Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Lahey Project: Pane all'Olive

You may or may not have noticed that I had a new tab at the top of my page: The Lahey Project tab. It is an open-ended commitment by me to make most of the breads in Jim Lahey's book, My Bread. Frequent readers will already know that I am completely smitten with Jim Lahey, and his wonderful book; he takes basic ingredients and well researched (and well tested, obviously) recipes and compiled them in such a beguiling way, that I find myself just paging through it time and time again - even when I have no need for bread.

My love affair with bread is a fickle thing. You may say it's hot/cold or on-again, off-again, but nevertheless it is unceasing. Typically, I want to eat more of it in the fall and winter when the chill of the household beckons me to start the oven, no doubt a primitive inclination for warmth. And, let's face it, there has got to be some kind of truth to us Northerners putting on a couple of extra pounds for warmth to head into our coldest weather. However, even in the heat of the hottest summer day, if there is fresh bread, I will love to eat it. Most frequently, with cheese and a bit of salad - and then it is called: My Favorite Meal Of All Time.

I could be easily prompted to make bread daily, and I do make 99% of our household need for bread on an as needed and usually weekly basis, but as the weather warms, I tend not to bake as often. Last week, however, I reminded myself of my Lahey Project commitment and planned a specific weeknight dinner consisting of "A Sandwich". Hmmm. A Sandwich sounds pretty boring, doesn't it? Well, if you make it on Lahey bread, I can guarantee you instant rock star status. In fact, this one was so good, that I brought the ingredients to make "A Sandwich" dinner bread for my Parents.

The loaf I made for our dinner here at home was a half recipe. I had just 90 grams of kalamata olives (and needed 100 for a half recipe), and made up the difference with a couple of little green, pimento stuffed, manzanillas, pimentos removed. We ate a delicious ham sandwich with Spicy Guinness Mustard and Swiss Emmentaler Cheese and some red leaf lettuce, and within moments more than half of the little loaf disappeared. By morning, even more was gone, and by lunchtime the tiny loaf had met it's demise.

Yes, that bread has a creamy, almost custardy, interior.

By this time, I knew that I was going to go out of town for a visit, and just knew that I had to share this briny bread with others. Out at the farm, we enjoyed our sandwiches just as much, and I toasted some leftover bread the next morning to eat with a leftover wedge of egg omelet and a slathering of Amish Pepper Butter (you're going to have to wait a bit for a post justly dedicated to that condiment which has properly captured my heart and every single one of my salivating tastebuds) and was surprised at the deliciousness all the more.

Jim recommends letting the dough rise wrapped in a lint free towel, but I drop towel full of bread into a colander to keep the dough from spreading out too much. I have done it with all the breads I have tried so far, and it really helps keep them together. This olive bread is particularly wet due to the moisture given off by the olives as they sit, so I over dust with wheat germ and flour to be sure no sticking takes place. A little bit still did, both times, but any telltale clue was hidden by the time the bread was baked.

As nice of a guy as I know that Jim Lahey has to be, I can't imagine he would be thrilled with me printing out the recipes to every bread in his book. So instead, I so heartily recommend his book, that I'll even go further and tell you to click over to his website and purchase it from him so that he gets the little extra bit of dough (yes, pun intended...) from the Amazon sale. If you are a Sandwich lover, if you are a bread lover, if you love nice guys named Jim, go and get started on your own Lahey Project! Then, let me know, so we can compare notes and obsessions. I'm thinking that not too much time can pass before I have to make another one to cross off my list, this time I'm thinking it will have to be the Coconut-Chocolate Bread. I think I'll even be able to classify THAT one as a dessert.


  1. Olive bread is one of my absolute favorite things in this world. And I'll bet this makes GREAT sammiches!

    Thanks for passing along the colander trick. I'll bet that would work to ensure a bit of extra rise in some of my sourdough bread experiments as well!

  2. Gosh that bread looks fantastic. I typically make just whole wheat sandwich bread -- nothing fancy, no flavorings, but this olive loaf looks amazing. I should really start experimenting with different additions. I relate to your desire to eat more bread in the colder months, but I think I enjoy bread all year long!


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