Olive Oil Bread

Making bread is a love affair!
If you don’t have the time; if you don’t have patience; if you are not willing to wait….then bread baking is not for you. You can’t rush it. But if you nurture it and allow it to be, you will be rewarded at the end.
I’ve been making bread for 25 years. No two loafs have ever looked the same. Every nuance or variation you take during the process will show up in the end product.
I made these loaves using Enzo Olive Oil (by far, my favorite olive oil). I have been perfecting this recipe over the years and I think I finally have it where I want it.
2 Tablespoons of active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon of sugar
1 Cup of lukewarm water
5-6 Cups of flour
2 Teaspoons of salt
1/2 Stick of butter (completely melted)
1 Cup of premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I like to use Enzo)
I start by combining the top three ingredients in a glass bowl. The sugar and warm water work together to ‘wake up’ the yeast. As it wakes up, it begins to froth and permeate the house with its fragrant smell. It’s now a living culture and I have to treat it carefully.
I add the salt to the flour (start with 5 cups) and sift the whole thing (never skip this step!). Then I add the water, half the olive oil, and the butter. I mix the dough, add the rest of the olive oil, and mix some more. I add flour only if it’s too sticky to handle. Then I knead away. This is my favorite part – and an important one.  At this point, I’m just get lost in thought or music or wine (or all three!).
When do I stop kneading? When it feels right. This only comes with experience. The dough has to just feel right. It should be smooth and more pliable than when I first started. It should have a slight shine to it. And it should also be a bit elastic (I push down on it with one finger and watch slowly bounce back).
I lightly flour the dough; cover it with a damp cloth and let it rise for an hour or two (until it’s grown twice its original size).  Punch down. Reshape, and repeat.
After shaping and egg-washing, I bake it for about 45 minutes in a 375-degree oven or until it’s golden brown.
What to dip olive oil bread in? More olive oil of course!

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