My friend Raffaele gave me this recipe before Christmas and I have made quite a few versions of it since. Each time it has been a success.
Cookings time: 15 minutes activation, 15 minutes prep + 90 minutes resting+ 10 minutes prep+ 30 minutes proving + 22 minutes bake
Quantity: This mix makes 10 small loafs
500 g flour
370 ml warm water
16gr (a spoon) of dried yeast (grains)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
10 black olives cut in small pieces
1. I am told that you can use fresh yeast, 12 gr instead. When you buy fresh yeast the bread lasts less time, so bear this in mind.
2. You can freeze the fresh yeast but, i have been told that , over time, it looses strength and you should double the amount. For this recipe, I’d use 20gr .
3. To get a crust on the bread, you have to place a dish with water in the oven for the first 20 minutes and then remove it. I have also used another trick: baking the first 10 minutes on 220 /gas mark 7 and the rest on 200/gas mark 6.
4. For the water temperature i generally mix 270 ml of cold water with 100 of boiled one
5. For dried yeast i use the Allinson brand. It comes on a metal tin and its good and cost effective. For the flour, i have been advised to use Varilla 00 from the deli but another friend suggested a more cost effective bread flour from the Lidl .
6. Despite the fact that sounds a bit strange, preheating the oven helps the fermentation process by bringing the room temperature up.
Preheat the oven to 250 degree celsius
In a bowl mix 100ml of warm water, honey, sugar and dry yeast until it is all dissolved leave it foam for 15 minutes. It will activate itself. (If you were using fresh yeast, you use half the amount and would crumble it directly on the flour)
In a different bowl place the flour and make a well in the middle.
Pour the yeast mix and mix with a wooden spoon. Add the salt and olives and mix. Follow by adding the rest of the water slowly until the mix is sticky, not soggy.
Bear in mind that depending on the type of flour you use, the mix might reach the right sticky stage prior to adding the full amount, so be mindful.
When the mix smooth , place it in a clean large bowl. Cover the bowl with a wet cloth and let the mix double in warm room ( the oven should have ensure that the kitchen is) at least for 90 minutes
Prepared the working surface: clear film with a layer of flour on it.
Running a spatula around the bowl , separate the mix from it. Pour the the mixture on a flowered sheet . Make sure that would place the part that was at the top of the mix, on the flour side. (Upside down).
If you want to make small breads, like I did, cut the dough in 10 small pieces using a plastic cuter. We should always try to avoid removing the air within the mix , so simply shape them on the same fashion as the large loaf (top of the mix on the flour, and shape them slightly with oiled fingers). Make sure you space them as they will expand.
I left them on the tray with the film covered with another film, for thirty minutes to let them gain the air that they might have lost in the cutting process. They grew further 50%.
For the baking, same process as before, flour the baking tray and flip each loaf upside down. The floured top side will be back up.
Bake for 22 minutes in 220 ° C oven as described on the tips section. When the time is up, make sure that when knocking, the bread sounds empty before you take it out.
Let the bread cool upside-down on the cooling rack or similar to ensure that there is air all around it.
Photograph by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Recipe adapted from Raffaele Damiano’s (and his friend Antonella’s)
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