Much like St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Catherine had a huge heart for the poor and baked bread daily for the poor of Siena. In honor of her Feast today, why not try some of this scrumptious bread. I'm calling it St. Catherine's Peace Bread for her great contribution to bringing peace in the fallen world of her times. I hope you'll try it, it's classic Itialian!!
Many blessings on this glorious Feast day!
Black Olive Bread (from The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
For the Sponge: Make up to six hours or overnight ahead.
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Dissolve the yeast in warm water stirring with a wooden spoon. When the yeast is dissolved, stir in the flour. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise in a room that is on the cool side (60-70 degrees is ideal).
For the Bread:
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon olive oil for the bowl
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pitted black olives or kalamata olives
1 Tablespoon grated orange zest (optional)
When you're ready to bake, add 1 1/2 cups warm water and 2 cups flour to the sponge. Stir to mix well. If you wish to set aside starter for the next baking, transfer 1 cup of the mixture to a glass jar or bowl, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator.
Add 1 1/2 cups more flour to the remaining yeast mixture along with the oil and salt. Stir to mix well, first with a wooden spoon, and then with your hands. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup flour on a bread board and turn out yeast mixture. Knead very well, incorporating the flour on the board for about 15 minutes. (Or you can cheat like I do and do this in your Bosch Mixer or Kitchen Aid with a bread hook). When dough is smooth and elastic and satiny, return it to the rinsed bowl which has been wiped with the olive oil. Turn the dough in the bowl to coat it and cover with a damp cloth. Set aside to double in bulk for about 2 hours. Turn dough out on floured board, punch down and knead briefly. Spread dough out and scatter the pitted olives over it. Now gather the dough together and knead just enough to distribute the olives throughout. Form two round loaves and set aside for another 30 minutes of rising. Preheat to 425 degrees and bake for 35 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and crusty and feels hollow when you rap on it. Turn out onto a rack and leave for at least 2 hours before cutting.
I look forward to hearing about how your Peace Bread turns out. It would be a wonderful thing to share one with someone less fortunate for this special Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena!!