Bread

Bringing the bakery home: Starters are an old-fashioned approach to breads. (Chicago Tribune photo)

This episode served to currently put the kibosh on sourdough, though I won't banish the effervescent vats of King Arthur starter bubbling merrily in my fridge until I strike sourdough gold. In the meantime, Rosh Hashanah is less than a month away and this is the year I WILL find the perfect challah recipe.

Square Fougasse with Olives and Rosemary

Makes: four 6 inch, 8 oz fougasse

Time: 17-21 hours total, with 1 1/2 -2 hours of active work

Note: Read the entire recipe before you begin to understand the timing of each step. A stand mixer is highly recommended, as this dough can be quite sticky. I would advise against attempting this recipe on a humid day in an un-air conditioned kitchen.

Pate Fermentee

1 cup bread flour

3/8 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

A small pinch instant dry yeast

Fit your stand mixer with the paddle. Pour the water into the bowl, scatter the yeast in the water, add the flour and the salt, and mix until smooth. The pate fermentee will have the consistency of finished bread dough. Cover the dough with plastic and let stand for 12 to 16 hours at about 70 degrees. When ripe, the pate fermentee will have at least doubled and appear domed.

Final Dough

4 1/4 cups bread flour

3/8 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/8 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup pitted Nicoise olives

1 heaping tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

pate fermentee from recipe above

Fit your stand mixer with the dough hook. Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl except the pate fermentee, the olives, and the olive oil. Mix on first speed for three minutes to blend the ingredients. As the dough is coming together, add the pate fermentee in pieces. Turn the mixer to second speed, drizzle in the olive oil, then mix for five to six minutes to develop the gluten structure.

Add the rosemary and the pitted olives (be sure they are dry) and mix on first speed until they are incorporated. To help avoid the olives breaking apart and turning the dough purple, pull the dough away from the dough hook and pour a third of the olives into the center of the dough. Mix just until incorporated in the dough and repeat the procedure twice.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for one hour. Lighty flour your surface and dump the dough from the bowl. With lightly floured hands or a bench scraper (preferred), fold the left side in, then the right side, then the top, and then bottom, as if making an envelope, pushing down gently to seal the seams with each fold. Place the dough, seam side down, back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise for another hour.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces, each approximately 8 ounces. On a lightly floured surface with lightly floured hands, round each piece by gently working the sides down and under, handling each piece of dough no more than 10 seconds or it will begin to toughen. Rest each piece, seam side down and covered with plastic, for 20 minutes. Uncover and flatten gently with a rolling pin or your hands. Cover each piece lightly with plastic wrap and let rise for another hour.

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees and if you have room, place a pan of water on the bottom rack. Sprinkle two half sheet pans with cornmeal. Pick up a piece of dough to gently stretch it, then place on a sheet pan and coax it into approximately a 6 inch square. With a bench scraper, pizza wheel, or sharp knife, cut three parallel diagonal slits and gently open up the holes. Use a bench scraper or straight edge to square up the sides. Repeat with the other three pieces. Bake for 20 minutes or until nicely browned. Be sure to rotate and turn the pans after 10-15 minutes to promote an even bake.

Adapted by Donna Beth Joy Shapiro from Fougasse with Olives recipe from Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman