This is a bread for a lazy day. There is work involved but most of the time is spent waiting for the magic of leavened bread to take place, while being lazy of course! And for all that waiting, you get in the end, a moist, flavourful bread well worth the time and effort.
There is a quaint little market in the heart of Ottawa called Byward Market. It was here, years ago on a day trip, that I came across an olive bread that my kids, as well as my husband and I, fell in love with. Each time we visited, we were sure to pick up a few loaves. It was so good! I went through many trials trying to reproduce it to no avail. In the process,though, I did stumble upon this one which makes for a pretty decent substitute. It is crusty on the outside, soft and moist on the inside and flavoured with olives, rosemary and fennel. It’s made of whole wheat so it will remain more dense than its all-purpose flour counterpart but the whole wheat lends a nice flavour in return. Added bonus, it’s homemade and readily available from my oven! No need for a 200 km drive.
This bread involves two rising periods so it requires a bit of planning to ensure that you have a freshly baked loaf of bread exactly when you would like to eat it. Here is the first rise:
Then you incorporate the olives, rosemary and spices and set the dough aside for the second rise directly in the baking dish.
And finally, you get to bake it and savour it! Best enjoyed fresh out of the oven with butter, roasted garlic or a mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Buttermilk Olive Bread (adapted from here)
(yields one 9×5 inches loaf or two 7 inch diameter rounds)
- 543 g (or 4 cups) white whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 1/4 tsp dry yeast
- 37 g (or about 1/6 cup) butter
- 337 ml (that is just shy of 1 1/2 cups) buttermilk
- 2 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
- 2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
- 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 1/2 cup pitted and chopped cracked olives marinated in spices (black, green or a mix)
- about 4 tbsp olive oil
- Add sugar and yeast to 1/4 cup warm water and let is proof until it is foamy.
- In a large bowl*, combine flour with salt and make a well in the center.
- In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter, add buttermilk. Stir and allow it to warm up. Do not heat past warm. Check with a thermometer or finger; it should not feel either hot or cold to the touch.
- Gently pour the buttermilk mixture to the flour, then add the yeast mixture.
- Give a quick mix using a spoon or your hand.
- Knead to form the dough. It should be smooth and soft. You can add warm water or use additional flour to get it just right. Shape it into a ball.
- Oil the ball with 2 tbsp of olive oil, cover the bowl with a damp cloth and allow to rise for at least 2 hours. It should double in volume.
- Once the first rise is complete, add the rosemary, fennel seeds, pepper and olives and knead the dough to incorporate into a uniform dough. Form in the shape of one loaf or two smaller balls, depending on your preference.
- Oil the shaped dough again with olive oil. For the second rise, place the dough in a bread pan or in oven proof round casseroles that are at least 8 inch wide, depending on your chosen shape. Alternatively, you can just put on a baking sheet. Cover again with damp cloth and allow to rise for an hour. (This time, the dough will not double in volume). Towards the end of the rising period, preheat oven to 375°F.
- Mix about 1 tbsp of water with the remaining oil. Brush this onto the risen dough and bake in the center of the oven for 30-35 minutes, until the bread is lightly browned on top. Enjoy with butter, roasted garlic or a mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
* When forming dough, I like using a round dough bowl, one that is wider than it is high. I also prefer to make the dough by hand; you get to feel it as you mix so you can anticipate if it is too wet or dry before it is to late to make any adjustments. I’ve tried to make the recipe as precise as possible (hence numbers like 543 g!), but I find, with dough-making there are always small adjustments to be made so don’t be alarmed if you need to differ slightly from my quantities.