Is there anything better than fresh bread coming out of the oven? The whole experience is worth the effort: the yeasty scent that fills the house, the texture of the bread dough as you knead it, the satisfaction of making something yourself from scratch, the anticipation building as it bakes in the oven, and finally that first bite of a slice slathered in butter as the steam still rises with its fragrant aroma. Yum! Do I have your mouth watering yet?
Earlier this spring I started a sourdough starter and I’ve been experimenting with different recipes. I’ve had some fails and successes with it, and it is still a learning process. Today’s loaves used some of the sourdough starter along with it yeast, but as many don’t automatically have it on hand (and it takes about 4 weeks to get it to a usable strength), I’ve adapted the recipe below to be a yeast only bread. That being said, please feel free to use your favourite bread recipe and just add the olives and herbs.
I feel I must warn you: this bread is highly addictive and you’ll want to keep slicing and eating. Please proceed with caution!
Olive and Herbes de Provence Bread
8 cups flour
2 cups water
1 1/2 Tbsp yeast
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 can (398 ml) pitted black olives, roughly chopped, or a mix of black and green
1 Tbsp herbes de Provence (see below to make your own)
~1/2 tsp oil for greasing
Mix together 4 cups of flour, the yeast, salt, and herbs. Add half of the water and start to work the mix together. As it blends, alternately add more flour and water and olives. If you have a good stand mixer, all this can be done in it. Otherwise, mix until most of the flour has been added, then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead in the rest of the flour. Dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky (add more flour if necessary). If you stretch a bit of it, it should be translucent without tearing apart. If it does tear apart, continue to knead the dough until it doesn’t tear. Rest for 20 min. on work surface.
Lightly coat a bowl with oil and place in dough. Loosely cover and place in a draft-free area about 20 Celsius or 68 Fahrenheit. Let rise 1 hour.
Knock back dough by placing on your floured surface and gently pulling it into a rectangle 1 inch thick (2.5 cm). Fold it into thirds in one direction, then fold into thirds from the other direction. Place back into the greased bowl. Let rise 1 hour.
Place dough on floured surface and divide into 3 pieces. Shape into a ball. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or tea towel. Let rest 20 min.
Lightly grease pans for baking. I chose to do 2 of mine on a baking sheet and 1 in a loaf pan. Shape dough into round loaves or ovals. Place in baking pans. Refrigerate. Let slow rise in fridge for 1 hour.
Remove from refrigerator. Place in a warm, draft-free area. Let it rise for another 1/2 to 1 1/2 hours as needed.
When it has grown by 2/3, test dough to know if it is ready: gently press finger onto dough and it should quickly bounce back. Preheat oven to 425 F / 220 C. To create a steam oven, place a oven-proof dish of water on a lower rack. Add ice cubes when you place the bread in the oven. Use a spray bottle filled with water to mist oven and bread. Bake for 30-40 min. until golden in colour. Remove from pan and cool as long as possible before slicing (20 min). Repeat with all the loaves if you can’t fit them in the oven all at once.
Herbes de Provence:
3 tsp oregano
3 tsp savory
1 tsp rosemary
3 tsp thyme
2 tsp lavender (can omit if you wish)
1/2 tsp basil
Blend all herbs together and store in an airtight jar for use in bread, on meat, on roasted vegetables, added to olive oil and vinegar for a salad dressing, etc.