Before I begin the final stages of this journey, let's take a second to discuss bread. Specifically, French and European style breads. Do you still believe if you eat this, you'll get "f-a-t"? If I cannot change your mind, let's let Lance Armstrong try and convince you.
Put away the Wonder Bread (I wonder what's really in that), read your bread labels (the fewer items the better), and maybe even switch to Ezekiel Bread. Fiber is our friend, and the better breads can offer you lots of friendship. But as with anything else, eat in moderation.
Back to our mission. There's a total of 4 cups of flour that needs to be added to this, as well as more water, some salt, and a tad of EVOO. Warning, when you dump the sponge/starter into the mixing bowl, it's sloppy and wet. It looks sponge-like on top, but it is watery underneath. Very gross, but again, very good. It's what we want. Now time to mix it up with Sir Lancelot!
This is where it gets messy. Please take all rings off (safety for the diamonds comes first!) and flour up those digits. Dust a healthy portion of your countertop with more flour and get to kneading. I knead my bread dough in shifts so it doesn't get overworked. It knows better than you will if it's ready to rise or not.
I knead for 5 minutes, then let it sit for 5. Smooth and elastic is what we're striving for, so if you need to keep working it after that first 5 minute rest, do so. I did. This was a total of two round of 5 for 5. You will be stunned at how the dough is more relaxed after that 5 minute rest period Hey, wouldn't we all be?
Really gluten-y dough is good and you can always tell when you've got it because it has these neat stretchy-looking window panes on the dough's surface.
The directions said let it rise for 2 hours, but an hour and half should do it in my warm kitchen. The best way to know is to do the poke test. I feel kind of bad doing the poke test. It's like bullying the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Just like with the calzone dough, stick one finger into the risen dough and if the impression remains instead of repairing itself, the dough is ready.
Punch down the dough and spread it out onto a floured portion of counter. Now is the time to add your olives, if you want any at all.
I chopped 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives and combined them with the optional orange zest. Since I've had bread like this before, I also know the flavor benefits from a bit of dried (or fresh) thyme leaves. I added a pinch of dried thyme.
Knead the olives, zest, and thyme into the dough and once combined, form into two separate rounds of dough. I froze one of the rounds as I knew there was no way we'd eat two loaves of bread at dinner. Let the rounds sit for their second rise (if baking both) for 30 minutes. I preheated my oven during this time, including a pizza stone on the bottom rack. Bake each round for about 30 minutes after their second rise period. You'll know when the bread is ready when you knock on it and it gives a hollow sound.
I'm serving this tonight with my version of Lemon Chicken with Artichokes, a spinach side salad, sparkling mineral water. If you're doing Weight Watchers, this meal with 1/4 of the loaf is 7 points. From now on, I'll try to find out the points to all that I'm cooking for the benefit of WW clients.
The bread took a full 24 hours to make, but it is oh-so worth it! No chemicals, no trip to the boulangerie, and my home gets the blessing of freshly baked bread aroma that we'll all enjoy for the rest of the day. Give this bread project a try. I think you will find a peace in the entire process. It will bring an all new meaning to the words "happy meal"! Mangia bene!!!
WW Points: w/ meal and salad, 7 points; bread alone is 3 points