Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Olive bread

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A loaf of La Brea Bakery olive bread is a big treat for my husband. Olive bread and good butter make him one happy man.

However, the last time we bought a loaf of said olive bread, it set us back about $8. I'm not cheap, but I can't afford to buy olive bread as often as Michael would prefer to eat it.

So I dusted off my bread-making skills and set out to bake a loaf of olive bread that I can afford. I used pitted Kalamata olives from Costco and a combination of all-purpose and white whole wheat flours. My olive bread isn't quite as good as La Brea Bakery's, but it will tide us over when the grocery budget is stretched.

Don't be scared of baking yeast bread. It's easy once you've done it a few times. I've had many a frustrating failure with sourdough, but yeast bread is a snap. I make mine in a stand mixer with the dough hook, but you'll developed fabulous biceps if you do it by hand.

Notes: This recipe calls for letting the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator, or up to 24 hours. The longer and slower the rise, the better the flavor. Rush the process at your own peril. Also, I get the best results baking my bread in the oven inside a cast iron Dutch oven; if you don't have one, try a heavy, ovenproof casserole dish or pot with a lid.

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Olive bread
A hearty bread with whole wheat flour and kalamata olives.
  • 2 cups Kalamata olives, drained and pitted
  • 1 tsp dry yeast (instant or regular active)
  • pinch of granulated sugar
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • about 1 1/4 cups warm water, or more to achieve proper texture
Chop the olives roughly, either using a large knife on a cutting board or by pulsing in a food processor. Set chopped olives aside.Stand mixer instructions: Add the yeast, sugar and a few tablespoons of warm water to the stand mixer's bowl and swish them around to combine. Let stand 5-10 minutes, until the yeast has bloomed. Add the flours, salt and olives, and put the bowl on the stand mixer with the dough hook. Start the machine on its lowest setting. Add the water a bit at a time. When the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, stop adding water. Stop the mixer and feel the dough; it should feel sticky, even a little wet (dry dough makes dry bread). Turn the mixer back on and let it run about 5 minutes to knead the dough. Hand-mixing instructions: In a large bowl, add the yeast, sugar and a few tablespoons of warm water. Stir to dissolve the yeast and let sit 5-10 minutes, until the yeast has bloomed. Add the flours, salt and olives, then add the warm water a bit at a time, pouring with one hand and mixing with the other hand. When the dough comes together into a shaggy mess, turn it out onto the counter and start kneading, adding more water a spoonful at a time if the dough feels dry, or more all-purpose flour a spoonful at a time if the dough feels too wet. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, folding the dough over on itself, turning a quarter-turn, and repeating, until the dough feels smoother and somewhat more cohesive. It doesn't have to be baby-smooth.Spray the inside of a large zip-top bag with nonstick cooking spray. Put the dough inside the bag, press out the extra air, and zip the bag closed. Place the bag in the refrigerator overnight or as long as 24 hours. You'll want to check it a few times and release the gas that's built up in the bag, or you might end up with a little explosion.After the dough has risen in the refrigerator (and it won't rise much, so don't be alarmed), it's time to form the loaf. Set a piece of parchment paper on the counter and dust it generously with flour, then set it aside. Sprinkle a little more flour directly on the counter and turn the dough out of the bag onto the counter. You don't want to deflate it completely - just pull the edges down and under the center to form a ball, pinching the edges together underneath. Put the ball of dough on the floured parchment paper, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit on the counter about two hours. It will rise as it comes to room temperature, but not too much.If you have a cast iron Dutch oven or deep covered pot that can go in the oven, you'll want to bake your bread in that. Put the empty, covered pot into the oven and turn the heat to 450 degrees. Let the oven get good and hot. When it's ready, take the pot out of the oven, remove the lid, and gently place the unbaked loaf with the parchment paper in the pot. Replace the lid, put the pot back in the oven, and let bake 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake the loaf another 20 minutes.Take the pot out of the oven, remove the loaf from the pot, carefully peel the parchment paper off the bread, and let the olive bread cool on a rack at least 30 minutes before slicing. Serve with plenty of good butter.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 large loaf


Wendy said...

This looks so delicious! I love olives in bread. So glad I stumbled on your site today.

Erika Kerekes said...

Thanks Wendy - I'm glad too!

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