Since moving to the States almost three years ago, there have been a number of things that I just have to accept are different from England.
Driving on the “wrong” side of the road.
Ounces and pounds.
Tea that comes sickly sweetened, and with lemon and ice.
The fantastic thing is that I have come to like all of the above. Especially tea and football (Who Dey!), but the American love affair with generic white sliced bread is not one I fully understand. Or appreciate. And I’ve found myself in the bread aisle of stores, screaming into the white, bleached flour abyss, juggling loaves that have more ingredients that necessary, even some that shouldn’t be in bread FULL STOP (high fructose corn syrup anyone?). So as a way of killing time during the hell that is a humid Ohio summer, a way to fill our bellies with ingredients I can say and spell and count on one hand, and to connect with my bread making Dad back in England, I have started to make my own bread.
A simple bread recipe should have no more ingredients than you have fingers on one hand. Olive bread requires a few more, but certainly no more than 10. The recipe in my notebook (pictured below) calls for olives and rosemary, but what you add is up to you. Keep is classic with just olives, add colour and texture with sun dried tomatoes, or for the cheese lovers among us, add feta for a truly Mediterranean taste.
Though I like both green and black olives, I think the larger, beefier green Katamala olives work best for olive bread. Their flesh, even when chopped up, keeps during the proving and baking processes, and they give you a hit of pure olive when served.
In today’s recipe, I’m choosing to use feta and garlic stuffed olives. Of course saving a few morsels to serve with the bread, along with some red pepper hummus plus some balsamic vinegar and good olive oil.
The addition of an electric mixer would be welcome (hey honey, Christmas is fast approaching…if you’re reading this, please check in on my Amazon Wishlist), but for now I must master the hand kneading technique. When mixing the olives and extras in, you will find that the olives excrete an exceptional amount of oil, which in addition to the water and poured olive oil already in the mix, will create a wet dough. Sparingly dust your surfaces with flour to keep the dough smooth.
This bread recipe has a two part prove, and a 30 minute cook. Your total time will be around the 3 hour mark- 30 mins prep and 30 mins bake, with 2 separate hours for each prove. I’ve yet to find a good warming spot in our house- on a hot day it’s the attic, on a cooler day like today, I’ve opted for a spot by the window where the sun comes through at just the right time. The two 2 hour proves give plenty of time to have a cuppa, put on that second load of laundry, fall asleep watching Luther, whatever floats your boat.
Half way through the second prove, preheat your oven to 400°F. Because this is such a long process, I have on occasion forgotten to preheat my oven. The trick to getting a good crust on bread, requires a piping hot oven- without that preheat, you’ll end up deflating the dough waiting, and your steam won’t produce the desired affect. So PREHEAT!
RECIPE- makes one large loaf
1 1/2 tsp DRY YEAST
2 3/4 cup PLAIN/ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
1/2 tsp SALT
1/2 tsp GARLIC POWDER
1 cup WARM WATER
2 tbsp OLIVE OIL
1 cup KAMALA OLIVES, PITTED, CHOPPED
1/2 cup CHOPPED ROSEMARY
1/2 cup FETA CHEESE, CHOPPED
1/2 cup SUN DRIED TOMATOES
Combine the yeast, flour, salt, garlic powder, water and oil in a large bowl. Be sure to keep yeast and salt separate- salt causes yeast to release water and subsequently slows down the fermentation process.
Mix, then knead together for 2-3 minutes, slowly adding olives and any additional ingredients. If necessary, add a touch more flour to keep the dough smooth.
Knead on a board for a further 5 minutes, sparingly adding flour when needed. Add dough to a well oiled bowl, and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour. Cover dough with linen or a dish cloth to protect it.
The dough should rise to a round, smooth sphere after an hour- punch out the air, shape into a loaf shape on a parchment lined baking tray, and leave for a second, hour long prove. Half way through this prove, preheat the oven to 400°F, setting a baking tray on the bottom shelf.
Sprinkle the proved loaf with flour and score the top of the loaf. Place on a rack in the middle of the oven, and pour 1/2 cup of water into the bottom tray to produce steam.
Bake for 30 minutes, allow to cool on a rack. Serve with your choice of hummus.