Olive And Red Onion Bread

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I have decided to go after the elusive wild Swedish yeast and began my own sourdough starter.

However, the first few days of the sourdough starter development are incredibly boring.  I’ve checked the jar with starter in the morning, and is it doing anything?  Nah.  Well, maybe a few bubbles.  So I fed it and left it be.  In the meantime, and in preparation for the (hopefully!) upcoming sourdough experience, I decided to give myself a crash reminder course in yeast bread baking – and to use up the remainder of the yeast block I had bought for the Herb and Lemon Peel Bread.

Kalamata Olive and Sundried Tomato Bread

(Note: THE RECIPE FOR THE BREAD IN THIS POST IS NOT SOURDOUGH.  IT IS LEAVENED BY FRESH COMMERCIAL CAKE YEAST.)

Since it seemed a bit boring to just make white bread (yes, I am spoiled), and we needed to go buy milk anyway, I picked up a can of good Kalamata olives (I usually keep those and sundried tomatoes around, but I’d run out), and a few red onions in order to make a Greek variation of an olive bread.  What makes it Greek? – Other than the fact it stated so in the introduction to the recipe in one of my favourite cookbooks (“Mediterranean: A Taste of the Sun” by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow), it is also a known fact™ (to me, anyway) that Greeks think red onions go into just about anything but dessert.  Not that there is anything wrong with red onions – nor do I disagree with the fact that they are, in fact, very good in many dishes.  But then, I love Greek food, and I am biased in favor of flavor.  (And also, I make bad rhymes.)

The basic recipe (modified by me as I tend to tinker with just about any recipe which crosses my greedy paws) is surprisingly simple in preparation, and the result is aromatic, moist and good enough to pick the crumbs up off the board after cutting it.  Oh, and even without steam, in a simple (non-fan) household oven, this gets a lovely crumbly crust, perfect for messily ripping pieces off, dipping into some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or just eating as they are all on their own.

Which is what we did.

For the dipping oil, I simply poured 1 tablespoon of good-quality balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil into a bowl, added a pinch of sea salt flakes and a few dried chili flakes, and swished it around a little with a fork.  It needs nothing more than that, and you can easily skip the chili flakes if you aren’t a fan of capsaicin (I am but I won’t tell anyone else how to not abuse their chili!).

As to the bread itself – as I have mentioned, I have modified the original recipe a little.  The first change was to convert it from using dry yeast to fresh cake yeast (I like the latter better, and it’s what I had), and a few seasoning/flavoring ingredient changes.  The basic idea, however, remains the same.  I have also halved the quantity, because frankly speaking, at the rate we eat bread – even very good bread! – one of those loaves is more than enough for two hungry people for a couple of days.

The total preparation time (including 2 rises) of this dough is approximately 3 hours including baking.  The rising time will vary based on your yeast and room temperature, among other things.

Here is what you are going to need:

  • A large mixing bowl
  • Baking parchment
  • Cling film
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced and sauteed in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (to saute said onions) + 1 tablespoon olive oil for oiling the bowl and cling film later on
  • 1/2 cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives.  You can use regular black olives, but the taste won’t be nearly as good.
  • 3.5 cups good white flour.  I used simple white Swedish flour with declared protein content of 10% (10g/100g of flour).
  • 1 teaspoon salt.  Use a measuring spoon for this, as most teaspoons are actually smaller than 5ml.
  • 20g (a bit less than 1/2 of a block) fresh yeast
  • 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh thyme, lemon thyme, or oregany.  1 tablespoon if using rosemary.
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3-4 oil-packed sundried tomatoes, snipped into bits
  • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon caster sugar (white or golden)
  • 1 cup (approx. 250ml) finger-warm water

How-to:

  • Measure out the water and add the sugar, then crumble the yeast cake in, swirl a little and leave to stand on the counter for 5-15 minutes.
  • Place lightly-sauteed onions, chopped olives, snipped sundried tomatoes, salt, spices and flour into a large mixing bowl.  Mix with a wooden spoon to combine.
  • Once yeast is slightly (or more than slightly) frothy, swirl it around again.  Make a depression in the flour mix and slowly pour it in, mixing the liquid in as you go with a wooden spoon until all water is absorbed, then continue mixing by hand.  Add water a tablespoon at a time if the mix feels too dry.
  • Turn the dough out on a well-floured surface and knead for ~10 minutes or more, adding flour if necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  It’ll also show less desire to stick to your hands or the table surface at this point.
  • Wash and dry the bowl.  (If you fill it with cold water immediately after turning dough out to knead, it makes said washing far, far easier.)  Oil the bowl with about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl neat side down.  Turn it to coat and leave it neat side up.  Cover bowl with cling film and then a clean kitchen towel and leave in a non-drafty place at room temperature until doubled in bulk (took me 1 – 1.5 hours, but I did not watch it too closely – was busy eating lunch).
  • Prepare a baking sheet with a layer of baking parchment on it.  Lightly oil a sheet of cling film with remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Once the dough is risen, punch it down and turn back out on floured surface to knead.  Knead lightly until the dough is elastic again and form into a round loaf.
  • Place the loaf onto the baking parchment and cover with the oiled film, oiled side down.  Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in bulk (for another 40 min to an hour).
Oiling the film before covering the dough - very important! - prevents it sticking.
  • While the bread is rising, preheat oven to 210-220°C on top+bottom heat (no fan or forced air).
  • Remove cling film and slash the loaf several times with a serrated (bread) knife to avoid in-oven tearing.
  • Bake in preheated oven for approximately 40 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base.  Cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes until eating to avoid burning mouth.  (Also, the bread will slice much easier after it has cooled a little – warm bread tends to be fragile and tears up inside if you try to slice it too soon.)

Eat as you like – with or without dipping oil or salt flakes, toasted, or as a sandwich.  Baking may be a science, but the taste of this is pure joy!

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2 thoughts on “Olive And Red Onion Bread

  1. Thank you! The bread has almost disappeared already, despite what I’d said about not eating bread much.

    Any tips regarding the starter (other than feeding regularly and leaving it alone)?

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