Olive-Stuffed Italian Bread

>> Tuesday, April 14, 2015




My siblings share with me a special love for olives - something that has become a bit of a joke at holidays. We would not dream of a holiday celebration or family party that didn't include a big bowl of olives, and my older sister has a really cool olive-serving bowl shaped like a spiral.

Growing up, I only knew of pimiento-stuffed green olives and canned black olives. The first time I tasted a Kalamata olive was a whole new world of olive-y flavor. Now we have olive bars in a lot of our grocery stores, and some of my current favorites are green ones stuffed with almonds and a tri-color mix of olives marinated in herbs. That's where this fabulous bread comes in.

If you make extra chopped olives and don't stuff it in the bread, you can use it as a tapenade for our recipe Crispy Polenta Wedges with Olive Tapenade - or if you end up with extra tapenade after making that recipe, by all means stuff it in your next loaf of homemade Italian bread!

Ingredients

2 cups warm water (110-112 degrees)
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast from a jar
1 tsp sugar
5 cups white flour, plus 1/2 cup or more for kneading
2 tsp fresh chopped oregano, or 1 tsp dried
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups mixed olives, pitted and chopped (we used green ones with pimientos, Kalamata olives, and oil-cured Italian olives)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg white
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Directions

In a mixing bowl, stir together the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly (this is called "proofing the yeast"). Stir together the flour, oregano, and salt, then gradually stir into the yeast mixture.

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter or kneading board. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticky.

Grease a bowl that is at least twice as large as the volume of dough. Place the dough in the greased bowl, and then turn it over to coat the other side of the dough. Cover with a damp dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Stir together the chopped olives and parmesan cheese and set aside.

Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Sprinkle a flat surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out half of the dough into an 8x12 oval. Sprinkle half of the olive mixture evenly over the surface. Starting at one of the long ends, roll up the dough jelly-roll style, tucking in the sides occasionally, and pinching the end shut. Place it in a greased baking sheet. Repeat with the other loaf.

Cover the loaves with a damp dish towel and allow to rise until dough has doubled - about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf, then brush with the egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the crust is golden and the loaves sound hollow when rapped with a knuckle.

Turn out of the pans and cool on a baking rack. For best results, slice it at room temperature.

Makes 2 hearty loaves.

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