Every year during the Christmas break I travel to Portugal and stay at my parent’s country retreat which is situated in the province of Beira Alta. During this break we manage to harvest the olive trees which beautifully draw a line in the front and on the side of the main house.
Usually dad climbs the tree, shakes and cuts some stubborn branches which fall on the floor like brushes, bouncy and inert. And my job, as well as for the people who are helping, is to meticulously collect every single olive and place them in bags which can hold up to 50kg in weight and have old fashioned illustrations printed in blue ink.
Then after every tree has been stripped, we happily take the olives to the press, to see them turned in pure green olive oil of the best quality. Normally 20l or so, enough for a Year of my Mum’s dishes.
In this region of Portugal people bake a type of bread which I adore. Fluffy, light, like a cream cloud. Usually it is served during Easter, baked in fierce wood ovens, but nowadays can be found all year round in the village bakery. It’s taste is so evocative of this place in the country, the olive harvests and reminds me of my Grandad who loved it and would crumble some slices when stale, in more olive oil and garlic.
Here’s a simplified version of the original recipe.
Pão de azeite/Olive oil bread
500gr of very good quality white flour
40gr of fresh yeast (or good quality granules)
125 ml of olive oil
1 pinch of salt
4 eggs at room temperature
1 beaten egg yolk for brushing
Pre-heat the oven at 190 ºC.
In a bowl place the flour and the salt and make a well in the centre. Dissolve the yeast on some luke warm water and let it rest for five minutes. Place the yeast in the well and draw in the flour from the sides of the bowl. In a pan heat up the olive oil till it gets warm. Slowly add the oil into the flour while incorporating each egg at a time. Knead well, (using your hands or a stand up mixer like KitchenAid) till it resembles a smooth, elastic dough. Let it rest in the bowl covered with a cloth on a warm place for 1.5 hours.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place in on top of a floured baking tray. Brush it with the egg yolk and let it bake in the oven for 25 minutes, it should double in size.