Special equipment suggested: A food processor fitted with a steel blade (if your machine is too small for the proportions here, make the dough in two batches and combine them for the final hand-kneading) A dough scraper A 2X2 foot wooden, plastic, or marble work board surface Two wicker baskets about 10" across and 4" deep, lined with a clean dry cloth and lightly floured An instant meat thermometer A bread peel A pizza stone or ceramic bread tiles (you will find these in most good cookware departments, gourmet shops and catalogs)
MIXING THE DOUGH AND FIRST MACHINE KNEADING: Measure the flour, wheat germ, thyme, and starter into the bowl of the processor. Add the optional dissolved yeast only if your starter was not fully alive --bubbly throughout--after its final feeding. (If you are using the yeast-batter alternative, you will not need the additional yeast.) Start the machine and slowly pour in the water, then the salt. Process until the dough masses and balls up and rotates under the cover for 10 to 15 revolutions. Uncover the processor bowl and inspect the dough; it should be fairly smooth, soft and a bit sticky when squeezed between thumb and finger. (If too wet and sticky, sprinkle in and process briefly a tablespoon or so of flour; if too stiff, process in droplets of water.)
SECOND MACHINE KNEADING: Let the dough rest 5 to 10 minutes, allowing the flour particles to absorb the liquid. Proces again for 15 to 20 revolutions, then uncover the machine.
ADDING THE OLIVES AND PREPARATION FOR HAND KNEADING: Add the olives to the machine, and process into the dough with short on-off spurts. You just want to incorporate the olives, not chop them. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead by hand for several turns to be sure the olives are well incorporated, and that the dough is smooth. Divide in half with the scraper. Tuck all sides of each piece under itself and roate the dough briefly with your palms to form a ball shape. Cover with a clean, dry cloth and let the dough rest on the board for 15 minutes.
FORMING THE DOUGH: One at a time, with the pams of your hands roll each ball of dough around, pulling the bottom against the board, creating tension to stretch the covering "skin" smoothly over the entire surface of the dough. If more tension is needed, spritz the surface of the dough with a little water. Cupping your hands around the ball and using pressure against the board, continue rotating until the ball is uniformly smooth, with no blisters or breaks. Turn the ball over, pinch the center of the bottom together to seal, and place pinched side down in a floured basket.
LETTING THE DOUGH RISE--2 hours: Leave the baskets uncovered at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough has started to rise. Enclose each basket in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
PREPARATIONS for BAKING: Take the baskets from the refrigerator and remove the wrapping. Let the dough warm almost to room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours--it is important that it not be chilled.
HALF AN HOUR BEFORE ESTIMATED BAKING TIME: Place the baking stone or tiles on the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees F.
SLASHING THE DOUGH: Gently invert each basket, catching the dough in your hand and laying it carefully on a lightly floured wooden peel. With a single-edged razor, make a quick slanting 1/2" slash in the top of the dough from one side to the other. Open the slash slightly with your fingers.
BAKING THE BREAD--45 minutes. Spritz the oven liberally with water and close the door for 5 seconds to trap the steam. Then quickly open the door and slide the dough onto the hot baking surface, jerking away the peel. Immediately turn down the oven temperature to 450 F. Continue spritzing the oven with water every 3 minutes for first 15 minutes of baking. When the breads are firm enough, rotate their positions to ensure more even coloring. Continue baking for about 30 minutes. The cut should open up and the bread will rise to almost double its original size.
WHEN IS IT DONE? The crust will be a deep golden brown, with visible small fermentation bubbles particularly around the base. When tapped on the bottom, the bread should make a hollow sound--the temperature on an instant thermometer plunged into the bottom of the bread should be 200 degrees F. Remove the bread to a rack to cool completely before slicing.
Alternative overnight yeast batter: 1 package fresh or dried yeast 1/4 cup tap water, in a 1 cup measure 1/4 t sugar 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup water, droplets more if needed
Crumble or sprinkle the yeast over the water in the measure, whisk in the sugar, and let rise for several minutes until it begins to foam. Whisk it again, then scrape into a 2 quart glass or plastic container. Whisk in the cup of flour, then the water, to make a mixture the consistency of pancake batter. Set uncovered at room temperature for several hours, until it foams and produces bit heavy bubbles. Stir it up, and leave overnight. May be used in place of the Silverton starter in any of her recipes.
AHEAD OF TIME NOTE: If not to be used the next day, cover and refrigerate. The batter will gradually turn into a sourdough; feed it and treat it in the same way as the finished Silverton starter.
NOTES: The type of olives is important. If you do not use firm enough olives they will dissolve into the bread causing a muddiness of flavor, and an excess of salt! I have a report of someone trying to use a DLC-7 SuperPro Cuisineart processor, which was a disaster! The starter oozed out of the bottom and it wouldn't knead the amount of flour and starter that's in the recipe. I use the Kitchenaid for this recipe with great success. It takes longer to knead, but is a much better alternative to a huge mess with the processor, plus I didn't have to do the recipe in two batches. I kept the dough pretty wet so I used only about 6 - 6 1/2 cups of flour total.
Julia Child's note: Nancy Silverton's sturdy olive bread has a delicious aroma of real olives, but not overpoweringly so. This time the dough has the feel of a regular conventioanl dough but is made with her famous grape starter. Olive bread is one of her customer's favorites--how fortunate we can now make it in our own kitchens.
Posted 12-01-93 by RICHARD TAYLOR on F-Cooking