Olive Oil Sourdough With Castelvetranos

June 19, 2021
7 Ratings
Photo by Maurizio Leo
  • Prep time 37 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • makes 2 loaves
Author Notes

If you’re like me and a fan of all things olive, it likely won't take much convincing to get you to add them to your next batch of sourdough bread—sounds like a match made in heaven. If you don’t like olives, well, I’d still enthusiastically suggest you give this bread a try! The olives I use in this recipe—Castelvetrano—are not the typical jarred olive. Instead of zigging toward the salty and pungent olive experience, they zag, bearing a meaty, buttery, and mildly sweet flavor that tastes so good that opening a jar by yourself in the kitchen becomes an exercise in restraint.

To further spice up this loaf, I add more olives—in liquid form. Olive oil in the dough not only brings another level of flavor; it also inhibits gluten development, resulting in a loaf that’s more tender than the average sourdough, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture.

I kept it straightforward for the grain in this recipe: a blend of all-purpose white flour and whole-grain rye. This results in a mild-flavored bread with just enough sourness and complexity to ready the palate for another slice. The white flour is a stable base to support the olives and oil; the whole-grain rye flour brings ample flavor, crust color, and increased fermentation activity thanks to its high mineral content.

If you can’t find Castelvetrano olives, or simply prefer a different variety, any pitted green olive will work well in this recipe. The ubiquitous small and tart green olives available at most supermarkets work great in this dough, even if they bring a less nuanced flavor profile. If you have black olives on hand, you might want to have a go at my sun-dried tomato and kalamata olive sourdough (as you can probably tell, I have a thing for olives.)

This levain calls for a smaller amount of sourdough starter than other dough mixes. Still, because of its long 12-hour fermentation time and a high percentage of whole-grain rye flour (which increases fermentation activity), it will be plenty ripe by the morning.

To prepare the Castelvetrano olives for this recipe, thoroughly rinse them and leave them to dry on a paper towel for 15 minutes. If they’re not pitted, smash them on a cutting board with the side of a wide knife. The pits should slip right out. If your olives are pitted, after rinsing and drying, you can leave them whole or coarsely chop.
Maurizio Leo

What You'll Need
  • Levain
  • 36 grams all-purpose flour
  • 36 grams whole-grain rye flour
  • 73 grams water
  • 7 grams ripe sourdough starter
  • Dough
  • 798 grams all-purpose flour
  • 36 grams whole-grain rye flour
  • 562 grams water, divided
  • 218 grams Castelvetrano olives, rinsed and pitted (see headnote)
  • 18 grams extra-virgin olive oil
  • 15 grams fine sea salt
  1. Make the levain (9:00 p.m., the day before mixing).

    In the evening, when your sourdough starter is ripe (when you’d typically give it a refreshment), make the levain. In a medium-sized jar, combine 36 grams all-purpose flour, 36 grams whole-grain rye flour, 73 grams water, and 7 grams ripe sourdough starter. Cover the jar and let the levain ripen overnight at warm room temperature (around 74° to 76°F/23° to 24°C).
  2. Autolyse the dough and prepare the olives (8:30 a.m.).

    A relatively short (30-minute) autolyse helps reduce the mixing time needed for this dough. To a large mixing bowl, add the 798 grams all-purpose flour, 36 grams whole-grain rye flour, and 537 grams of the water (hold back 25 grams until mixing, later). Mix with wet hands until all the ingredients are combined, and no dry bits of flour remain. Cover the bowl with an airtight cover (reusable wrap or a silicone cover will work) and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile, thoroughly rinse the olives and leave them to dry on a paper towel for 15 minutes. Pit them if they're not already pitted.
  3. Mix the dough (9:00 a.m.).

    Uncover the dough and add the ripe levain, 18 grams extra virgin olive oil, 15 grams salt, and the reserved 25 grams of water. Mix by hand until all the ingredients are incorporated. Once everything is homogeneous, continue to mix the dough in the bowl by using one hand to stretch one side of the dough up and fold over to the middle, rotate the bowl a little, and again stretch the side up and fold over. Continue this folding and rotating until the dough starts to feel slightly smooth and gain elasticity—this should take around 3 to 5 minutes.

    Transfer the dough to another large bowl or container for bulk fermentation.
  4. Bulk ferment the dough (9:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.).

