Sunday, October 7, 2012

to flog a dead horse

yes. yes i know. my last post involved olive bread. but just hear me out, because i know you're a tough crowd. my last loaf was a spelt olive bread, and it didn't have olive oil, yeah. this is a rye olive loaf and it has a whopping two tabes of olive oil, so technically it's not the same (smarty pants).

listen, before you judge me for being monotonous and just plain dull, just know that i wasn't even going to post this loaf. my last olive was so good i just wanted to make another, you know, to have around, because olive bread is da bomb. but, see, here's the thing, as soon as i had my first slice (i couldn't even wait a whole hour to let it cool, the aroma was that heady) the first thing i thought was oh, yeah, i need to pass this along.

dude. you sort of need this formula. it is, to date, the absolute best olive bread that i have ever made (or eaten. ever.), and i want it to be the best olive bread that YOU have ever made too.

see? share. i like sharing, especially the most fabulous things, because then i'm not the only one who's happy, you're happy too. and isn't the world so much sweeter when we are all happy, or at least striving to be?

here's the verdict:

CRUMB: the crumb of this loaf was ineffable. it was tender, like butter or a baby's backside, or something like that. CRUST: and the crust was so shattery and ethereal that it was like eating glass. ok, maybe not that deleterious, but you get what i'm saying. FLAVOR: the flavor was rich, so rich, and olivey to the tenth power.

i'm telling you, if this does not make it to your top ten then you are a tough crowd, because frankly, it has succeeded in crowning mine.

the best olive bread in the whole wide world

* just a note on rye flours. in this formula, i use 'to your health' rye flour here, which is incredibly thirsty, astonishingly so, actually. if you don't have 'to your health' flour, and decide to use another flour, say, bob's red mill dark rye, then you will have to adjust the hydration accordingly or you are going to end up with an overly hydrated dough. i would, for instance, if using bobs red mill dark rye, begin with about 325g of h2o for the dough. 375g will likely be way too high.

please notice the difference between the 'thirst quality' of to your health sprouted rye flour and bobs red mill, exhibited here in these two levains. the top photo is one of a levain using the same ratio of rye flour, starter and h2o and uses to your health sprouted rye flour as the bottom photo, which bob's red mill rye flour. they were both fermented for 8 hours. as you can see, 'to your health' makes a pretty stalwart mass of levain, even after full fermentation compared to the bob's red mill.

so again, adjust your hydration to account for this. i am aware that 'to your health' is rather obscure, and you probably cannot get it in other countries. given my experience, i would suggest starting with 325g of h2o if using bob's red mill (or another brand), adding small measures more until you reach proper hydration if necessary.

 to your health 100% hydration starter, fermented for 8 hours, notice how stiff it is

 bob's red mill 100% hydration starter, fermented for 8 hours, notice how loose it is, compared to the one above

now, onto the formula!


135g rye levain (formula following)
90g sprouted TYH rye flour
100g KA bread flour
310g KA A/P
375g h2o
190g pitted kalamata olives, drained well
90g pitted black oil cured olives
2 TB good, fruity olive oil
8g salt


make a levain:

35g 100% whole rye, 100% hydration starter
50g TYH sprouted rye
50g h2o

mix this together, cover, and ferment for about 8 hours, but please determine the health and viability of your levain using your own discretion. mine fermented in 6.5 hours, but yours may need more time than that. this is one of those areas of bread making where if you manage your powers of perception skillfully, you will make consistently lovely loaves of bread. if you over or under ferment your levain, your dough will be imbalanced.


dissolve the levain in the 375g water, mix in the rye, A/P, and bread flours until you reach a shaggy mass. autolyse for 1 hour.

after autolyse, squish the salt into the dough, and when you're done squishing, squish the olives and the olive oil into the dough as well.


for the first two hours you will perform a series of turns every half hour (for a total of four series), this is accomplished at room temperature. after the series of turns, pop the dough into the fridge and ferment for another 2 hours.


after the dough has sufficiently fermented, turn out onto a work table that has been dusted with brown rice flour, cover with a bowl, and let it rest for 30 minutes. after the rest, shape the dough into a boule, dust a linen with brown rice flour, line a bowl with it, then in goes the dough. cover and refrigerate for 15 hours.


one full hour before bake time, get a bread stone and both parts of your combo cooker into the oven. preheat to 550.

after the preheat, pull the dough out of the fridge, cut a square of parchment and place it over the mouth of the bowl; now place a peel atop this and flip the peel and the bowl over in one deft movement. remove the bowl and the linen.

score your beauty and slide it into the shallow end of the combo cooker. pop the fatty end of the combo cooker on top, slide it all into the oven. turn the blasted thing down to 475 degrees and steam the loaf for 30 minutes.

after the steam, remove the fatty end of the combo cooker, slide the boule back into the oven and finish baking. mine took exactly 30 more minutes.

try to cool for at least an hour, but i tore into mine after 45 minutes.

to the staff of life!

(ps, you don't even have to wonder if i ate the olives off of the side of the bread while waiting for it to cool, 'cause you know i did.)


this post was shared on wild yeast blog's yeast spotting.


