Our local grocery store used to make a delicious olive bread in their bakery. I would slice it into thick slices and toast it and butter it and eat it for breakfast, or lunch, or dinner. Then one day, they stopped selling it. That was maybe 10 years ago, make that 15 - I don't think kids were in the picture yet. Back then I never would have thought that I could make it in my own oven. I just carried on - without olive bread.
Then I came upon this recipe in The Art and Soul of Baking and the memory of that olive bread came back to me. With more bread-baking experience under my belt, I decided to give this recipe a try. It was wonderful. It's moist and has just the right amount of olive flavor, not overpowering. It's even better than the bread I remembered. I still like it thickly sliced and toasted with butter, and now I'll even sprinkle a little extra sea salt on top (maybe because I buy only unsalted butter, even for my butter dish.) It's nice to know I'll never need to go without olive bread again.
Rustic Olive and Thyme Bread
from The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet (not a bad recipe from this book yet!)
1 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast or 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup (5 ounces) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, or 1 1/8 tsp instant yeast
3 cups (15 ounces) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme (I used a little less of dried thyme)
1 cup pitted and coarsely chopped kalamata olives
1. Pour the water into a medium bowl and whisk in the yeast. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and looks creamy. Stir in the flour and mix until no patches of dry flour remain. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 4 to 6 hours at room temperature, or 24 hours in the refrigerator.
2. Pour the warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar and yeast, whisk by hand to blend, and allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. Add the poolish and whisk by hand to blend well. Add the flour, salt, olive oil, thyme, and olives (make sure the olives are coated with flour before kneading). Knead the dough on low speed until is comes together in a cohesive mass, about 3 or 4 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading. Turn the mixer to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is firm, elastic, and smooth, 3 to 6 minutes.
3. Lightly oil a bowl, scrape the dough into it, and lightly cost the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic warp and let the dough rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 3 hours.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don't knead the dough again or it will be too springy and difficult to shape. Divide the dough in half and shape into two round, taut loaves.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat and place the loaves on the sheet about 5 inches apart, seam sides down. Brush the loaves lightly with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow the loaves to rise until they are almost doubled in size and look like they have taken a deep breath, 45 to 60 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Slash a pattern into the top of the dough with a chef's knife. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until their internal temperature registers 200 degrees. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Slice with a serrated knife.