    Cover the dough with a reusable airtight cover and let it rise at warm room temperature (76°F/24°C) for a total of 4 hours. During this time, you’ll give the dough three sets of “stretches and folds” (see next step for explanation) to give it additional strength, as well as incorporate the olives. The first set is performed 30 minutes after the start of bulk fermentation, and the subsequent two sets at 30-minute intervals, then the dough will rest for the remaining 2 hours 30 minutes. Set a timer for 30 minutes and let the dough rest, covered. After 30 minutes, give the dough its first set of stretches and folds.

    To stretch and fold: 30 minutes after the start of bulk fermentation, spread about one-quarter (about 54 grams) of the Castelvetrano olives over the surface of the dough in the bulk fermentation container. Then, with wet hands, grab the north side (the side farthest from you) of the dough and stretch it up and over to the south side. Sprinkle over another quarter (54 grams) of the olives to the top of the newly exposed dough, and fold the south side up to the north. Then, perform two more folds, one from east to west, and one west to east, spreading the remaining quarters of olives each time. Finally, let the dough rest, covered, for 30 minutes.

    Perform the remaining two sets of stretches and folds in the same way, without any olive additions, with 30 minutes rest in between. After the third set, let the dough rest, covered, for the remaining time in bulk fermentation.
  5. Divide and preshape the dough (1:15 p.m.).

    Check the dough: After 4 hours, it should have risen in the bulk fermentation container, smoothed out, and have bubbles on top and at the sides. Using a plastic or silicone bowl scraper, gently scrape the dough out to a clean work surface. Then, using a bench scraper, divide the dough directly in half. Using wet or floured hands, gently preshape each half of the dough into a loose round.

    Let the rounds rest uncovered for 35 minutes.
  6. Shape the dough (1:50 p.m.).

    To shape into a boule, using floured hands, fold the bottom one-third of the dough up to the middle. Then, fold the left side up and over to the center, and finally, repeat for the right side. Finally, fold the top up and over to the bottom of the dough, forming a dough shape that resembles a folded-up mailing envelope. Flip the whole thing over so the seam is on the bottom, and use two hands to drag the dough toward your body as your pinky fingers create tension in the dough against the work surface. If the dough needs further tightening, rotate the round as you push it away from you, and drag again. In the end, the dough should have a consistently smooth and taut surface.

    Transfer each shaped round, seam side up, to an 8-inch proofing basket or clean kitchen bowl.
  7. Proof the shaped dough (2:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m., the next day).

    Cover the baskets with a reusable, airtight bag and place them into the refrigerator for at least 14 hours. During this time, the dough will proof during the evening and overnight, then be ready to bake the next morning.
  8. Bake the loaves (9:00 a.m.).

    Heat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven and place a Dutch oven or combo-cooker inside to heat inside the oven.

    Remove one of the dough-filled baskets from the refrigerator and uncover. Cut a piece of parchment paper to cover the opening of the basket and place it on top. Place a pizza peel or large cutting board (or even an inverted baking sheet) on top of the paper and flip the entire stack over. You’ll now have your dough, seam side down, on the parchment paper on the pizza peel. If there are any olives barely hanging onto the surface of the dough, you can pluck them off to avoid burning in the oven. Use a lame (baker’s razor blade) to score the top of the dough. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and place it on an oven-safe trivet on the counter. Then, carefully slide the dough into the hot Dutch oven by pulling on the parchment paper (it’s OK for the paper to bake with the dough inside the Dutch oven).

    Place the pot back into the oven, cover with the lid, and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes until the loaf is well colored, and the internal temperature is around 206°F (96°C). Using oven-safe gloves, remove the pot from the oven and transfer the baked loaf to a wire rack to cool. Return the Dutch oven to the oven, let it heat for 15 minutes, and repeat for the remaining loaf.

    Let the loaves cool for 1 to 2 hours on the cooling rack before slicing.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Bikegirl227
  • Liz Summers
    Liz Summers
  • Maurizio Leo
    Maurizio Leo
  • Bri Lavoie
    Bri Lavoie
Maurizio is the software engineer-turned-baker behind the award-winning sourdough website, The Perfect Loaf. Since baking his first loaf of bread, he's been obsessed with adjusting the balance between yeast and bacteria, tinkering with dough strength and hydration, and exploring everything sourdough. His New York Times Bestselling sourdough cookbook, The Perfect Loaf, is now available.

