Tuscan Bread and Olive Spread

by Janice on May 4, 2010

You’ll either love it or hate it; people feel strongly about a bread with no salt.  That’s right: Tuscan bread is totally salt-free.  But that’s not the only difference in this Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge bread.  It also starts with a flour paste (made by pouring boiling water over flour), which manages to look remarkably like mashed potatoes once it’s stirred together.  This paste sits out overnight, while you try to keep yourself from thinking you’ve forgotten to put the leftover “potatoes” in the fridge every time you walk through the kitchen.

There is no yeast in the flour paste, so it isn’t technically a pre-ferment.  However, like a pre-ferment, it’s another way to coax a complex flavor out of the flour, this time from the gelatinized starches.  And, believe me, the bread needs a hook like that – a unique flavor from the cooked flour – because of the lack of salt.  Peter Reinhart encourages bakers to try the flour paste idea with Italian or Vienna breads.  Once I finish this challenge, I’ll probably experiment with that, because I really liked not only the flavor, but the mouth-feel of this bread, and I’m guessing those gelatinized starches had something to do with it.

On the second day, the paste is mixed with olive oil, yeast, water, and flour.  From there, the normal bread-baking routine takes over.  Kneading, proofing, shaping, then a second proof before the extra-hot oven bakes the dough into a bread destined to be dipped into garlicky soups, covered in briny olive pastes, or tossed into a panzanella.  In this way, Tuscan bread shines as a natural base for the flavors of a sun-drenched afternoon, spent at a outdoor table with friends and wine.  Hmmmm.  Warm weather has arrived, and the vineyards of Sonoma County (while not quite Tuscany) are but a short drive away; anyone up for a picnic?

A similar recipe for Tuscan bread is posted here.

Kalamata Olive Spread

½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
fresh ground pepper, to taste, or you can use a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like things spicier

Put all the ingredients in the bowl of a mini-food processor (or double the ingredients and use a regular-sized food processor), and process until almost smooth.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane May 4, 2010 at 12:38 pm

That is one gorgeous loaf of bread!

Erika May 4, 2010 at 2:14 pm

That is truly beautiful — it looks like a bread in bloom. And today would be a gorgeous day for a picnic. The olive tapenade seems like the perfect way to perk up that no-salt bread that so many BBA challengers have complained about.

ap269
Twitter: ap269
May 5, 2010 at 12:45 am

Twitter: @ap269

That loaf looks great! Glad you liked it! I liked it at the first bite when it was still warm, but then it was just meh…

Cindy May 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Oh your loaf looks so beautiful. You got great oven spring and a lovely crumb. The flour and water paste reminded me of making home made play doh for my kids when we were small. The black olive tapenade is a perfect idea for using this bread.

Abby May 5, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I’m so impressed that you found a good use for this one! We ended up using it for PB&J (we were out of sandwich bread and needed a quick meal), and while it was fine, we certainly didn’t enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed. I’m glad you did!

Barb December 27, 2010 at 7:49 am

I used the Kalamata olive spread recipe last night & it was not only simple but oh so delicious! I put it on toasted Italian bread which I made into cristini. It was wonderful..

Janice December 29, 2010 at 10:47 am

So glad you enjoyed it!

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