I’ve had a deep, abiding love affair with all things olive going way back to my kid days when I used to snarf them down like normal kids chowed down on M&Ms. (Who needs chocolate when you’ve got kalamatas, right?) It’s been an unshakable love that’s withstood assaults from all sides over the years, most notably from A. the boys in 8th grade biology who threw olives at us girls during the fetal pig dissection module while yelling, “Here comes an eyeball!” and B. those cheesy Halloween haunted houses where, once again, olives were the stand-ins for eyeballs (what did these poor olives do to warrant such an indignity), and C. worst of all, a husband who can’t stand them. No matter. My olive love is steadfast and unwavering, and if Mr. Dough doesn’t like ’em, he can just pick ’em out because I’m cooking with ’em. Lots. Pitted, whole, stuffed, not stuffed, black, green and everything in between. Gimme.
So it stands to reason that I wasn’t exactly upset when olives were chosen for this month’s #TwelveLoaves theme, courtesy of Karen over at Karen’s Kitchen Stories(one of my very favorite blogs–she bakes the most beautiful breads–and other mouthwatering stuff–and is very warm and witty too. And…it was her blog that gave me the push to start mine. So if you’ve got a problem with me, take it up with her, ‘k? THANKS, KAREN! Your fault!)
Of course, I’ve baked all sorts of olive breads before but this time I thought I’d go traditional. So I headed over to the Mediterranean–where they really know their olives–for a classic Greek bread, Eliopsomo, which means–literally, olive bread. (Elio=olive, psomo=bread. Ta da!) It’s loaded with big chunks of olives, slatherings of rich olive oil, plus onions and fresh herbs, and without a doubt it’s a killer bread. I’ve made it three times over the past three weeks and each time the entire huge loaf disappeared in record time. The Official Dough Taste Testing Team could not get enough.
I did a lot experimenting with it, not so much with the ingredients as with the method–some more successful than others–but all led to the same delicious conclusion. A soft, fragrant, savory crumb and chewy crust. And while it’s great with any number of accompaniments (Hummus? Feta? Yes, please.) it’s even better on its own so you can appreciate the salty bursts of olive, heady fragrance of the herbs and olive oil and the lightly caramelized onions in all their glory. If you’re an olive fan, you owe it to yourself to give this a try. And even if you’re not, you still ought to give it a go. It could win you over to the dark (olive) side. No eyeballs, I promise.
greek olive bread – eliopsomo
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 1–2 tbsp olive oil, for frying
- 675g /1 1/2 lb white bread flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 350ml /12 fl oz lukewarm water
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 175g /6 oz pitted black olives, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh marjoram and/or oregano, roughly chopped
- extra flour for dusting
- Add the olive oil to a skillet and saute over medium heat until soft and beginning caramelize. Set aside.
- Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir together. Add the yeast, water and olive oil and knead on medium for about 8-10 minutes, until you have a soft, smooth dough.
- Towards the end of the kneading, add in the olives, onion and herb and knead until incorporated.
- Turn the dough into a large oiled bowl, cover and let rest in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled.
- Lightly flour a work surface, turn the dough out and knead a few times. to de-gas.
- Cut the dough in two and shape into ovals. (Or make one VERY large loaf.) Place each loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment, cover and let rest until doubled.
- While the loaves are resting, preheat the oven to 425°F. If using a covered baker, preheat according to directions.
- When the loaves are ready to bake, sprinkle with flour and slash 3 or 4 times, about 1/2″ deep.
- Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Cool completely on a wire rack.
Makes 2 medium size loaves or 1 ginormo loaf
Notes (Lots of ’em)
I used kalamata olives and kalamata olive oil (from Trader Joe’s).
As I mentioned, I made this three times, varying the method each time. The original recipe calls for adding the olives, herbs and onion AFTER the first rise. Rolling out the dough, topping it with the olive mixture, rolling it up and kneading it in. This created a giant squishy mess that never really came together for me so I just scraped it up in a sort of round. It was blobbing all over the place and ended up rather flat after baking (on a baking stone) but still tasted great.
For the second go-round, I added the olive mix towards the end of the kneading process, as I’ve noted above. It still squished but came together much better. I proofed the loaf on a baking sheet then baked in a La Cloche to contain it. It definitely kept it’s shape better than my first loaf and still tasted great.
For the third pass, I added the olive mix at the beginning of the kneading process, hoping that the Bread Police wouldn’t arrest me for gluten mangling. I used a large plastic banneton for the second rise and baked it in the La Cloche again. It kept a beautiful shape and had great oven spring, giving me a big giant dome of a bread. Unfortunately, mixing in the olives and onions at the beginning made them become one with the dough so the resulting loaf, as you can see in the photos, was kind of a uniform gray. Very pretty on the outside, not so much on the inside. Bad timing, bad lighting and two disappeared loaves meant I was only able to photograph this last one so I can’t show you the beautiful marbling and chunky olives I got with Loaf 2.
Conclusion: Next time–and there will be a next time, plenty of ’em, in fact–I’ll add the olive mix towards the end of the knead for nice marbling and keeping the integrity of the rough-chopped olives (Loaf 2), proof the loaf in the plastic banneton to create a nice shape (Loaf 3), and bake in the La Cloche (2 & 3)