26 Reviews

M.Dumont February 23, 2023
Wonderful bread with or without the olives. It is just THE BEST. I make it every two weeks. It makes the best toasts for breakfast garnished with goat cheese and sometime homemade Meyer lemon marmalade. Next on my list: your ciabatta. Many thanks. I live at 3000 feet altitude and your recipes are perfect for me.
skmcmullen January 1, 2023
This recipe is absolutely fantastic—it’s so easy to follow the details, measurements, and time table & made such beautiful and delicious loaves! I also love that the time table makes it so that you finish the work the day before baking relatively early and the long proof in the fridge makes it so that you don’t have to bake the bread super early as the first thing you do. Many thanks for sharing!
cduffoo June 19, 2021
I baked this bread this morning but used black Bella di Cerignola Olives instead of castelvetranos since that's all I had at home. The bread texture and flavor is absolutely amazing! So soft and moist, with the right amount of crust crispiness. The crumb structure was a beauty! I've failed at baking many sourdough breads before, so succeeding with this one definitely made my day! Thank you Maurizio for this recipe!
Maurizio L. June 19, 2021
That sounds like a great olive choice! So glad to hear your bake went well—enjoy 🙂
Bikegirl227 May 19, 2021
I made 2 loaves of this castelvetrano olive bread as per the recipe and it was fabulolous!
Maurizio, your measurements, ingredients, timing and overall instructions were excellent! I gave a loaf to a neighbor who is Italian and she said it was over the top and a contest winner!
Maurizio L. May 20, 2021
Thanks so much, I really appreciate the kind words! And happy to hear the bread went over well—can't get a better compliment than that 🙂 Enjoy!
rachelib May 18, 2021
starting this tonight. I love Maurizio Leo's recipes both for the explicit measurements - digital scale - yea, and the timing information in the instructions, so much easier than working that out myself!
Maurizio L. May 18, 2021
Thanks for the feedback, Rachel! Let me know how you like this bread, it's a tasty one 🙂 Happy baking!
Diane L. May 14, 2021
Where best to buy these olives. Thanks
Maurizio L. May 14, 2021
I found them at my local Whole Foods, they're in the canned/jarred area with other olives and pickles.
Laura May 13, 2021
No one in America measures in grams - really? Pass on the recipe.
Liz S. May 13, 2021
I was born and still live in America and have measured in grams for many years. Most serious baking sites and bakers who frequent them measure in grams. Measuring in grams (weight) vs cups (volume), ensures accuracy across regions with varying humidity as well as the baker's ability and technique in measuring ... flour in particular. Additionally, measuring in grams allows substitution of flours with accuracy. For example, I use a hard red wheat white flour that typically takes more liquid than something like a store bread flour ... except if I measure by weight, I mostly do not have to adjust (minimally, maybe).

Obviously, you can pass on the recipe, but your statement that "no one in America measures in grams" is false. And there is good reason that most of the world, including serious bakers, measures in grams.

Finally, in addition to accuracy, for the price of a scale with tare (less than $20), you get a faster, easier process and dirty fewer implements.
Maurizio L. May 13, 2021
Agree 100% with you on this, Liz! (And I grew up here in the USA, too 🙂).
Bri L. May 14, 2021
In all fairness, the real problem here is that the recipe is "preciously" written. I am a yeast biologist I work in grams and milliliters all the time (with a digital home scale, it's no biggie). Given the differences between sourdough starters, specifying 7g vs 10g (a nice round unit of measure) is more affectation than science. Or asking for 798g (= ml) of water--so 800ml won't work? Nonsense to think a 0.25% difference will have a significant effect in a recipe with living organisms. Even batches of flour differ, so all this "precision" is mostly kitchen theatre.
Liz S. May 14, 2021
I agree that a few grams here and there will not make a difference. And in the world of bread baking, it is ultimately about the look/feel/smell of the dough and even then, slight differences are not an issue. But ... a recipe writer has to start somewhere with some level of precision :) I am not a chef nor a yeast biologist ... just a computer programmer who has baked my own bread and pastry for over 40 years (I am 65). I have also volunteered as troubleshooter/teacher on bread baking sites. Ultimately, it is teaching people to observe. I could probably dump water, starter, flour and salt in a bowl in by eye and then mix and adjust and make a great loaf of bread. I guarantee writing a recipe that way will not work on a recipe site! So, back to ... a recipe writer has to start with some level of precision.

As to a few grams: an example with my "home" flour with is Wheat Montana AP for white flour. The label notes 38g per 1/4 cup. Most grocery and even something like King Arthur flour specifies 30g per 1/4 cup. That is a difference of 32g or approx 1/4 cup per cup of flour ... IF you are able to measure precisely by volume. In a recipe that might have 2.5 - 5 cups of flour for a loaf(s), that is more than a few grams. That is the baker's "argument" for measuring by weight vs volume. Does 800 vs 798 make a difference? Of course not ... and even starting with some number, I might, as an experienced baker and knowing my own flour and kitchen conditions, start with less flour and add as needed.

