The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Olive Levain, Take #2

Mebake's picture

Olive Levain, Take #2

Recently, I have been limiting myself to a weekly baking routine, as I nurse my back after the spinal Steroid injection. I have been on and off TFL, viewing other members’ posts, and drawing inspiration from their contributions.

Having baked a Volkornbrot from Hamelman last week, I wanted something lighter, and the oblack olives sitting in a corner of my fridge was I all the nudge I needed to choose Olive levain. I have baked this recipe last year, and did not care much for its flavor, but this time, I decided to give it another go.

The recipe is from Hamleman’s “Bread”, which calls for a liquid white levain, and 10% whole wheat. I used Waitrose strong white bread flour for 1/2 the flour quantity, and the rest was an ordinary all purpose flour. The whole wheat flour was freshly milled. I wanted to mix the dough very minimally, and significantly increased the hydration in hopes of achieving the random open cell structure depicted in the book. I mixed the dough with a wooden spoon, slowly, adding water gradually, until a shaggy dough was formed. The dough contained only the levain, flour and water, and was rested while pitting the olives. 15 minutes later, the salt was sprinkled on top , olives were mixed in, and the dough was folded gently in the bowl to incorporate all the ingredients, which was a clear deviation from Hamelman’s instructions which state that everything should be mixed, including salt, but the olives, and after slightly developing the dough, the olives would be added. Remaining steps were exactly as Hamleman’s. I don’t know how significant my deviations were to the outcome. Any ideas? 


The dough was shaped, rested for 1/2 hour, and then refrigerated for 8 hours. It sat warming up for an hour while the oven was heated.

The Bread came out crackling from the oven. The crust was very crispy, and the crumb was cool and and soft: the perfect sourdough.

Now i realized that i underestimated the subtle flavors that this bread carry. This bread's flavor shines exceptionally well when dipped in olive oil. Lovely bread! and an excellent way to make use of surplus olives.



bakingbadly's picture

I noticed your absence and was wondering where you were! I hope your back recovers soon!

Anyway, I haven't tasted nor baked any olived breads but it seems intriging. Judging from the photos and description you have provided, it looks quite delicious. I say this because I tend to enjoy breads with more subtle / mild flavours. 

Very nice baking!

Mebake's picture

Thank you, Zita!

This bread may appeal to you. Shoot for the best olives, though, as they impact flavor quite considerably. Aslo, remember to drain the olives, and press them dry to remove excess moisture.

Best of luck to you!

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Oh wow those are nice loaves Mebake!  The crumb looks very nice but the exterior is especially tempting!

Did you use rice flour for dusting the exterior?


Mebake's picture

Thanks, John!

The crust shattered when i cut through the bread 12 hours later! You are so right!

I used a blend of 50% All purpose flour to 50% Rice flour for dusting, as David Snyder does.


dabrownman's picture

I'm having olive bread for breakfast (found from an August bake) in the freezer on Friday night.  Your bread is delightful looking.  For once my bread had more whole grains than yours though - only 20%  but it had a bulgar scald too :-)  Yours looks beautifully baked.  The crust is thick and dark just the way we like it and the crumb is very open even with the olive add ins.  Nicely done.

I usually put the add ins in the dough on the next to last S&F and use the last 2 of them to evenly distribute what ever is going in.  I read somewhere on TFL, can't remember where, that it is better and easier to develop the gluten without the add ins getting in the way and to get that done first but, your bread proves that you can do it either way - no worries. 

Sounds like you appreciated the subtle taste of this bread better than the previous bake.  We also like the way fresh Rosemary pairs with olives.   Learned that from Nancy Silverton's version.  Knowing your taste for whole grains, I think you would like the taste of this  bread with more whole grains in it.  My apprentice sure does.

Glad to see your baking regularly again too.   Did you post last week's vollkornbrot?

Mebake's picture

Thanks DA!

I can imagine how wonderful this bread would be with added whole grains... and with some fresh rosemary ,you must have had a sublime breakfast! I wanted to give Hamelman's version a try, though... as the first bake wasn't convincing to me.

I'm glad i can bake now with no major setbacks.. I hope that this would last :)

As to last week's volkornbrot, i haven't blogged about it, but i took some photos:





varda's picture

I can't imagine that the changes you made had much of an impact.    It looks terrific, and I can just imagine the olivey taste.     -Varda


Mebake's picture

I'll have to give this formula a third try sometime later, with different mixing procedure.. and observe the outcome.

Thank you, Varda! I'm glad you liked it.

BE safe!


Janetcook's picture

Hi Khalid,

On changes you made....As I have handled more doughs now I frequently deviate from how books suggest to handle specific doughs knowing that many authors are professional bakers and are writing instructions for 'professionals'.  Bread is one book that is geared more for a working bakery and not a home one so I do deviate when using his recipes/formulas not only because I work off of a different time schedule but I also use only whole grains.

From what I have seen you post here and from reading your comments to others I know you are a very skilled home baker who 'knows' his doughs.  This loaf proves that point.  Looks wonderful to me and sounds as though you all enjoyed the bread which is the most important piece in baking....Just my opinion :-)

If you have more olives hanging out in your refrig. Phil has a scrumptious formula using them too with a bit of spice and lemon zest.....  I just baked it last week :-)  People LOVE it's flavor!  Bet your olives are a heck of a lot better than the ones available here though....

Take Care,


Mebake's picture

So true, Janet.. i also find myself deviating involuntarily from books' instructions, as my hands have a will of their own.

Thanks for the generous compliment, Janet! I'm forever indebted to all TFL community, who encouraged me and gave me all the inspiration, and knowledge i needed to learn how to make good bread.

I'll have to search for Phil's spicy olive bread... i believe i missed it.

Janetcook's picture

Hi Khalid,

I will save you the search.  HERE is the link to his bread.  Enjoy!



ananda's picture

Very fine bread to be posting about Khalid

Best wishes


Mebake's picture

Thanks, Andy!

I hope you are doing well with your dessertation.

Awaiting to learn more of your endeavors.

PiPs's picture

Great bread Khalid,

I hope you have some respite and recovery from your back pain.

All the very best,

Mebake's picture

Thanks, Phil!

I'm really glad i had a respite.


isand66's picture

Wonderful looking bread Khalid.

I detest olives so I will have to take your word for it that it tastes as good as it looks :).

Glad to hear that your back is reacting well to the injections.  They never worked for me, but I do know for some people it brings great relief.

Last time we talked about our backs I said mine was doing well and the next day it went out on me!

Anyway...glad to see you are doing better and posting again.

I will post the rye-corn bread I made today tomorrow since I will be off from work awaiting the impending hurricane Sandy about to crash into New York.


Mebake's picture

Thanks, Ian!

Yes, it sure did reduce the inflammation in my core muscles. I have to get back to physical therapy excercises, though..

You take care of your back, Ian.. Degenerated discs never heal.

Be safe. I hope you, and all east coast residents go through the storm unscathed.