Thursday 22 September 2022

The Great Bread Making Adventure: Olive Bread

Different cultures - their customs and traditions, their history, their dress, their food - fascinate me. So, when I found the book, The Cook's Guide to Bread, in a bookstore, I bought two copies, one for myself and one for my daughter. That was PD (pre-divorce), so I've had it for quite a few years. Later on, I found the second book, The World Encyclopedia of Bread and Bread Making, in a thrift store and purchased it as well. not realizing that the contents were identical. 

That's right: aside from the size and cover, the books are the same, even to the page numbers. 
I'm still happy I bought the second book, however, because the print is larger and it stays open easier. I haven't decided what I'm going to do with the first one. 
While this book does make an interesting reference book, and I enjoy perusing its pages, it also has at least 100 recipes. None of which I had tried, until yesterday. Making a dinner of lasagne, I decided to complete it with a Caesar salad (vegan dressing recipe here) and bread. An Italian bread, since the meal was Italian (though apparently, Caesar salad was invented in Mexico by an Italian American, who had also lived in Canada). The book has this to say about Italian Breads: "The distinguishing feature of most Italian breads, especially those bought from an Italian-style baker, is the shape rather than the dough... The difference lies in the shaping, the slashing and the baking..." p. 66.
Flipping through the Mediterranean Breads section (most of which are Italian), I found the Olive Bread recipe and knew I had everything required to make it. About olive breads, "Olives are grown throughout Italy and it's not surprising to find all sorts of olive bread. the more commercially produced loaves are enriched with eggs and butter, and normally contain pitted green olives and sometimes whole olives stuffed, Spanish-style, with red pimento. Smaller bakers often also produce their own olive breads. These are plainer doughs, which usually contain black olives, sometimes pitted, sometimes not - so take care when biting into a slice." The World Encyclopedia of Bread and Bread Making, p. 71
I did use pitted olives. 😉 The green ones were stuffed with pimento because that's what I had on hand, and I added black and Kalamata olives as well.  I prefer to use whole grains, so instead of 2-1/2 cups of white flour and 1/2 cup of whole meal flour, I used 3 cups of whole wheat flour.
And it turned out delicious! Admittedly, my loaf is not as professional-looking as the picture in the book. I think one of the problems is the measurements. This is a British book and in Britain, they weigh their ingredients rather than measure them by volume, like we do here in North America. And while the book provides measurements in both metric and imperial, I think sometimes something is lost in translation. The book actually has this statement on the copyright page:

For all recipes, quantities are given in both metric and imperial measures and, where appropriate, measures are also given in standard cups and spoons. Follow one set, but not a mixture because they are not interchangeable. (In the smaller book, it omits this note). 

Fair enough, but it is an inexact science. 

As a Canadian, I automatically defaulted to the cups/spoons measurements and that went well until it came time to add the olives. Olives, kind of like dry pasta, do not measure well in a cup. Being oval shaped and hollow if they're pitted, there's lots of empty space in and around the olives. The kalamata olives were already sliced, so it took more of them to fill the space. The pimento-stuffed green olives also took up more space than the hollow black olives.  And mine ended up being a "generous" one cup rather than a level one cup. How do you level a cup of olives anyway? So, I found it was almost impossible to incorporate the olives into that amount of bread dough. And in the picture from the book, there appears to be a lot less olives than in my finished loaf. 

Taken from The World Encyclopedia of Bread and Bread Making
Next time, I think I will weigh the olives instead of trying to measure them in a cup. And anything else that might not measure well in a cup. I will have to keep this in mind as I continue to try the recipes. 

And that's what I intend to do. I've set myself the goal of trying every bread recipe in this book. They will, of course, be veganized, and made with whole grains as much as possible. So, stay tuned and I will report on each one. 

By the way, this book has been reprinted once again under the title The Bread Bible and you can find the full pdf of this book here. The printing is so small as to be almost inscrutable, so it's not like you could actually try any of the recipes from it, though, at least on my 21" screen. And certainly not from your cell phone. So buy the book if you want to follow along and experiment with different breads from around the world. 

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