Serves: Makes 2 loaves
- Poolish (Pre-Ferment):
- 1 cup (8 ounces) warm water
- ½ teaspoon active dry yeast, or generous ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 cup (5 ounces) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (4 ounces) warm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast, or
- 1⅛ teaspoons instant yeast
- 3 cups (15 ounces) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 cup (4 ounces) pitted and coarsely chopped olives, such as Kalamata
Procedures:Dense and chewy, studded with olives and fragrant with thyme, this bread is a perfect match for the bright flavors of summer. It pairs deliciously with roasted red peppers, eggplant, and grilled lamb or chicken. The poolish, a type of pre-ferment, gives it a wonderful, slightly sour note. Leftover bread can be toasted and spread with young goat cheese to use as croutons in a mixed green salad.
- Make the poolish: Pour the water into a medium bowl and whisk in the yeast. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and looks creamy. Stir in the flour and mix until no patches of dry flour remain. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 4 to 6 hours (or up to 12 hours) at room temperature, or 24 hours in the refrigerator.
- Mix, rest, and knead the dough: Pour the warm water into the bowl of the stand mixer. Add the sugar and yeast, whisk by hand to blend, and allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. Add the poolish and whisk by hand to blend well. Add the flour, salt, olive oil, thyme, and olives. Knead the dough on low speed until it comes together in a cohesive mass, about 3 or 4 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading. Turn the mixer to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is firm, elastic, and smooth, 3 to 6 minutes.
- Rise the dough (first rise) : Lightly oil the tub or bowl, scrape the dough into the tub, and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, 1½ to 2 hours (longer if the room is cold). If you are using a tub, be sure to mark the starting level of the dough with a pencil or piece of tape so it's easy to tell when the dough has doubled.
- Punch down, divide, and shape the loaf: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don't knead the dough again or it will be too springy and difficult to shape (if this happens, simply cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes to give the gluten some time to relax). Divide the dough in half and shape into two round, taut loaves.
- Proof the dough (second rise) : Dust the bannetons generously with flour and set the loaves in them with their seam sides facing up. If not using bannetons, line the baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and place the loaves on the sheet about 5 inches apart, seam sides down. Brush the loaves lightly with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a lint-free cotton towel. Allow the loaves to rise until they are almost doubled in size and look like they have taken a deep breath, 45 to 60 minutes.
- Bake the bread: Preheat the oven to 425°F and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. If using bannetons, gently turn the loaves out directly onto the prepared baking sheet, about 5 inches apart. Be careful not to deflate the dough as you do this, and don't try to move the loaves around once they are on the baking sheet as they may collapse. Slash a pattern into the top of the dough with a lame, razor blade, or chef's knife. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until their internal temperature registers 200°F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Slice with a serrated knife.
- Storing: Olive and thyme bread will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for 2 days. Cover any cut areas with a piece of plastic wrap. For longer storage, double-wrap in plastic and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw on the counter for 2 hours, or until it reaches room temperature; then unwrap and reheat in a 400°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crumb is warmed and the crust is crisped.