  1. I just made this! We don't have a combo cooker (it's on my wishlist) but it came out great. The crumb, so.. soft, even moist. I'm almost speechless. We love it. Thank you!

    1. Riikka. I am SO thrilled! See, I am soooo glad that I posted another olive bread. The last one was excellent. This one is a little more delicate than the spelt olive. The spelt olive is more rustic. I am sooooooo glad that yours came out. And YES, get a combo cooker as soon as you can. They make a world of difference. We just cannot produce the same steam in our home ovens. When you get one, you will be hooked :)

      Thank you for taking the time to write. It means the world to me!


  2. beautiful bread Francis-Olive. And great shots. 310 g olives! yeah baby, you go! I made Hamelman's olive levain for my birthday and it was a lovely loaf (and fougasse). now I am eager to try the formula with rye... why not maybe following YOUR formula and see what will happen without a combo cooker (still have not found the pans I need to make my own). sounds like a challenge and I love challenges. besides, I am in a rye mood. check out my last post if you want an overdose of rye as I am here happily having an overdose of olives looking at your bread. Riikka is one gifted and receptive apprentice.


    ps: you see? I am back, cannot live without bread or without you guys.

    1. sis. i would be HONORED if you would make one of my breads. i'm still jonesin' to make your little rolls and your no shape bread . but then here you come with your rye. damn. that rye sis. i can't even imagine what it must feel like to pull a loaf of rye bread so exquisite from the oven.


      so many loaves of bread to bake and i'm just one girl. how can i eat it all? i'm secretly afraid to do your country bread, because that loaf, well, it sort of broke the mold with country sourdoughs.

      whats up with you and your combo cooker situation? you cannot tell me in all of sweden there is not a combo cooker to be had. why cant you get one on line??

      Riikka is an amazing artist. i so love that she made that olive bread and loved it. where's her bread blog??

    2. ps. yeah. i wondered how your mineral water and no-internet-fun situation was going over there. i mean, even buddha ate rice sis. lol. i'm glad you're back.

      you know what we should do? we should pick a bread to bake from one of the books that we have in common and see what happens. what do ya say?

    3. Oh, is someone talking about me? Thank you for the compliments. I dream about having a bread/recipe blog. But I think I have to update my artist page first. It seems to take me months.. if not years. I will start with that and then think about the blog! Oh, by the way, I made this olive bread again. It was not as wonderful as last time because I didn't have enough olives! ;)

    4. Riikka -- as is the American way: excess. excess. excess. if you don't have more olives than bread, it's not going to be as good. lol. ;)

  3. oh my... looking at your bread tonight makes me sooo HUNGRY. wish we were not so far away ancd could just drop by to get a half loaf. have not baked for a few days and what I baked was fairly simple and not a meal in itself like your last two loaves. looking forward to my next baking.

    that could be fun, to choose a new loaf and do it "together". regarding making my loaves, it is enough to be mutually inspired, it is not generally necessary to re-do all that your friends do to show you appreciate their work :)

    how about something from "local breads"? there is so much to choose from, I think the guy made an excellent job and a pretty rare one.

    my combo cooker situation looks quite bad indeed. I asked to a professional Swedish baker and it really seems all they use for home cooking to create a Dutch oven is La Creuset... not the best way, to me. however, necessity makes smart... I have looked and found a good Swedish brand of cast-iron skillets. I was thinking of getting two of these:

    do you think it may work?

    ps: Riikka, had no idea you were such an excellent artist, I am so impressed!

  4. i think that a regular cast iron pan like the one on this site will work, then just invert the bottom of a le creuset pot over it.

    i just got off the phone with amazon about shipping to you from my account, and they don't ship this particular item to sweden. then i went to the post office website to see what it would cost to just ship it to you outright and its really expensive. it would be like $100 or so for shipping, and $30 for the combo cooker. if price is not an issue for you, and you MUST MUST MUST have this combo cooker set, let me know and you can pay me via paypal for the charges, and i will order one from amazon, have it sent here, then send it out to you as soon as it arrives. let me know what you want to do.



  5. heres the link to the amazon page for that cooker:

    ok. lemme have a look at local breads this week, and we can decide on one to make!

  6. barbara, email me at:


    if you want to go forward with the combo cooker thing, we can work out the details in private.


  7. Gorgeous bread, as always, Francis-Olive! I just baked up my loaf of olive rye this morning, and wow. The crumb is unbelievably soft and flavorful, the crust is nice and crisp, and I LOVE how jam packed full of olives it is! Delicious (and the loaf is already gone .. guess my co-workers liked it). A few questions:

    - I found the dough to be VERY sticky, wet, and slack, and wouldn't hold it's shape. I knew it was going to be this way when I first mixed it, but I generally like to see a recipe all the way through the first time before making significant changes, and gave it a few extra folds to try to develop a little more structure. The shape wasn't terrible, but it's definitely wider and flatter than I'd like (it filled the entire bottom of my combo cooker, and didn't get a ton of oven spring). I want to give this another go, and either add some vital wheat gluten or swap some of the AP for bread flour - what would you recommend?

