These rustic olive- and herb-flecked loaves are light-textured, flavorful, aromatic and crisp on top. They are a fine accompaniment to many hearty soups and stews. To simplify preparations, kneading is skipped and the gluten is developed by beating the dough with an electric mixer. Although the recipe calls for regular active dry yeast, a quick-rise or rapid-rise yeast may be substituted by slightly reducing the total amount used; the rising times may be a little shorter than for regular yeast. Recipe by Nancy Baggett for EatingWell.”
1½ tablespoons (about 2 packets) active dry yeast, or 1 tablespoon quick-rising yeast
⅔ cup lukewarm water, plus 2½ cups hot (110-115°) water
3½ cups all-purpose flour
2½ tablespoons flavorful olive oil, plus more for brushing
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives, or 2 teaspoons dried
1¼ teaspoons (generous) dried oregano and dried thyme leaves, or 3½ tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
2¼ teaspoons salt
3¼ cups whole-wheat flour or white whole-wheat flour, (see Tip), plus a little more for dusting
⅔ cup well-drained, pitted and finely chopped Nicoise, Kalamata or other very flavorful brined black olives
1In a 1-cup measure, sprinkle yeast over ⅔ cup lukewarm water. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the yeast dissolves.
2Place all-purpose flour, oil, sugar, chives, oregano and thyme (or rosemary) and salt in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the 2½ cups hot water with an electric mixer on low speed (using a paddle attachment if possible) until well blended and smooth. Slowly beat in the yeast mixture until evenly incorporated. Gradually raise the speed to medium (or almost to the point the mixture begins to splatter), and beat for 4 minutes if using a heavy-duty stand mixer or 5 minutes if using a hand mixer.
3Using a large wooden spoon, vigorously stir whole-wheat flour and olives into the dough until evenly incorporated; it’s all right if the dough is slightly sticky and wet. Turn out the dough into a very large lightly oiled bowl. Lightly brush the top of the dough with olive oil until evenly covered. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot (see Tip) until the dough doubles in bulk, 50 minutes to 1 hour.
4Generously coat 2 round 1½- to 2-quart (6- to 8-cup capacity) ovenproof casseroles or souffle dishes with cooking spray. Coat your hand with cooking spray; press down the dough in the bowl, then divide it between the prepared baking dishes. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of each; with your fingertips, smooth out the dough and evenly brush it with the oil. Sprinkle each loaf with about 1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour until evenly coated. Loosely cover the dishes with plastic wrap. Set in a warm spot until the dough rises to the plastic wrap, 45 minutes to 1½ hours (depending on the temperature of your room).
5Remove the plastic wrap; let the dough rise until it’s about ¼ to ½ inch above the rims, 15 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven
7Transfer the loaves to the middle of the oven; avoid jarring, as they may deflate. Bake until the tops are nicely browned, about 30 minutes. Remove the loaves from the dishes (run a table knife around the edge to loosen if necessary), place top-side up on a baking sheet, and continue baking until they are well browned on top and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let the loaves cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Cut into thick wedges.
Make Ahead Tip: Store cooled loaves, tightly wrapped, for 3 days at room temperature or freeze for up to 2 weeks. If frozen, thaw completely and, if desired, warm (wrapped in foil) at 350°F before serving.
Tips: White whole-wheat flour, made from a special variety of white wheat, is light in color and flavor but has the same nutritional properties as regular whole-wheat flour. Two companies that distribute the flour nationally are King Arthur Flour (kingarthurflour.com) and Bob’s Red Mill (bobsredmill.com).
Create your own warm, moist, draft-free environment for raising bread dough by microwaving ½ cup water in a 1-cup glass measure just to boiling. Set the water in one corner of the microwave. Set the bowl of dough on the other side and close the door. The heat from the water will keep the interior warm. After the first rising, reheat the water, then put in the two loaves and proceed with the second (brief) rising.