I live in the most awesome neighborhood! My two grown kids spend Christmas with their Dad's family, so I am usually invited somewhere for Christmas Dinner. This time, I spent Christmas will all my neighbors. One of my neighbors is vegetarian, so I brought a couple of vegetarian dishes with her in mind. This was one of them, and it was a big hit. We served it as an appetizer with a Surfrider Reisling.
I prefer using stewed tomatoes for this recipe. Plain diced tomatoes are equally good, but the stewed tomatoes are a tiny bit sweeter. It's like choosing between yummy and yummy!
Combine yeast, salt & water in a big bowl. No need to stir.
Add flour all at once and blend until smooth with a wooden spoon or electric mixer with dough hooks.
Cover with plastic wrap & set aside at room temperature for 2 hours. This can be done days ahead, but will need to be refrigerated after two hours. Bread dough left at room temperature for too long will develop alcohol.
Saute shallots and garlic in the olive oil until translucent - maybe 4 or 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, olives, capers, bay leaf, and oregano.
Simmer on low while making the bread. Stir occasionally. Cover when liquid is significantly reduced.
Preheat oven to 450 F, and place a pan beneath the rack on which you will bake the bread.
Cover a pizza stone with parchment, then spread about half a cup of cornmeal over the parchment.
If you've refrigerated the dough, you're in luck! Cold dough is easier to work with. Dust risen dough with flour, and with well floured hands, gently form half of dough into a big flat round. If dough sticks, dust with more flour. Dough should feel smooth and silky. Let it come to room temperature before baking.
Put big flat round of dough on the cornmeal and place in oven.
In about 10 minutes, pour a cup of hot water into the pan below the bread. The shot of steam will crisp the crust.
When bread is nicely browned on top, remove from oven (about 25 minutes or so). If it's done just right, you'll hear it crackle as it comes out of the oven.
Wrap the hot bread in a towel. Repeat the process with the other half of the dough.
Let the bread cool, then slice into 1/2" thick slices. Cut slices into manageable lengths (depending on how you want to serve it).
OPTIONAL: lightly toast bread in a single layer on parchment lined cookie sheets in a preheated 500 F oven.
A few minutes before serving, drain and rinse the beans, letting as much water drain off as possible.
Gently stir beans into hot tomato mixture, and heat through about 5 minutes.
Serve either assembled on trays or casual crock pot/basket of bread style.