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Olive Bread

This is a great recipe for a first foray into adding other ingredients into bread. You will find all sorts of recipes for breads with add-ins: raisins, cranberries, other fruits, herbs, nuts, chocolate chips, and yes, olives. There are two tricks for success:

  • Keep the pieces small. They will be easier to mix in and knead, they will stay in the dough better as it rises and bakes, and it will be easier to slide the bread in the end.
  • Remove as much liquid as possible from them before adding them to the dough. Kneading will start to push out some of the liquid, making the dough sticky and hard to work with as you mix and knead it. And more liquid will be released as the bread bakes, which can leave soggy spots in the bread after it’s baked (especially if the pieces are large).

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Makes one loaf, 10-12 slices. Preparation time: about 2 1/2 hours.


  • 1 1/4 cup water, warmed to about 110 degrees F
  • 1 tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. molasses
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pits removed, drained well, and chopped into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the warm water, yeast and molasses until the yeast is thoroughly dissolved (about 1 full minute). Let stand 3-5 minutes to allow the yeast to activate. The molasses is a substitute for sugar, but adds more flavor and color to the dough.

Stir in the olive oil and salt. Salt can inhibit yeast growth, so we wait to add it until after the yeast has had a chance to activate.

Stir in the flour, one cup at a time, until it forms a ball of dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You might not need all of the flour to get to this point; add the last 3/4 cup of flour a bit at a time until you get the right consistency in the dough.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured countertop or other flat surface. Roll it out into a sheet about 10 inches wide and half an inch thick. Spread the olives and rosemary evenly over the top, then roll up the dough into a cylinder. This is an easy way to incorporate the olives (which are wet and squishy) and rosemary into the dough.

Coil up the dough and then press it together into a rough ball. Knead the dough for 10 minutes or until the dough springs back when pressed, adding flour as necessary. Kneading will press some of the liquid out of the olives for the first couple of minutes of kneading, making the outside of the dough ball a bit wet. Add just enough flour to absorb the additional liquid and to stop the dough from getting sticky.

Return the dough to the bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let rise until it doubles in size, about one hour.

Punch the dough down by kneading it for about 30 seconds. Shape it into a smooth ball, and place it in the middle of a baking sheet (greased or lined with parchment paper). Spray the top with a thin layer of oil, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat over to 400 degrees F.

Uncover the bread and bake at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes or until the center of the bread reads 200 degrees F on a thermometer.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Tips and suggestions:

  • Drain the olives well — the less additional liquid you add to your dough, the better.
  • The rosemary is optional, but it complements the olives very well.
  • You can try substituting other kinds of olives, such as green or black. But kalamata olives work very well with this recipe.
  • This is a great recipe to use a stand mixer with a dough hook for the mixing and kneading. The dough can get stiff and difficult to work, and the stand mixer handles it very well (and contains the mess well too). Just keep an eye on it and continue to add flour as necessary to stop the dough from getting sticky.
  • You could adjust the directions to mix together all of the dry ingredients first: the flour, salt, and rosemary. But only do that after you’ve made the recipe a few times and have a good feel for how much flour you will end up needing — remember, once you mix them all together, then if you’re slowly adding the flour you are also slowly adding the salt and rosemary. And if you end up not using all of the flour, you are also leaving out some of the salt and rosemary.
  • If you want, you can do the first rise overnight in the refrigerator. The cold will slow down the rise, but it will allow more time for flavor development. Just make sure you give the dough time to come back up to room temperature before you put it in the oven!
  • You can substitute whole wheat flour for some of the bread flour. Just make sure to add 1 tablespoon of vital wheat gluten for every cup of whole what flour you substitute in.