Olive bread

Dry yeast, 1 tbsp
Warm water, 1/2 cup (for activating yeast)
Sugar, 1 tbsp
Salt, 1 tbsp
Warm water, 1 cup (for bread)
Stone-ground whole wheat flour, 2 cups
Unbleached flour, 3-5 cups
English walnuts, chopped, 1 cup
Large spicy green olives (marinated with cracked red pepper; do it yourself if you must!) and black olives (Mediterranean - Kalamata or Niçoise), pitted and chopped, 1 cup
Fresh thyme, minced, 2 tbsp
Extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup
Cornmeal for cookie sheet

Makes: 4 loaves

1. In a large bowl combine flours, yeast, sugar, salt, walnuts, olives and thyme.
2. Add water and oil, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. 
3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. 
4. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. 
5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
6. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. 
7. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. 
8. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
10. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. 
12. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. 
13. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
14. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

The story:
My daddy and his grandson
Christmas 2012
Not as easy to describe as you'd think, my dad wrote, when I requested this recipe. He adapted Jim Lahey's no-knead method for a recipe that wasn't intended to be no-knead: you can check out his book or this article from the New York Times.

At some point, while living in Mississippi, my sister acquired a breadmaker. After graduating, she returned home to my parents' house in New York with her 100-plus pound yellow lab, Maddox, and the aforementioned breadmaker. (Tangentially: I got the privilege of driving the dog home from Mississippi via the Blue Ridge Parkway in late spring. Beautiful, but I think he was a bit carsick by the end. My mom got an even more unique tour, when I decided to drive by every place I ever slept whilst in college in Charlottesville. She was also a bit carsick by the end.)

Anyway, some time later it seemed (to me, the occasional visitor) that a bread-making bug took over the house...though the breadmaker was rather infrequently involved. (see Turtle Bread...coming soon). This bread, which my dad describes as rustic and hearty with "unexpected" pepper that he loves, was - also unexpectedly - on the counter when I arrived home to visit one autumn day. (I think it was autumn...) I immediately loved did...as did Maddox (the dog) who hovered anxiously nearby whenever I cut myself a slice. The very smell of it baking seemed to send him into a panic of longing.
The best thing that ever happened to Maddox is having a baby in the house who is trying to learn to eat solids.
October 2012

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