The Bread Bible: Mantovana Olive Oil Bread

This post is by special request from Cliff, whose Regensblog is so rich with recipes it could be tweaked to that of a 100% foodie if he and Sarah wanted to.  I make their Dutch Apple pie at least a half-dozen times a year.

I haven’t done a recipe post since my televised pizza fiasco a few years back, but now I’ve got two lined up.

First: the Bread Bible, pictured at left.  I hope the author Rose Levy Berenbaum doesn’t kill me for reproducing her recipe and thereby breaking whatever copyright she has over it.  As compensation she gets free publicity and a raving review from this one very satisfied bread baker whose undying loyalty to her methods will surely …. OK, you get the point.

This olive oil bread I’ve now made three times and always as a double batch.   The ingredients are really easy to work with and can be bought at any store.  Don’t go all organic if you don’t want to.  I use normal unbleached white flour – the cheap stuff they call 405 here – mixed in with organic whole wheat.

Here’s the shopping list for a single batch:

Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds: 28 grams or 3 tablespoons each

Cracked flaxseed: 27 grams or 2.5 tablespoons.  You should toast these seeds a bit in the oven.

White flour: 250 grams or 1 and 2/3 cups.

Whole wheat flour: 88 grams 2/3 cup.  (She says scant 2/3 cups, whatever the heck that means.)

Instant yeast: 2.4 grams or 3/4 teaspoon

Water at room temp: 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons, or 266 ml (grams if weighing)

Extra virgin olive oil: 1/4 cup or 54 grams

Salt: 1 and 1/8 teaspoon, or 7.4 grams.

I do everything by hand.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and gather to a ball and start kneading for five minutes.  It will be very sticky, but try to resist the urge to add too much extra flour.  You should have a decent dough scraper to work with.

Then let the flour “rest” for 20 minutes under an inverted bowl.  That helps make it less sticky, and easier to work with.

Knead about five more minutes, then set in a covered container big enough to allow to rise, then let it rise for about 90 minutes.

When doubled, pat it down gently but don’t knead the heck out of it.  Just turn it a couple of times and put it back in the bowl to rise again.

When it’s risen a second time, shape your dough into the pan – I butter mine first – and let it rise uncovered.  When the dough has risen about an inch above the rim of the pan, put it in the hot oven – 230C or 450F –  for the first five minutes, then lower it to 200C or 400F for about 40 to 45 minutes.

You don’t even need a pan.  You can prepare a pizza stone and bake it like a country-style round loaf.   I don’t bother to do that because I like even slices.  So boring.

A thing about salt and yeast: they say that salt coming into contact with yeast will kill it.  To be extra sure this doesn’t happen, I always add the salt after the first rising.  You might have other ways to add the salt.

One thing you may have noticed about the measurements given is that the author of the Bread Bible is an incredible exacto-nut.  She has her weights and measures down to the last gram and 1/16th of a teaspoon.  All well and good, but it’s a wee bit too stressful for duffing it in the kitchen like I’m doing.

Still, I try to get the measurements right, and if you’ve already got a decent digital kitchen scale, it pays to use it for baking bread because the volume of one type of flour is going to be different from others.   Weighing your stuff takes out the guesswork.  For really small amounts – like measuring the yeast – I use spoon measures and that works out fine.

Berenbaum also recommends getting see-through containers so that you can gauge exactly when the dough has doubled in volume.  Again, I just give it at least an hour, check it, if it looks like it could go a little more, then give it 15-30 minutes more.  If you have a bread-rising setting in your oven, use it.  Makes a nice, warm place for the dough to do its thing.

If you do get the book she also recommends a slew of things I don’t bother with.  For example, she’ll tell you to pre-heat your oven an hour before putting the bread in.  WTF?  We actually pay electricity bills with bite here in the real world.  I don’t know about you in North-America la-la-land, but there’s no way in hell I’m going to pre-heat an oven five minutes longer than necessary.