I do think that Maurizio is VERY precious. His recipe for ciabatta on his personal site is the first ciabatta recipe that I had success with. I have since adapted a bit, but it was a great starting point for me. And really, that is what bread recipes and particularly sourdough (naturally leavened) recipes are ... a starting point.

Bravo, Maurizio!! Awaiting the next experiment.
Liz S. May 14, 2021
@Bri L. I do understand that your comment was referring to the recipe might have been written with rounded up numbers which might seem more "friendly". However, when using a scale with grams, measuring to any number "round" or otherwise is not an issue. Hitting a mark of 798 vs 800 for example. So, my response goes back to volume vs weight. Placing a bowl on the scale, adding ingredients, pressing "zero/tare" and adding the next ... fast and simple vs measuring cups and spoons. Plus, a gram is a gram is a gram anywhere in the world. Even in the U.S. volume measuring devices (cups and spoons) are not consistent.
Maurizio L. May 14, 2021
Totally fair, Bri! And great points. You're right, one or two grams means little in the grand scheme of things, especially when doing batches at this size. When I create my recipes, I use spreadsheets to do all the "baker's math" calculations that come out of working in percentages at a high level. For example, I might say 80% all-purpose flour (to total flour weight), but by the time it comes to mixing, it is like 333g of flour. A weird non-round number, to be sure! But that's one of the great things about working with weight rather than volume: what does it matter if you measure 300g vs. 333g? It's simply a number on a scale, and reaching one vs. the other isn't any more complicated (as opposed to volume, where 1/4 cup is much easier than 1/4 cup plus 1 "scant" teaspoon, or the like). The benefit of using baker's percentages is that the recipe is *scalable* to any quantity. Someone might want to make 100 loaves of this recipe; all they need to do is plug those weights into their spreadsheet, and boom, they can make any quantity they want. So while reading 333g might be visually annoying or pedantic, it's my desire to make my recipes as functional and usable as possible that makes them so. I choose visually annoying over rounding in the end (and partly because I'm an obsessive engineer), just in case a baker wants to scale things up. So if you're making this bread at home (and I hope you give it a try, it's delicious!) and want to scale from 7g to 10g, go for it! As you said, there's little difference there at this scale 🙂
Maurizio L. May 14, 2021
That is wrapped up in my comment there, too 🙂 And so glad you like the ciabatta, Liz!
dennis May 26, 2021
You are foolish, arrogant, and entirely wrong. In fact, metric is the law of the land, though it is not enforced, luckily for you… you criminal learn a little humility
Lisa H. May 11, 2021
Is 7 grams of starter correct? I would expect equal amounts water and starter: 73 grams? Thanks! Can’t wait to get started on this!
Maurizio L. May 12, 2021
Hey, Lisa! Yes, it's correct. That 7g of starter is going into a levain, which is made ahead of mixing and left to ferment and ripen. That levain will essentially turn into a larger starter that is then mixed into the dough per the directions. Let me know how you like the bread, it's a delicious one!
Liz S. April 29, 2021
I am starting this, this evening! I love Castlevetrano olives. I was introduced to them by Food52's Josh Cohen in his "vegetarian muffuletta" recipe some time ago. The olive relish is wonderful. And it makes a great relish ... and led me to find a recipe for the bread and "sourdough" it ... I just checked your site and there is no "muffuletta bread" recipe! Anyway, I am off track but will report back on the olive bread ... although I can't think it will be anything but outstanding. I make a number of your recipes!

As to what to have on it or with it: think ham and a bit of goat cheese, open faced tuna melt (mozz), just a schmear of goat cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. I sometimes order Mt.Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and I think that would go well.

Thanks for the recipe and all of the notes Maurizio!
Liz S. May 1, 2021
Success! I made 1/2 recipe = 1 loaf but used the full levain amounts. Also, mixed levain in the morning, added remainder in the evening and did Bulk overnight in the frig ... then warm to room temp, shape and back in the frig for 6 hours before baking. So, my method was not quite as written, but crust, crumb and taste are wonderful. Photos on my IG :)
Maurizio L. May 2, 2021
Super glad to hear that, Liz! Sounds like your adjustments worked just fine for you (and really, we all will have some measure of adjustment!). Enjoy and happy weekend!
TheHandsomeBaker April 29, 2021
Is there a typo in the instructions? Both steps 2 and 3 add the levain?? Thx
Maurizio L. April 29, 2021
Sorry about that, it's fixed. The Levain is added only in the Mix step (an autolyse technically doesn't usually have the preferment added in)!