Olive-rosemary bread is the most classic variation on a basic rustic loaf. However, you can’t simply add olives to our Rustic Italian Bread. We found it necessary to make several adjustments to the dough.
Because the olives contain a fair amount of moisture, the first thing we did was take down the hydration level of the dough. The olives can make the bread itself seem a bit bland, so we replaced some of the bread flour with whole wheat flour and added a little honey. For rosemary flavor, nothing but fresh will do and you need a whopping 2 tablespoons. With all these strong flavors, we found that we could skip the biga and simply knead the dough, let it rise, shape the dough, and then bake the bread.
As for the olives, almost any variety will work. The biggest challenge is keeping the olives in the dough as it is shaped. Many recipes call for adding the olives to the mix, but this just causes the olives to break down and stain the loaf purple or green. The mashed olives also made the loaf heavy and dense.
We found it best to add the olives to the already kneaded dough. To ensure even distribution, we found it best to remove the dough from the mixer, pat it into a rectangle, sprinkle the olives over the dough, then roll up the dough like a jelly roll. As dough rises, the olives are evenly dispersed and safely embedded into the loaf so they don’t fall out during the shaping process.
Total Cooking Time: 420
Preparation Time: 10
Active Cooking Time: 45
Make Ahead: Best when freshly baked
Yield: 2 loaves