    - I also noticed that this formula uses significantly less levain than some others on your blog -, for instance. Just curious - how do you go about deciding how much starter to use, and how much to preferment?

  8. hey Kristen,

    well, generally, any dough with rye will be sticky. no matter how little rye you use. did you use to your health rye flour? that will make a huge difference. to your health sprouted rye is VERY thirsty, so, if you used bob's red mill rye, for instance, you would definitely have to decrease hydration for this loaf. probably by quite a bit. when i use tyh flour for my starter, its like a solid mass. but when i use brm for my starter in the same quantity, it's very, very loose (please see the levain in the current post to see an image of what it looks like, 8 hours fermented, using to your health, vs. the last few posts that did, where i photograph the same levain after about the same amount of time. when you see the difference, you will see what a difference using another type of flour will make in your bread).

    i would not use vital wheat gluten. i would only use vital wheat gluten in breads where there was no white flour and i wanted loft. so, 100% whole wheat or 100% spelt. or, of course, bagels, which gives bagels their chewiness.

    you CAN replace all of the A/P with bread flour with fabulous result (i'm sure i used that combo of a/p and bread because that's what i happened to have).

    but seriously, if you used a different rye, that's your issue right there. tyh rye is ASTONISHINGLY thirsty.

    i use higher amts. of levain now than i ever have, and i prefer it.

    i like to use at least 45g of starter if i have it. 50 is ideal. and i try not to use less than 35. if i use 35g, then i think i would stick to 50g water 50g flour for the levain. using higher amts of starter - 40-50g, i use 100g water and 100g flour for the levain.

    as far as rhyme or reason? it all depends upon how much starter i am left with after pulling some out to use for bread. i always keep 20g of starter, so, if i only have 35g to spare for a loaf of bread, then that's all i use.

    lately, and for a while now, i try to stick to 40-50g starter, 100g water + 100g flour for my levain. i like the loft i get in the bread from that ratio.

    give it a try again. hold back the water if you are using another rye. and keep notes so that you can always refer to them when making the loaf again, making adjustments as necessary if you decide to swap out flours.

    i hope all of this helps!

  9. Hey Francis-Olive -

    Thank you so much for your thoughts! Yep, I used BRM rye, so there's my issue! Looking at your latest post, I definitely see the difference in the levain (and um yeah, I need to make that tortano pronto - wow). I'm definitely going to give it a go again this week, and reduce the h20 by decent margin to see what happens. Also, from the way you describe, I assume that I can just swap in a larger amount of levain?

    I keep a borderline-obsessive bread journal, which has helped me a lot so far! Thanks again :)

    1. Kristen. It's fantastic that you keep a bread journal. My blog is my bread journal :) and I have a freakish memory, so, I never repeat the same bread mistake twice!

      Ha! I'm so glad we found the solution! And hey, if you get a chance, order some of that Rye (or go to Whole Foods, it's on sale for half price as a promotion now). TYH rye is the best.

      YES, if making the olive bread, go ahead and swap in the larger amount of levain. It will work wonderfully. I would start with... 325g of h2o and take it from there.

      Good luck!


      (PS, only use vital wheat gluten when absolutely necessary. If you learn to harness your whole grains, you will never really have to call upon it. It affects the texture and flavor of bread. So, there is a compromise if you use it. If you do ever use it, sparingly sparingly sparingly. It's powerful stuff. Using large amounts will destroy the texture of your bread, and make it taste gross (see my post called 'community grains 100% whole red winter wheat', that outta give you some idea of the amount to use. I've only used it once since I've been baking bread, and that was for a 100% whole wheat loaf).

    2. clarification: start with 325g of h2o in the actual DOUGH. for the levain, i would do 45 to 50g of your 100% whole rye, 100% hydration starter mixed with 100g rye flour, and 100g h2o

    3. Woohoo for journals (and you have an amazing photo journal, too!)! Seriously, it's been a great way to capture my experience, and the practice of writing things down helps me remember (this is true for all areas of my life - if it doesn't get written down, it doesn't get remembered).

      Thanks for the tips - starting with 325g of h20 in the dough was my thought exactly, also, and I'll bump up the levain too. I'll let you know how things go! I just ordered up some TYH sprouted rye (unfortunately, Whole Foods in MA doesn't carry it, boo - though it does look like there's one retail location an hour or so away from me that I may just have to go check out).

      And, many thanks for the tips on vital wheat gluten. I agree with you - I'd rather learn to harness the power of whole grains first, and only use it when absolutely necessary.

    4. Kristen, I added a bit in the blog about the difference in rye flours, thanks to you. Since it was brought to my attention, I thought it bore addressing. I included photographs of 2 levains, one using to your health flour and one using bob's red mill, both of them fermented for 8 hours (just where the formula begins). i think that it will shed some much needed light on just how differently flours behave from brand to brand, and i am hoping that it helps people more finely hone their skills. a little more information added to the plethora!


    5. Francis-Olive - that's awesome! Great addition to the post :) Seeing both levains side by side goes a long way to illustrate the difference between the two ryes. The more information, the better! Thanks again - I'll let you know how my second try goes!



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