Monday, December 1, 2008

Notes From The Yeastmaster: Olive Bread

There is a trick to getting it just right. It's a secret trick, so I can't tell you what it is, but I can tell you that it's all in the mind. It's intuition. And I don't mean to too my own horn here, but I've got it.
Ok, that's actually the secret. And I may or may not have it.

I am culturing a nickname for myself, and that nickname is the Yeastmaster. I like to think of myself as being in control of, and one with, yeast. This is a dangerous game to be playing, I know. I'm not lying when I tell you that I think I'm responsible for the infection of both a jar of maple syrup and a jar of molasses. The syrup was a little bubbly from the beginning, but as time went by, it gradually transformed into an inedible, obviously alcoholic, Bizarro maple syrup. It was not good on pancakes, much less in the mouth. Perhaps an industrial Vermonter or Canuk will figure out a good maple liqueur recipe. As for the molasses, it still smells good and has only breached the lid once. I am the YEASTMASTER! Watch me convert sugars and carbohydrates into alcohol and CO2! Hear me gurgle!

Yes, so I made olive bread as the official bread of this year's Thanksgiving feast for four. It all started on Tuesday, when I put together two cups of water and flour and 1/4 teaspoon of yeast and stuck it in the fridge. By about noon on Thursday (after some incantations and other sorts of black magic), it was two loaves of bread that not only tasted like olives, but smelled and looked like olives.

To once more toot my horn, it came out perfectly, and you should be jealous that you didn't get to try it. The crust was firm and tender, with just a little crisp to it, and the crumb was nicely gelatinized. Gelatinized? Yes; the web of holes and gluten had heated up in just the right way to give the interior a sort of sheen, the kind that you see on the bread served at nice restaurants. It was moist and chewy, and because of the added olive oil and some of the brine from the olives, each bite had the essence of garlic stuffed olives, if not an actual olive piece. It was also good with herbed chevre and toasted walnuts with rosemary.

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