She’ll also say to throw in a few ice cubes in the bottom of the oven when you put the bread in.  I guess that’s for some added moisture, but I’ve never done it and never felt my results were lousy.  I’ve nothing to compare with of course, but we’ve been happily eating her breads without the fancy extras, and will keep on doing so.

Anyway, this is what it should look like sliced open:

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a step or there’ll be a question or two, so if you have any, fire away.  Please don’t be bothered if I don’t respond right away, as this bread, native to Tuscany, gives you a broad hint as to where we’ll be over the next couple of weeks.

14 Responses to “The Bread Bible: Mantovana Olive Oil Bread”

  1. September 27, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    That looks wonderful. I’ve got all the ingredients except the flax seed so may get some tomorrow and try out the recipe.

    Buon viaggio!

  2. September 28, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Thanks, Ian! Now that it’s getting cooler again, I stand to fire up the oven for some more experimental baking.

  3. September 29, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    You may recall we’ve had discussions about the apparent strength of American versus German yeast. (Was it you who noticed that the German recipes always seem to call for (proportionally) about 4 times the amount of yeast?)

    Is it safe to assume you’re working with garden variety domestic German yeast? Like a Dr. Oetker packet, or similar? I wonder if I can make this recipe work following your instructions, and then modify it to meet my laziness standards…with the ultimate intent being to turn this into a no-knead variety.

    I’ll report back!

  4. September 29, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Well, I don’t have a dough scraper, a pizza stone, a clear glass bowl, a kitchen scale or any of those ingredients on hand, but I do have an oven and bread pans! Now that I’ve read this post, I also have a terrific impulse toward fresh bread. Maybe I’ll start with my old tried-and-true whole wheat and go from there.

    I didn’t know about the salt/yeast thing, and the clear glass bowl is a wonderful idea. I’m with you on the pre-heating, though. I’m not turning my oven on until I can use it to help with house-heating after I’ve used it. The power companies are getting ready to add on their cold weather surcharges – which begin about two days after they stop the hot weather surcharges.

  5. September 30, 2012 at 3:23 am

    Looks like a real toothsome, healthy bread loaf.

  6. October 14, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Still couldn’t get that yeast right! I used a 7-gram Dr. Oetker packet (really, what am I going to do with a partially consumed yeast packet?) and followed your hint about adding the salt after the first rise. My loaf never rose above the top of the loaf pan. Which makes the bread pretty dense.

    I’d back off on the poppyseed next time (it brings a metallic flavor I’d like to reduce next time).

    • October 15, 2012 at 11:30 am

      I’m kind of stumped about the yeast question, Cliff. I’ve used the little packages you buy here in Germany, as well as Fleischmann’s from a large jar I brought back from Canada. Never changed the weight and it always comes out great. I used to proof the yeast first, but don’t bother anymore, since the results are always OK. But since you’re getting no rising, you might want to try proofing next time? Just take the liquid called for in the recipe – water, milk, beer or whatever – warm it to about 30-35 degrees, then add the yeast and some sugar or honey – again, I add what the recipe calls for because you’ll just be adding it all in later anyway. Your yeast is OK if when proofing this way it bubbles up frothy within about 5 minutes.

  7. October 14, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Hmmm, that’s interesting, Cliff.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I use my bread machine to do the kneading – don’t know if that would make a difference, but I used 1 tsp of dry yeast (the 3/4 tsp called for in the recipe didn’t seem like enough, but in hindsight I think it would have been since the bread rises three time) and added the salt in with the wet ingredients at the bottom of the bread machine pan. Flour and yeast on top. The dough rose beautifully and the bread had a nice soft texture.

    Did I mention on that yeast thread at the expat site that my mother tried to make yeast bread for years with zero success and finally found out that she had some kind of enzyme (I think) on her skin that killed a lot of the yeast spores while she was kneading the bread dough?

  8. October 15, 2012 at 4:34 am

    christina: No, I am pretty sure you never mentioned the yeast-killing enzyme-bearing mother hands! Maybe I have the same enzyme on my hands!? All the more reason for me to try to turn this recipe into a no-knead variety.

  9. October 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Awesome blog, I enjoyed this post and need to try out this recipe!

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