In winter time, I like a homemade bread that can stand up to sturdy soups and stews, but not so heavy that it is a chore to eat.
That’s why I love this Mediterrean olive loaf. It has the texture of a good whole wheat bread without the treacly denseness of a pumpernickel or heavy rye. Plus it’s so easy to make.
There’s no greater cooking pleasure than making bread with your own hands. There’s something for all five senses — sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. Okay, maybe not so much sound, but four out of five isn’t bad!
This loaf is peppered with tiny specks of black olive. I also use the water the olives come packed in to make the loaf a deeper, satisfying grey-brown. And the fennel seed topping gives it just the right hint of licorice flavoring.
Like all breads, you can make this loaf into any shape you want. I chose the rounded ball, but it easily can be rolled into a long loaf, formed into rolls or placed into a traditional Pullman loaf pan. It would be really interesting to try it as a flatbread or even a pizza crust.
I used medium whole black olives, but you could really use any kind of olive, including kalamata or green olives. Just remember to remove any pits ahead of time.
Mediterranean Olive Loaf
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water (baby bath water temperature)
1 TBS active dry yeast (or one envelope)
2 TBS honey
2 TBS molasses
2 TBS vegetable shortening (or butter)
3 TBS nonfat dry milk powder
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rye flour
6 oz can medium black olives, sliced
1 TBS EVOO
1 TBS corn meal
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1. Pour the water from the olive can into a measuring cup then add enough water to bring it 1-1/2 cups. Heat in microwave until lukewarm, about 15 seconds on high. Pour into Kitchen Aid bowl (or mixing bowl) and whisk in yeast, honey, molasses and shortening. Let let sit until mixture begins to bubble, about five minutes. Meanwhile, combine milk powder, salt and the flours together in a separate bowl.
2. Attach the dough hook attachment to the Kitchen Aid (or just use a wooden spoon). Set to low speed, then slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. When combined, increase speed to medium and mix until dough is formed, about two minutes. Finally, add olives and mix until combined.
3. Flour a work surface and roll out dough. Knead with your hands for a few minutes, adding additional flour if necessary. The dough should be slightly tacky, but not sticky. Grease the bottom and sides of a clean mixing bowl with the EVOO, then place the dough in the bowl, rolling around so all sides are greased. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rest in a warm draft-free place until doubled in size, about an hour. Punch down, then let rise for another 30 minutes.
4. Spray a sheet pan with pan spray then dust with corn meal. Punch the dough down again, let it rest a minute or two, then cut in half with a sharp knife. Form the two loaves into whatever shape you want then place them on the sheet pan. Cover the loaves loosely with the dish towel and let proof about 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 375F. Using a sharp knife, make 1/2 inch deep slits every two inches or so, then brush loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle with the coarse sea salt and fennel seeds. Place pan in oven and cook 30-35 minutes. You can tell that the loaves are done when they give a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Cool loaves on wire rack.
Do you have any favorite accompaniments to winter soups and stews? Why not share them in the comments section below? And thanks for looking at my blog!