Braided Olive Tapenade Bread

This was a really yummy bread that I found in my Mom’s King Arthur 200th anniversary cookbook that I’m permanently borrowing. (Thanks, Mom!) The recipe is traditionally called “Ligurian Olive Bread” and used olive pesto

You make 3 different bread doughs. One with green olive tapenade, one with kalamata tapenade, and one that’s a classic olive oil bread. Then you split the dough four ways and make four braids. This is definitely a time-intensive bread  recipe that will either require the use of a dough hook attachment in a stand mixer, or you can hand knead the bread like I did. Overall, allot a hefty amount of time for this one. Maybe 4-5 hours.

This makes 4 pretty large loaves, so make sure you have some hungry people around (or a lot of freezer space!)

Unfortunately, it was eaten before I could take a picture of a full loaf (above is only half), but you get the idea. (Yes, I have a lot of hungry, bread-loving friends!)

Directions green olive bread: Proof the yeast: In a large bowl, add 1C warm water. Not too hot that you’ll kill the yeast. Right about 30-35°C is perfect. Mix in 1 C (~4.3 oz) of flour and the yeast. I added a smidgen of sugar to kick-start the yeast, but that isn’t necessary. Let this mix sit until it has expanded and started bubbling, about 10-20 minutes depending on your yeast age and temperature in your home. It will look like a science project gone bad.

Stir in the olive oil, olive pesto (or tapenade) and salt. Add the remaining flour (11.8 oz) gradually until the dough begins to pull away from the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 4 minutes. Keep adding flour while kneading until the dough no longer sticks to your surface nor your hands. After the first 4 minutes, take a break to wash the bowl you made the dough in. Grease the bowl with butter. Now back to the dough…Giving the dough a break allows the gluten a little more time to align, giving the dough a more elastic feeling and the bread a better crumb. Start kneading again until the dough is smooth and elastic, about another 3-4 minutes.

Put the dough in the greased bowl, and turn it to make sure all surfaces are greased. Cover the top of the bowl with a damp towel. (A clean, cotton towel like this one is perfect.) Put aside until the dough has doubled in bulk, ~1-2 hours depending on your home temperature. You can tell that the rising has finished if you poke the dough with your fingers and it doesn’t spring back.

Directions black olive bread: Same as the green olive bread above! When I made the bread, I started all of the proofs at the same time, so that all the risings would be approximately would be in sync.

Directions olive oil bread: This dough is only slightly different. Proof the yeast as before. Stir in the butter (melted but cool), olive oil, and salt. Add the remaining flour (12.9 oz) gradually until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead and rise as before.

Directions to assemble: Once all of the doughs have risen, it is time to braid. Divide each dough into four equal sized pieces. Roll each piece into a strand that is about 15″ long. You can either braid from the center, like in the illustration below from the King Arthur Flour 200th anniversary cookbook, or you can align all three strands and braid from the ends. Make sure when you get to the end of the braid that you pinch the three strands together to seal the dough. Otherwise they will pull apart during baking.

Repeat with all the dough. You’ll end up with 4 braided loaves. Put the bread on a lightly greased baking sheet, leaving 3″ between each loaf. Cover all with a damp towel and let them rise for 1.5 hours. (Mine actually rose for 2 hours because of an oven incident.)

Baking: Preheat the oven about 1:15 into the final rise to 425°F. While the oven is preheating, put a METAL pan (not glass…that was my incident…) on the bottom shelf of the oven. When you’re ready to bake the bread, brush the bread with an egg white wash. (Wash = 1 egg white + 1 t water, whisk well.) Sprinkle the breads with kosher or sea salt. (Yummm)

When you open the oven, pour warm water into the metal pan. This will create steam that will give your bread a nice crunchy crust. (Again do not use glass…it will shatter and wake up your sleeping fiance.) Bake the breads with steam at 425°F for 15 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 375°F for another 20-25 minutes. (If you decided to make larger loaves, make sure to bake longer!) You can tell when bread is done by flipping it over and tapping the bottom. It should sound hollow.

Cool your beautiful bread on a rack. Once completely cooled, you can dig in. Seal any bread you’re not ready to use in an air-tight container and freeze. I usually refrigerate the bread I’m currently eating to maintain freshness and fend off  both staling and spoiling.

Enjoy!

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