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.
- Prep time 37 hours 30 minutes
- Cook time 50 minutes
- makes 2 loaves
whole-grain rye flour
ripe sourdough starter
whole-grain rye flour
Castelvetrano olives, rinsed and pitted (see headnote)
extra-virgin olive oil
fine sea salt
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.