My first experience with yeast was not using it, even though I was supposed to. I’d followed a recipe in the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls cookbook, except not really. It was my thing to do when I was 11-12 years old, to get up early on Sundays and bake some kind of coffee cake.
I chose a recipe for yeasted cinnamon buns that morning, but when it came time to the yeast, being that I didn’t know what is was, I ignored it. I also noticed this kneading thing, which seemed like it would take too long, so a win-win for me.
Until my mother came downstairs and I proudly announced that I’d made these buns, and would she do the honors of removing them from the oven. Well she almost dropped that baking dish. What should have been cinnamon buns were round, heavy bricks. And then I learned about yeast.
When I started teaching myself to cook, I learned how to bake bread by following recipes. When you do it on your own, there’s no fear, even though I have memories of my mother not even letting us walk through the kitchen if she had bread rising. Heck, we were hardly allowed to exhale.
But it seemed pretty easy to me, a few ingredients, some kneading, and I even walked around my kitchen while my breads rose. It’s just not hard to bake bread.
Then a cookbook entered my life called Supper Club chez Martha Rose, which was published in 1988. This book wasn’t extraordinary by any means, but it was a fun read, because it was Martha Rose Schulman’s actual experience with her supper club in Paris that she started in 1983 after she moved to France from Austin, Texas.
Her supper club menus are organized by months, which I love. Some menus reflect her love of Texas, but most all as a Francophile, a lover of Mediterranean flavors. But what got my attention was what she did with her yeasted breads. She added stuff to them!
I’d always made whole-grain bread, because I believe that bread should be nourishing, not just pretty. But when I first saw pesto bread in her cookbook, it was my Hallelujah moment! It was Martha Rose Schulman that changed my life with bread baking. And I’ve never looked back.
So for all the years my husband required bread, for all of the years I catered, and was a private chef, I put stuff into the breads I baked. It could be nuts, it could be grated zucchini, tomato paste, onions and cheese, or chili powder.
Ms. Schulman also had country bread with olives in her cookbook, and today I’m making my version of olive bread for you.
2 ounces warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
8 ounces whole milk, warmed
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
Extra white flour, for kneading
5 ounces mixed olives, drained
Place the water in a large, warmed bowl and add the yeast and sugar. After the yeast softens stir the liquid, then set aside.
After the yeast bubbles up, about 5 minutes, add the warm milk. Then add 1 cup of white flour and whisk well.
Cover the bowl and place in a warm place for one hour. Meanwhile, chop the olives coarsely and make sure they’re free of any liquid; set aside.
Add one cup of whole wheat flour to the slurry, and whisk or stir in well.
Place a generous amount of white flour where you’re going to knead, and remove the dough from the bowl. Begin kneading the bread, using only as much flour as needed. Knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth.
Grease the bottom of a large clean bowl, put the dough in it, then turn the dough over so the top is coated in the grease. Place this bowl, covered with a towel, in the warm place for 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the chopped olives where you knead, then “pour” the dough over the top. Using only a little flour as necessary, gently force the olives into the dough until they’re evenly incorporated.
Form a ball with the dough and place it on a greased cookie sheet. Set it in a warm place for 15 minutes, then put it in the oven.
Bake the bread for at least 25 minutes. Times and ovens vary. If you want to check on the internal temperature using a thermometer it should be at 195 degrees F. Anything much less than that and the bread will be doughy on the inside.
Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
I served the bread with a soft goat cheese; the slices can also be toasted first before serving.
If you love olives, this is a great bread. And it goes so well with cheese and charcuterie.