Olive bread, great toasted with tomatoes.

2 May

DSCI0139I can’t think of anything that smells more wonderful than bread baking in the oven.  That is of course if you forget fried onions or bacon.  When I was a child my Grandma used to bake bread every Saturday. She would make about 10 loaves that would last all week.  I don’t know how she managed to keep them so fresh as there were no preservative in them but, I could guarantee that the last loaf would taste just as perfect as the first.  She used to make balm bread as well which was a slightly sweeter dough with currents in.  When I met my husband he thought he was in seventh heaven when he first tasted it.

I have had spells of making bread over the years but it has been a long time since I last made some.  I decided to make this batch on Sunday.  We had been to Staunton Harold and I was tempted by the array of breads in the deli there.  I was going to buy some but then decided at the last minuet to go home and make my own.  I was so glad I did.  This olive bread is the best I have ever tasted.  I made a basic Italian white bread dough, halved it and used half to make two loaves of olive bread and the other half to make to white loaves.  I was thrilled at the results.  The recipe was from ‘The Bread Book’ by Linda Collister and Anthony Blake.  It was really easy to follow.  I used to leave my bread to ‘proove’ (rise to twice its size) in a warm place for one hour.  The recipes in this book call for a longer rising time in room temperature.  Much easier, especially in winter, and really effective.  The recipe in the book uses fresh yeast and gives an alternative using ‘Easy- Blend Dried yeast’. I have found it is nigh on impossible to buy fresh yeast today ( although my Grandma would use nothing else).  I suppose speed has become a sign of the times.  Anyway, the recipe below is exactly how I made it.  Kneading is an essential part of bread making.  There are lots of videos on the net to show you the technique. I have put a link below as an example.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/techniques/kneading

No slide show on this recipe folks as it was so easy and basically only one step prior to the kneading. The bread is best eaten within 24 hours but is fantastic toasted for 2 -3 days after that.  Try the Olive Bread toasted lightly, top with sliced ripe tomatoes, season then continue to grill until the tomatoes are warmed through and soft. Delicious!

Olive Bread (or Italian white bread)           Makes 4 loaves

  • 1.5kg (3.25 lbs) strong white bread flour.
  • 30g/1 oz salt
  • 2 sachets (14g/1/2oz) Easy-Blend Dried Yeast
  • Good pinch of sugar
  • 850-990ml/1.5-1.75pints lukewarm water
  • 140 ml / 5 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
  • 170g /6 oz stoned black olives, chopped roughly
  • extra flour for dusting
  • extra oil for greasing bowl.
  1. Mix the flour, salt, dried yeast and sugar together in a very large bowl.
  2. Add most of the water and mix together roughly.
  3. Add the olive oil and continue mixing until the dough comes together.  If necessary, gradually add the remaining water to make a soft but not sticky dough that holds its shape.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead as per technique above for 10 minutes, until it becomes smooth and elastic.
  5. For the white bread, cut the dough in half and return one half to a clean, oiled mixing bowl, cover with a damp tea-towel and leave at room temperature for 3.5 – 4 hours or until doubled in size.
  6. For the Olive bread take the remaining half of dough and knead in the chopped olives.  If it becomes too wet, add a little more flour.  When the olives are dispersed evenly put in a separate clean, oiled mixing bowl, cover with a damp tea-towel and leave at room temperature for 3.5 – 4 hours.
  7. When the dough has risen, take out each in turn and cut in half to make two white loaves and two Olive loaves.  For each loaf, gently pull at the sides and tuck under until you have a nice round shape to the loaf. Do not knead the dough or knock back or turn it over at this stage.
  8. Put the loaves onto floured baking trays, cover again with the damp tea-towel and leave at room temperature for 1 – 1.5 hours until almost doubled in size again.
  9. Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 230C/220C fn/Gas 8).
  10. When the dough is ready, uncover, dust lightly with flour then bake in the hot oven for 12 minutes then lower the oven temperature to 190C/180C fan/Gas 5) and bake for 25- 35 minutes longer until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath.  Cool completely on a wire rack, if you can resist the temptation not to butter a slice whilst it is warm.
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