Let it be known: My bread-baking experience is basically nil. I've made a few loaves in my lifetime, mostly of the zucchini variety. So when I delved into a book that my sister got me for my birthday, Ratio, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. I was going to attempt to bake bread using a bare-bones, improv sort of recipe. Turns out, I was getting myself into a whole heap of delicious.
The principle behind Ratio is that there are basic proportions that are universal throughout cooking - every pie crust has similar underlying structure, there's a common starting point for cookie dough, and most bread dough is based on the same formula. Once that formula is established, the rest is where the art of cooking comes in, leaving cooks to experiment with combinations that strike their fancy. I had some faith, braced myself for failure, and dove in.
I decided to go for the gusto and bake some olive and sunflower seed bread. I bought some mixed black and green olives and some unsalted sunflower seeds at the store, along with some bread flower to go with the staples I already had, and set about.
Olive and Sunflower Seed Bread
4 C bread flour
1 1/2 C water
2 tsp salt
1 tsp active yeast
1 C olives, mixed
1/2 C sunflower seeds
I began by pouring the water over the flour, and then sprinkling in the salt and yeast, on top of the sitting water. This lets the coating of the yeast dissolve so that it can start to work. I kneaded the mixture together for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably around 10 minutes. About halfway through the process, I added in my olives, sunflower seeds, and spices, kneading them into the mixture.
Once it was smooth and elastic, I put the dough in a bowl and covered it with plastic wrap and let it sit until it was about doubled in size, which probably took around thirty minutes. I checked to make sure the dough was a little firm to the touch, before putting it on a floured surface. I kneaded it for another couple of minutes to expel the exces gas and redistribute the yeast. Once that was done, I let the dough rest under a dish towel, and pre-heated the oven to 450.
Once the oven was ready, I shaped the dough into a ball, or as the french call it, a boule. I cut an X in the top of the loaf with a knife to make it look all fancy, and popped it in the oven. The dough starts by baking for about 10 minutes at 450; after that, turn the heat down to 375 and let it cook for the remainder as the oven cools down, about 45 to 50 minutes.
The bread was tasty and firm, without pockets but full of texture ad flavor. Perfect will olive oil and some spices, and great with hummus or other spreads. I can't wait to experiment within this framework again.