Italian Olive Bread

Olive bread has become greatly fashionable in countries far away from the olive belt. Perhaps it’s because the flavour captures best those hot Mediterranean evenings.

Ingredients

  • 350 g/12 oz unbleached white bread flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 15 g/½ oz fresh yeast
  • 150 ml/5 fl oz tepid water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 175 g/6 oz olives (black, or a mixture of black and green)

Method

  1. In a bowl, mix the flour and the salt together, make a well in the centre and crumble in the fresh yeast. Pour the water over the yeast and stir with your finger to cream it. Add the olive oil, and extend your stirring in scope and force to incorporate the flour. Mix vigorously, eventually changing the movement of the hand from something akin to stirring to something more like kneading - bringing the hand round in a sweeping motion, then plunging the thumb right through the dough with a sharp punch. Do this about 100 times, then leave the dough to rest, covered, for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, stone and chop the olives. Scatter them over the dough and knead in the bowl to mix them in. Turn the dough on to the work table and knead conventionally to ensure that the olives are evenly distributed. Leave the dough to rise in a bowl covered with oiled clingfilm in a warm place (24°C/75°F) for 1½ hours, until doubled in size.
  3. Turn out the dough on to the lightly floured work surface, knock back lightly and mould into a single loaf - either a ball or an oval - or individual rolls directly on a warmed, oiled baking sheet. To make an oval, flatten the dough into a round and fold it in half away from you, to make a half-moon and press the two halves together. Start rolling towards you from the centre, pinching the join with the heel of the hands as you make each turn. The roll completed, pinch the crease between finger and thumb. Tidy the points by gently rolling on the table with the palms of your hands.
  4. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove at 26°C/80°F for about 1½ hours. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7. Brush the bread with olive oil and make three diagonal slashes on the top if making a loaf. Bake a loaf for 35-40 minutes, rolls for about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.