Olive Oil Dough

This recipe makes two loaves with enough left-over dough to use as ferment for the next mix. Olive oil dough is very wet and hard to mix by hand. If you do have an electric mixer now is the time to use it. Automated mixing is easier and will give you consistently better results, but you will gain a better appreciation of how the dough is changing and developing if you mix a dough by hand first. Letting the dough rest between mixes and adding an additional knock back, will help improve your chances of a well-developed dough.

Once you have mixed the basic olive oil dough you can also use it to make paninis, flatbreads, schiacciata, grissini or the chorizo and thyme rolls on the following pages.

Ingredients

  • 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) strong flour
  • 13 g (½ oz) fresh yeast
  • 400 ml (14 fl oz) water
  • 20 ml (1 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
  • 20 ml (1 fl oz) milk
  • 15 g (½ oz/ tablespoons) sea salt
  • 180 g ( oz) ferment, (optional)

Method

To mix the olive oil dough by hand, put the flour and yeast in a large bowl and pour in the water. Use a spoon to mix together until well combined, then set aside for 10 minutes. Add the oil, milk and salt, mixing well. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and start kneading. Knead for 10 minutes, then allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Add the ferment (if using) and knead for a further 10 minutes.

If you are using an electric mixer, put all of the ingredients, except the ferment, into the bowl of the mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes, then increase the speed to high and continue mixing for 5 minutes. If using the ferment break it up with your hands and scatter into the bowl. Continue mixing on low speed for 1 minute, then increase the speed to high and mix for 5 minutes, or until well combined — this may take an extra couple of minutes — the dough should come away from the edges of the bowl and have a silky complexion when done.

Place the dough in a container that has been sprayed with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to bulk prove for 1½ hours. Knock back the dough every 30 minutes during the bulk prove — this means you will need to knock back the dough twice in total.

To knock back the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and press out into a rectangle, about 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick. Use your hands to fold one third back onto itself, then repeat with the remaining third. Turn the dough ninety degrees and fold it over again into thirds. Place the dough back into the oiled container, cover with plastic wrap, and continue to bulk prove for a further 1 hour. Once the dough has finished to bulk prove it is ready to be divided and shaped.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Press the dough evenly into a 20 cm (8 inch) square block. Use a divider or blunt knife to cut the dough into even halves. Trim both halves into oblongs — they should weigh 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) each. If you horribly miscalculate the size of a loaf you can add to the weight by stretching a piece of dough and pinching it onto either end of the loaf. Make sure that when you place it on the tray it is renovated side down. The trimmings that litter your bench are now ferment that can be used for tomorrow’s loaves. Place the ferment in a container that has been sprayed with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Place the loaves on baking trays lined with baking paper. Dust with a little flour, and set aside in a warm, humid place (25°C/77°F) to prove for about 40 minutes depending on the climate of the room — the loaves should have risen by two-thirds and should bounce back when pushed. The dough should look airy and spongy — on a good day, a good dough should look like spun silk.

Preheat the oven to its highest temperature. Place the loaves in the oven and spray the oven with water. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the loaves around and bake for a further 10 minutes, watching carefully to make sure that the loaves do not burn. Tap the base of the loaves with your fingers and listen — if they sound hollow the loaves are ready. Baking should not take longer than 40 minutes in total.