A while ago I was asked by a Facebook friend what my favorite kind of bread to bake is. Now that’s a tough one. When you spend years cooking for a family like I did, you never make the same thing twice – or, at least, you don’t ever intend to!
Every bread I made had different whole grains and different flours, and different kinds of nuts ground finely or chopped coarsely. Many had grated veggies to make them moist and healthy. Some were baguette shaped, others round, it was always fun. And regarding flavors – the possibilities were endless. Just about any flavor ingredient can be added to a bread dough. That means tomato paste to chili powder to onions and turmeric, to fresh herbs. I really kind of miss all of my bread baking in my previous life.
But I think I do have one favorite that I enjoy making as much as eating, and that’s olive bread. You can use just about any olives you like, depending what olives you prefer; I like a mixture of olives because I like the colors. But whatever the olives, the outcome is always the softest, moistest bread ever. And it’s so good at cocktail hour! With cheeses, of course!
So I decided to make one today just for old time’s sake. Here’s what I did:
1/2 cup warm-hot water, 115 degrees, to be exact
2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm milk, or any milk substitute
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups white flour, divided
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sliced olive pieces
If you need a refresher on preparing the dough for a yeasted bread, refer to Fruit and Nut Bread.
Prepare the warm-hot water in a medium bowl. Sprinkle on the yeast, and then the sugar. Let sit for a few minutes, then whisk everything together. Set aside and wait until the yeast mixture has at least doubled, then continue with the recipe.
Pour in the warm milk, the olive oil, and oregano. Then add 1 cup of white flour and whisk well. Place the bowl in a warm place for at least 45 minutes.
The flour-liquid slurry will have doubled in volume.
Stir in 1 cup of whole wheat flour until well combined, then place the bowl back in a warm place for another 45 minutes to one hour.
Meanwhile, pit enough olives of your choice, so that when they’re sliced and only coarsely chopped, they add up to one full cup. I used a variety of olives that were marinated. I didn’t rinse them off because I wanted that flavor enhancement.
After the dough comes out of the oven, add the cup of sliced olives.
Using the last cup of white flour, place the fairly wet dough on your work surface, and gently and patiently knead the dough until all of the flour has been absorbed and no stickyness to the dough remains. Then form a ball and place the dough on a greased cookie sheet.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the dough for approximately 30 minutes. If you want, check the bread’s internal temperature with a digital thermometer. It should be 195 degrees in the middle if it’s done. Be patient when baking bread – you want it cooked through, but also not overcooked.
Let the dough cool for at least an hour. Slice when ready to enjoy!
Ideas: Think about what can also be added to this olive bread… sun-dried tomatoes, nuts, sautéed shallots, garlic oil or chile oil, roasted red bell peppers….