Nick Malgieri
Nick Malgieri

Pain aux Olives - Olive Bread from Geneva

This delicious and relatively easy bread is the creation of Pierre-Alain Bourdemet and Jean-Claude Donche of the Boulangerie des Bains in Geneva.  The recipe they make is in a large quantity, so I’ve scaled this down to a single loaf…

Makes one 9- to 10-inch round loaf

1 1/4 cups/275 grams room temperature tap water, about 75°F.

2 1/4 teaspoons/7 grams fine granulated active dry or instant yeast

3 cups/400 grams bread flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1 1/2 teaspoons/10 grams fine sea salt

1/2 cup/40 grams pitted black olives

1/2 cup/40 grams pitted green olives

Olive or vegetable oil for the bowl

A heavy cookie sheet or pizza pan covered with parchment or dusted with cornmeal, plus a spray bottle filled with warm water

  1. Pour the water into the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk in the yeast.  Wait 30 seconds and whisk again.
  2. Use a large rubber spatula to stir it in a little at a time until you’ve used all the flour.  Make sure all the flour is mixed into the liquid and there isn’t any clinging to the side of the bowl.
  3. Place the bowl on the mixer and attach the dough hook.  Mix on lowest speed until the dough comes together around the dough hook, a minute or two.    Stop the mixer and pull the dough away from the hook; let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
  4. Increase the mixer speed to low/medium and sprinkle in the salt and the olives; mix until the dough is smoother and more elastic, about 2 to 3 minutes longer.  The olives will break into small pieces – that’s OK.
  5. Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and turn it over so that the top is oiled.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough ferment until it starts to puff, about 30 minutes.
  6. Scrape the dough to a floured work surface, flour your hands, and pull the dough into a rough rectangle.  Give the dough 2 turns as described at the end of the recipe.
  7. Let the dough ferment until it has fully doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes longer.
  8. To shape the dough into a loaf, use a flexible plastic scraper to slide it from the bowl, right side up, to a floured work surface; try to keep from deflating the dough.  Round the loaf by pushing against the bottom of the dough all around with the sides of your hands held palms upward.  The dough will quickly form an even sphere. 
  9. Place the dough on the prepared pan and cover it with a flat-weave towel or piece of sprayed or oiled plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest until it starts to puff again, about 30 minutes.
  10. As soon as you cover the loaf, set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
  11. Once the dough is proofed to about 50% larger than its original size, flour the palms of your hands and gently press to flatten it to about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick.  Use an exacto knife or single-edge razor blade to cut a 1/8-inch deep slash across the diameter of the loaf, then generously spray it with water.  Place the pan in the oven.
  12. Wait 5 minutes, then open the oven and spray the loaf again, then reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees.
  13. Bake the loaf until it is well risen, deep golden, and the internal temperature reads 200°F. on an instant read thermometer, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  14. Cool the loaf on a rack.

TURNING THE DOUGH:  Generously flour the work surface; scrape the dough onto it.  Flour your hands and gently flatten the dough to a disk.  Fold the two sides in to overlap at the middle, then roll the top toward you all the way to the end.  Invert, flatten and repeat.  Place the dough back in the bowl seam side down and cover.