Bread, salt, and olives

Since the  pizza oven is going to heat up slowly and it is still early in the day, I decided to bake some focaccia.  It’s an excellent snack for the late afternoon, or like we did for lunch. Although it is not really needed, but since it is so delicious, I have made some olive tapenade with it. Both of these recipes have some things in common, but the thing I want to talk about here is the salt.

Salt, when and how

In the book “How to Cook” there is a separate part on the use of salt in the bread making process. Bread needs salt, firstly for the taste, but secondly, and also important is for the reaction of the yeast. Here we find an unstable equilibrium, too much salt will kill the activity of the yeast, and we end up with a flat bread that has not risen. On the other hand if we only add the yeast (and the sugar, which acts as the catalyst of the process)  it will act very rapidly, but will also die out quickly. So we need to find a way to start the process slowly, and keep it going as long as possible. For this reason it is good to experiment a little with the quantities. Of course the water temperature and the outside temperature matter. All in all it’s a precision job.

The second thing is something I have read once, remembered and never found back. So maybe you as my readers can help me out. I remember that when you want to keep the sparkling green color of the basil in your recipe you should first mix the garlic and the salt in your mortar and get it very fine, then mix the other ingredients. The salt will prevent the basil to oxidate to quickly (as will the lemon juice). A second trick is to cook and cool it quickly before using (some seconds in boiling water, then cool in ice water). In any case you should not get the basil too warm, and remember the friction from the mortar will get it warm too, as well as (of course) adding warm pasta.

The focaccia

In order to make the focaccia I make the dough with
  • 500 gr flour
  • 10 gr salt
  • 10 gr sugar
  • 10 gr dry yeast
  • 300 cc hand-warm water (37 degrees Celsius, I use a bath thermometer for this)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Fresh rosemary needles
  • Olive oil

Mix the yeast and the water

Mix the flour and the sugar on a clean counter, make a little volcano with a crater

Put the salt to the side of the flour

Pour the water into the middle of the flour and quickly mix it, preferably with one hand.

Keep kneading, the longer the better.

Let the mix rise for 30 minutes at room temperature.

This time I always use to make the garlic oil, and the olive paste

For the garlic oil, crush the garlic, add it to the oil, together with the rosemary needles. Let it rest.

After 30 min knead the dough again and form it quickly into the form you want. It should be about 3 cm thick. Make some holes in it with your fingertips and spread the oil (with garlic and herbs) over it. Put away to rise for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, and bake the loaf for 15 to 18 minutes. In the pizza oven I just do not put any new wood on for a while, and close the door to keep the temperature.

The olive paste

  • 150 gr black olives
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 30 gr capers
  • 30 gr pine nuts (roasted, and cooled down)
  • 1 basil leave
  • Lemon juice, salt and pepper to the taste

Crush the garlic and the salt, then add the other ingredients and mix till you get a nice paste.

Looking forward to the comments on the bright green basil… You will probably have some ideas on that.

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