A loaf of bread studded with olives sounded like an interesting choice when I was browsing through this book, looking for something different. Having two different types of olives in the loaf made it even more appealing. Unfortunately, it also had me humming that familiar Christmas song. You know, the one about Olive, the other reindeer.
I expected that the loaf would be a little bit dense to support the olives, but instead it was soft. That's not a bad thing, but I'd suggest not slicing the bread too thin or you risk losing olives.
This recipe makes two loaves. If that's too much for you, the book suggests toasting leftover bread to make toast for appetizers. I'd go one step further and rub a little garlic on the toasted bread or melt some cheese on top. That's all you'd need.
This loaf lends itself well to creative substitutions. It calls for pitted black olives, but I could imagine raiding the olive bar for other varieties. The 2 cups of black olives called for in the recipes was about 1 1/2 cans, so that's something to keep in mind when you're shopping.
What Worked: The loaf was appealingly rustic, with some olives peeking through the crust of the baked loaves. It's the kind of loaf you want to try just because it looks intriguing.
What Didn't: Getting the olives incorporated into the dough was interesting, to say the least. I think I might consider a different method next time.
Suggested Tweaks: Next time, I'd use equal amounts of the green and black olives, and I might slice or chop them rather than just cutting them in half to get them spread more thoroughly throughout the loaf.
Adapted from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger. Copyright © 1999. Published by Chronicle Books. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved
About the author: Donna Currie has been cooking for fun and writing for pay since the days when typewritten articles traveled by snail mail. When she combined those talents in a food column for a newspaper in her area, she realized that writing about food is almost as much fun as eating. You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.
- Yield:makes 2 loaves
- Active time: 35 minutes
- Total time:4 hours
- 3/4 cup warm water (105˚ to 115˚F)
- 1 tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 1/2 cups warm milk (105˚ to 115˚F)
- 1/3 cup good olive oil
- 5 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
- 1 cup Spanish-style pimiento-stuffed green olives, drained, patted dry, and halved
- 2 cups pitted black olives, drained, patted dry, and halved
In a small bowl pour in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the surface of the water. Stir to dissolve and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl using a whisk or in the work bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the milk, olive oil, yeast mixture, salt, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat hard until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft, shaggy dough that clears the sides of the bowl is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary if mixing by hand.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 4 minutes, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to prevent sticking. The dough should be smooth and springy, but not dry.
If kneading by machine, switch from the paddle to the dough hook and knead for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and springy and springs back when pressed. If desired, transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead briefly by hand.
Place the dough in a greased deep container. Turn the dough over once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
Gently deflate the dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Grease or parchment-line a baking sheet or grease two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Pat the dough into flat ovals. Scatter a mixture of both kinds of olives evenly over the surface of the dough and press them in lightly. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to encase the olives. Shape the dough into a tight rounds or standard rectangular loaves. Place the dough on the baking sheet or in the loaf pans (clay pans are nice.) Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise, about 45 minutes.
Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375˚F. Place the sheet or pans on a rack on the center of the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the bread is browned and pulls away from the sides of the pan, and the loaves sound hollow when tapped with your finger. Transfer the loaves immediately to cooling racks. Cool completely before slicing.