Bread dough that can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator up to 12 days. Just pull out a loaf and bake!
- 2 3/4 c. lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 T. yeast
- 1 1/2 T. Kosher or sea salt
- 1 T. sugar
- 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 1/2 c. flour
In a lidded container that is not airtight and holds at least 5 quarts, you need to pour 2 ¾ cups lukewarm water. The water needs to be just lukewarm, not hot. You can even use room temperature water, the dough will just take longer to rise. To the water add 1½ tablespoons yeast, 1½ tablespoons Kosher or sea salt, 1 tablespoon sugar and ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil.
Mix in 6½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour. Do not knead the flour in, just use a spoon to stir it in. You may need to wet your hands and use them to thoroughly mix in the last bit of flour.
Cover the container and allow the dough to sit and rise at room temperature for about 2 hours. You will be amazed at how much the dough rises in those 2 hours (or longer if you used cold water). If your container isn't large enough, the dough may even pop the lid off.
Though the dough is ready to be used when it is done rising, it is much easier to handle when it is cold. The dough can now be placed in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for up to 12 days and a piece of it pulled out when you are ready to make bread. So how do you go about that?
When you want to make a loaf of bread, get a plate or cutting board and sprinkle it with cornmeal. This is where your bread dough will rise. Retrieve the dough from the refrigerator and sprinkle flour across the top of the dough and onto your hands. Reach into the dough and pull out a piece about the size of a grapefruit. Do not knead the dough, but pull the sides of it out then tuck them under. Shape the dough this way until it is smooth and cohesive. Now lay the dough on the cornmeal covered surface to rise for 20 minutes to an hour. Return the remaining dough to the refrigerator until you are ready to use it again.
If at all possible, you want to bake your bread on a pizza stone. If you don’t have one a baking sheet will work, but the crust will not be as crisp. On the bottom rack of the oven, below the rack your bread will be baking on, there needs to be a broiler pan that you can pour water in. Or omit the broiler pan and put a large lid over the top of the bread (remove to brown loaf). Or bake in a pre-heated, lidded casserole dish.
About 20 minutes before you are ready to bake your bread, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Allow the pizza stone to preheat with the oven. Slide the bread from the surface it was resting onto the pizza stone or baking sheet. Now pour 1 cup of water into the broiler pan and shut the oven door. The bread needs to bake for 30 minutes.
This dough will make four 1-pound loaves of olive oil bread.
Hint: don't wash the container between batches to get a yummy sourdough flavor.