (it should be getting pretty airy and risen by now) onto a floured board and cut it into 3 or four even-sized pieces. Roll each one loosely like a rug.
-oil 3 or 4 bowls (depending how many loaves you are making) and dust them with semolina or cornmeal. Heat the oven at 475 degrees with a heavy pot in it*.
-take the dough pieces one-by-one and roll them into round loaves, careful not to deflate them if you want airy bread. The dough should be very soft, sticky and full of air bubbles. Place each loaf bottom-up in one of the oiled bowls. Wrap loosely in a plastic bag. Place 2 of the loaves in the refrigerator and keep 1 or 2 out to rise. They will take a half hour, maybe more, to rise. Perhaps. It depends on the temperature. Let them rise fully if you want airy bread, but if one deflates when you put it in the pot to bake, let the next one rise a little less.
-once the first loaf is risen, and the oven is hot, turn the loaf out into the pre-heated pot. Slash the top to let steam escape and place the lid on the pot before closing the oven. After 30 minutes, remove the loaf carefully from the pot onto the oven rack to continue baking for another 15-20 minutes. You can put the next loaf in the pot to bake at this point. Remove the loaves one-by-one from the refrigerator as the room-temperature loaves go into the oven.
-bake the loaves all the way. The crust should be caramel brown and will be very hard just out of the oven, but will soften to the crispy texture as the loaves cool. Cool them all the way before eating, or the texture suffers.
-for more bread baking instruction (more patient bread-making instruction!) see the Sesame Sourdough post. But remember, nobody can teach you to make bread, you just have to make some and learn. Homemade bread never turns out that bad!
*baking bread in a pot is nothing new, but the idea was made popular by Mark Bittman’s NY Times article featuring Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread. It is a technique worth learning, for kneaded bread or un-kneaded.