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There are two things members of our patchwork family have in common – we love good food and we hate olives!

Even the pickiest of our kids, Valerie, producer of the famous “square mouth” whenever I made her try at least one bite before she said she didn’t like it; and Francesca who ordered “just white rice” when we ate at a restaurant, ended up as foodies. Valerie even became a chef!

Chef Valerie with proud Mom

The Andersons and their offspring pick olives off pizzas, and leave them untouched in the salad bowl. They don’t order tapenade and don’t drink martinis. But then something strange happened…

Knowing that a lot of people are olive fans and crave them in all kinds of foods, I looked for an olive bread recipe to satisfy those die-hards among my customers.

I found one in my favorite “Brot aus Südtirol” and decided to give it a try, tweaking it a bit (using a preferment and overnight refrigeration).

It was quite a struggle to force the slippery olives into the dough (maybe they sensed my negative vibes).

I also found it not very easy to roll the dough into the right shape for dividing it into equal sized pieces, without a lot of leftover cut-offs.

No wonder, my first batch of “Pane di Olive”, looked like misshapen scones, with dark bruises (from my abuse?), but (at least) they didn’t smell bad.

With some misgivings and no great expectations I bit in an olive studded roll. Took another unbelieving bite and was deeply shocked – the olive bread tasted good, really good, incredibly good!

Incredibly good!

I gave one to Richard, the most willing guinea pig of all husbands (but, also, staunchest olive hater of us all) who eyed it with visible distrust. “You should probably call that “Malfatti” (Italian for “badly made”) he suggested, but then, just to please me, nibbled gingerly at one corner.


Good quality olives are important

Making the olive bread again and again – it proved to be a big hit with my customers at A&B Naturals, too – I learned a few tricks to make the mixing and shaping easier.

It is very important to use good quality olives, like Kalamata. The bread’s taste depends on those olives, so don’t skimp on this essential ingredient.

Drying the coarsely chopped olives killed two birds with one stone

Not only draining, but letting the olives dry for several hours on kitchen paper towels, makes them less slippery, and much more willing to embrace the dough. Killing two birds with one pit stone,
this simple measure also takes care of the ugly “bruising” of the bread.

Instead of using a preferment, I find it easier to work the dough with stretch and fold, with an overnight stay in the fridge. This method requires less yeast, so I reduced it a bit.

A template makes rolling and cutting the dough easier

And, finally, a bit of calculation (not my strongest point) and a paper template made the rolling and cutting of the dough a cinch!

OLIVE BREAD   (adapted from Richard Ploner: “Brot aus Südtirol“)
(10 pieces)

250 g/8.8 oz Italian 00 flour
250 g/8.8 oz all-purpose flour
    4 g/0.14 oz instant yeast
    9 g/0.3 oz salt
    5 g/0.18 oz honey
  30 g/1.6 oz olive oil
100 g/3.5 oz Kalamata olives, pitted
240 g/8.5 oz water

12 g/0.4 oz milk
12 g/0.4 oz whipping cream
7 g/0.25 oz sugar

DAY 1:
Drain olives in a strainer, chop coarsely, place on kitchen paper towels, and let dry for several hours.

Mix all ingredients, except for olives, at low speed (or with large wooden spoon) for 1-2 minutes until all flour is hydrated. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.

Knead at medium-low speed (or by hand) for 2 minutes, adjusting with a little more water, if necessary (dough should be a bit sticky.) Knead for another 4 minutes, while feeding olives slowly to dough. It should still be somewhat sticky rather than just tacky.

Starting with the top, fold dough in thirds like a business letter

 Transfer dough to a lightly oiled work surface. With oiled or wet hands, stretch and pat it into rough square. Fold from top to bottom in thirds, like a business letter. Then fold the same way from both sides. Gather dough into ball, and place, seam side down, into lightly oiled bowl. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.

After stretching and folding you have a neat package of dough

Repeat this stretching and folding 3 more times, at 10-minute intervals. After the last fold,  place dough, well covered, in refrigerator overnight. (It doesn’t have to warm up before using.)

DAY 2:
Preheat oven to 410º F/210º C.  Cut parchment paper into a 24 x 30 cm/12 x 9.5″ template. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

The dough has doubled overnight in the fridge

In a little bowl, mix topping ingredients, place in microwave, and bring to a boil. Remove, and set aside.

Rolled out and marked for cutting into 10 pieces

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a square (24 x 30 cm/12 x 9.5″), using the template (about 1.5 cm/0.5″ thick). Trim edges. Using pizza cutter or knife, cut dough square first lengthwise in half, then each half into in 5 equal pieces. The dough will be very soft.

Brush with milk mixture and dock with wooden spoon

Transfer pieces to parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with milk wash. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, press deep holes in the dough, evenly spaced. Cover, and let it rise for 30 – 45 minutes, or until breads stays dimpled when poked with finger.

Bake breads (no steam) for 10 minutes, rotate pan 180 degrees, and continue baking for another 10 minutes, until they are golden brown (internal temperature at least 200ºF/93ºC)

To this day we are still amazed that we Andersons do like olives – when they come with Olive Bread!

Completely updated post (originally posted in 5/30/2010)

Submitted to Panissimo:  Bread & Companatico

                                        Indovina chi viene a cena                                            


  1. I love olives (all kinds) and this bread sounds wonderful. Two questions: what can I sub for Italian 00 flour? I have so many different kinds of flour already and really don't need to buy another kind. What did you use to poke holes in the dough strips? Danke sehr!


  2. You can substitute with pastry flour. The Italian 00 is, like German Typ 405, a soft wheat, low protein flour, if you use only AP, you will get a chewy crumb, and not quite the right consistency. The poking is not only for the looks, but to prevent the bread from puffing up too much. In this kind of bread you don't want large holes.
    Do try it, Hanaâ, it's really nice!


  3. Lovely bread, Karin!
    How nice to have a daughter as a chef! Yes, you must be very proud of her indeed! 🙂
    Your olive bread looks fabulous! I made an olive bread too last week, and I do have some problem trying to get the olives to stay in the dough, even though I drained and wiped them dry. In the end, the bread turned out good, but could be better, and it tastes wonderful and very addictive!
    Kalamata olives are extremely expensive over here, so I used the regular ones. And I do not have excess to Italian flour over here, something that I would love to have!
    Thank you for sharing! I will bookmark this recipe!


  4. Joyce, here in the US soft wheat, low protein flour, like Italian 00, is available only in specialty stores, because the wheat grown here has a high protein content than European wheat.
    In Europe lower protein flour is the normal “all-purpose” flour (except for bread baking), I don't know what kind of flour you get in Malaysia, if it doesn't come from the US, it might have lower protein, anyway.
    The slipperiness of the olives is really a problem, I found it easier to slowly add them in bits and pieces to the dough, than trying to put them in at once, and then have them swishing around in the bowl, without getting worked into the dough.
    My daughter does loves cooking, but, unfortunately, wages for cooks are so low, that she is now pursuing a career as a speech therapist, and cooks for family and friends.


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