This is a story that started with a glorious cake and ended
with a fabulous bread, with many fascinating discoveries in between. It began on a visit to San Francisco when my friend Flo Braker wanted to introduce me to another friend. This was Kurtis Baguley, a pastry chef whose signature dessert, the bostini, was based on orange glow chiffon cake, one of the cakes featured in a book I wrote, "The Cake Bible."
Braker invited me to lunch at Scala, the restaurant where Baguley works. But before we ever got to dessert, we were both so bowled over by his sourdough kalamata olive bread that ordering the main course seemed almost irrelevant.
The bread was light and airy, yet chewy, and the flavor of the chunks of olives throughout was so tantalizing that it kept us going back for more.
When I requested the recipe, not only did Baguley promise to send it, he offered me a container of his sourdough mother starter. It took me three months to research the mysteries of sourdough starters, bread flour and bannetons (bread-raising baskets).
One of the two major breakthroughs in my research turned out to be the higher protein flour necessary to develop a network of gluten to support a higher rise which, in turn, results in lighter texture. The second was the use of a heavy-duty mixer rather than hand kneading.
I discovered what I consider to be the most important secret for light bread: very moist dough. Because significant mixing is necessary to develop the gluten, only a heavy-duty mixer or bread machine can accomplish this without the dough becoming unmanageably sticky. A very wet dough sticks unmercifully to one's hands but not to the dough hook.
Fortunately, I recently discovered an excellent high-protein bread flour. King Arthur Special Flour is available in many stores and also by mail order from King Arthur. In addition, the company carries a superb sourdough starter and many other accouterments for bread making. To order, call (800) 827-6836.
kalamata olive bread
Makes 2 (7-inch) round, 3-inch high, loaves, about 1 pound each.
1 1/4 cups water (unchlorinated, see note)
1 packed teaspoon fresh yeast or 1 scant teaspoon dry yeast (not rapid-rise)
1/3 cup liquid sourdough starter
about 3 1/4 cups high-gluten bread flour (preferably King Arthur special flour)
1 teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt)
3/4 cup ( 2/3 cup pitted) kalamata olives (or combination of $H kalamata and oil-cured herbed Moroccan olives), coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons bread flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
Combine water, crumbled yeast, sourdough starter and about 1 1/3 cups flour in large mixer bowl. Whisk until very smooth, about 100 strokes. Sprinkle remaining flour over top, then sprinkle evenly with salt. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to stand at least 4 hours, or for best flavor overnight.
Using dough hook, knead dough on medium-low speed until smooth and very elastic, about 10 minutes. Allow dough to relax 10 minutes.
Place olives in small bowl and toss with the 2 tablespoons of bread flour. Add mixture to dough and mix about 1 minute to incorporate olives. If necessary, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough cleans sides of bowl.
Scrape dough into large oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside in warm spot (80 degrees) until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch dough down and divide into 2 balls. Place each in floured banneton or bowl. Sprinkle top lightly with flour. Cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Heat baking stone or heavy baking sheet at least 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Very gently invert dough onto well-greased, rimless baking sheet, removable tart bottom or wooden paddle, and slip onto heated stone that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Quickly slash top of each round with sharp knife or straight-edged razor blade to make large cross.
Spray oven door with water. Bake at 425 degrees 15 minutes, spraying oven door with water 2 more times during first 5 minutes of baking. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake 10 to 20 minutes longer. Bread is done when skewer inserted in center comes out clean and instant-read thermometer registers 190 degrees. Cool bread, uncovered, on wire rack. (Bread will keep 2 days at room temperature, 3 months if frozen.)
Note: For unchlorinated water, use bottled mineral water or allow tap water to stand, uncovered, 8 hours. Chlorinated water adds an unpleasant taste to the bread.
Pub Date: 8/14/96