A good bread requires minimal ingredients: flour, a leavening agent, salt, and water. That’s it. Traditionally bread was made with a starter (also called levain), which is basically a mixture of flour and water that has been fermented to create a leavening agent. It can be a lengthy process, requiring more time and attention. Today, such a thing as baker’s yeast exists. While this leavening agent is not nearly as healthy as its fermented counterpart, it does the job with minimal effort. This bread is seriously satisfying to make. It will be hard to ever purchase olive bread again when you can make it this good yourself. It is beautifully crusty and airy. It is salty and moist, from all the olives. It feels like something you would have picked up at a fancy bakery. The best part is, you have total control over the quality of ingredients going into your bread. Since the ingredients are minimal, I highly suggest using high quality ingredients to yield the best bread possible. Refer to my recipe notes below. I use a Dutch oven to bake this in; however I’ve also offered another method if you do not own a Dutch oven. Disclaimer: Plan for this recipe at least one day in advance!
- 420g (about 3 cups) all purpose/white (spelt) flour
- 9g (2 tsp.) (instant) dry active yeast
- 2 tsp. sea salt
- 360ml (about 1 1/2 cups) warm water (between 50°C and 55°C)
- Add-In: 125g high quality olives, deseeded & sliced in halves (I use a mix of organic Kalamata and green marinated in garlic and herbs)
- Optional toppings: seeds (such as poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, nigella seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, etc.)
- In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, yeast, and salt and mix to combine.
- Pour in the warm water, and use a (wooden or rubber/silicon) spatula to mix all the ingredients until everything is well combined and there is no more flour visible. The reason this is a no-knead recipe is because the dough will undergo a natural, slow fermentation process. It will be quite wet and sticky; this is normal.
- Add the olives into the dough and mix briefly until it is fully incorporated into the dough.
- Once mixed, cover the bowl with a dampened tea towel, and set aside in a warm place to rise for anywhere between 2 and 5 hours; two hours being the minimum amount of time, and five being the maximum before proceeding with the next step. Tip: If it is not warm where you live, place this in the oven with the oven light on, as this generates enough heat to keep it warm. How long you let it rise depends on how much time you have, but also on the temperature where you are. If it is quite warm, 2 hours will be enough. If it is colder, I suggest letting it sit for the full 5 hours. Either way, the longer the better.
- At this point, the dough should have risen slightly, be full of air bubbles, and even stick to the sides of the bowl. Prepare to transfer this dough by generously flouring a proofing basket (banneton). If you do not have one, simply line a bowl (of a size large enough to just fit the dough into) with a linen tea towel and generously sprinkle some flour. This will help prevent the dough from sticking to the towel. Transfer the dough into the banneton or bowl, cover with the same damp towel, and place in the fridge. Allow it to rest there for anywhere between 12 and 72 hours. In this time, the dough will slowly ferment, hence producing natural gasses to form the beautiful air pockets found in artisan bread. The longer it sits within this time range, the better the taste of the bread will be.
- Once it has proofed, remove the banneton or bowl out of the fridge and allow it to rest at room temperature for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- In the meanwhile, place a Dutch oven pot into your oven and pre-heat the oven to 230°C (450°F) for 20 - 30 minutes. If you do not have a Dutch oven, refer to my recipe notes below.
- Line some baking/parchment paper (of a size larger than the surface area of the dough) on your counter, and sprinkle some flour over it. Once the additional proofing time is over, remove the towel and flip the banneton/bowl over to transfer the dough onto the baking/parchment paper.
- Remove the pre-heated pot from out the oven, remove the cover, and transfer the dough on the baking/parchment paper into the Dutch oven. Using a sharp paring knife (or a bread lame if you own one), quickly score the bread with patterns of your choice. Scoring is simply the process of slashing the dough with a blade to help the bread expand more easily. Scoring also gives the bread a nice post-bake finishing touch. Then place the cover back and place the pot back into the oven to bake for about 30 minutes. Having the pot covered creates steam within the pot, which will help simultaneously yield a crispier crust and moist interior.
- After 30 minutes, remove the cover, and bake for an additional 15 minutes, depending on how quickly your bread will brown. This will vary from oven to oven, therefore keep an eye out for the last stretch of the baking time. For me 10 - 15 minutes is usually the perfect amount of time.
- Remove the pot out of the oven and allow the bread to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Enjoy warm! Once it has cooled down fully, it can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the fridge for 5 days. However, it is the tastiest on the day it is freshly baked. Serve with vegan butter, guacamole, spreads, or simply on its own. There's nothing like warm olive bread fresh out of the oven.
• The quality of ingredients you use for your bread matters. I recommend using organic flour when possible. My go-to is white spelt, however white wheat works just as well. I recommend using good quality, unpasteurized olives. I prefer to use yeast that does not contain any additives or E-numbers. I also use pure sea salt, and never table salt.
• If you do not have a Dutch oven, my second best recommendation would be to use either any other oven-proof pot or somewhat tall baking dish (or tall enough to accommodate the rising of the bread in the oven), which you will cover with foil once you place the dough into it. Follow the same step of removing the foil after the 30 minute mark, and proceed baking until golden brown. To help with the steam, you can also place a few ice cubes into another baking dish at the very bottom of the oven; however this is optional as the steam will still be created with the foil. But because it is not as effective as covering the pot with a cover, I do recommend using the ice cubes trick. Please ensure that if you are using an oven-proof pot that it can handle going into the oven at 230°C (450°).
• Some variations that would work well with this bread: nuts and/or dried fruit, dried or fresh herbs, or vegan cheese shreds. You can experiment with one or a combination of these. You can even swap out the olives with one or more of these for a different bread altogether. Simply add in the first step where you would fold the olives into the dough. You can also just omit the olives and make it a plain bread.
• While it is true that salt can kill yeast, it would require larger concentrations or salt to do so. I have not experienced dead, or inactive, yeast due to adding salt with the making of any of my breads. So I would not worry about that. Hot water, on the other hand, can more easily kill yeast. Therefore, I advise using a thermometer to ensure that your water is within the above-mentioned range.
Can you use whole grain flour?
Although I have not yet made a fully whole grain version of this bread, according to my knowledge, you absolutely can. Some prefer to mix some white flour with the whole grain; however, I think it is totally fine to use 100% whole grain. I would increase the water content slightly as whole grain flour absorbs more water.