“May I please have some olives?” I asked the woman behind the counter. She just looked at me. In a series of pointing, tasting and nodding, I finally left the deli counter of the AB supermarket in Greece. The large container of kalamata olives in my bag screamed to be eaten as I walked home. I resisted, until I was far enough away no one could see me digging though my arm loads of grocery bags; nor catch me greedily chewing on the plump salty goodness and having pit-spitting contests with myself.
Before I became a lady of such refined nature, I thought olives were black and from a can or green, skewered and floating in a gin martini. I’m not one to complain about an ice-cold martini. It’s a good way to start the night…not to mention it comes with a snack. Does a drink get any better? Well in my estimation, the olives do. I adore kalamata olives. Unfortunately, my wallet does not. In Greece, where olive trees are as common as the evergreens in my backyard, the deep purple bites are affordable. The upside of these unfortunately expensive treats is they pack a flavor punch, making a little go a long way.
While I was in Greece, Ares and I went to the sea frequently. With my toes dug into the sand, I ate olive bread and read. Now that I am back, there is no sea and no sand, but there is olive bread! It’s the prefect way to stretch an expensive luxury and keep a little bit of Greece right here with me.
From one of my favorite cookbooks, The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen, I learned about Pizza Bianca. Using their recipe, I switched things up a little and added, you guessed it, kalamata olives. I also tried it with rosemary and rosemary with roasted garlic. I have to say, I prefer it with the olives, but it’s cheaper without them and still delicious.
What better then a little bite of Greece now that I am home, especially an affordable one?
Serves 6 to 8
1 2/3 cups warm water
1 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
1 ¼ tsp granulated sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp salt
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
4 TBS olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
Mix water, yeast and sugar together. Let sit while the yeast dissolves. This will take about 5-10 minutes and the yeast will bubble at the top of the water slightly.
Combine the flour, table salt and yeast/water/sugar combo in a stand mixer. Mix briefly, until just mixed 2-3 minutes. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.
Kneed the dough, starting with the mixer on a low speed, 1-2 minute. You will need to scrape down the sides frequently. Increase speed to high and continue kneading the dough, still scraping down the sides frequently. Knead the dough until it is smooth and glossy. At his point, it will pull away from the sides of the bowl while the mixer is running. When you stop the mixer, the dough will sink down into the bowl again.
Add the olives and mix until just incorporated.
Pour two TBS olive oil into a large glass or ceramic bowl and turn to coat the sides.
Turn dough into the bowl and rotate dough so it is fully coated in olive oil.
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set in a cool dark place. Let the dough rise until it has tripled in size, 2 to 3 hours. (I like to leave it overnight, because the dough is really easy to bring together and this means I’m not waiting around for it to rise.)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pour a ½ TBS of olive oil on a baking sheet and spread to coat. Spread parchment paper over the baking sheet. Cover with 1½ TBS olive oil.
NOTE: The original recipe calls for coating the cookie sheet with 3 TBS olive oil and no parchment paper. When I left off the parchment paper I had to use WAY more then 3 TBS olive oil to keep the bread from sticking to the cookie sheet, but if you don’t have parchment paper it’s an option.
Turn the dough out onto the cookie sheet using a spatula. Be careful not to rip the dough. Using your fingertips gently spread the dough across the cookie sheet. It won’t fit perfectly, but don’t worry it’ll look rustic and yummy.
Sprinkle with kosher salt.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until top is golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.
In place of the olives, I used 1½ TBS fresh rosemary, chopped. Also try 1 TBS fresh rosemary chopped and 2 cloves garlic, minced and sautéed until fragrant.
I think I my next go around might be with just garlic and some Parmesan cheese sprinkled on to the top at the end. What are your alternate ideas?Recipe in print-friendly format