The flavours of the Mediterranean simply ooze from this decorative Greek olive bread, speckled with black olives, red onion and herbs. Originally this bread was a Lenten food for the priests of the Eastern Orthodox Church, although now olive bread or elioti is produced all over the country and can be enjoyed at any time of the year. It is generally a white bread, enriched with a little olive oil, flavoured with marjoram or oregano and studded with black olives. Throughout Greece, local bakers produce their own particular bread, which necessarily becomes a favourite with their customers. In the cities, the more enterprising bakeries produce a wide range of breads flavoured with raisins, olives and herbs, but among the islands and in the mountains, most loaves continue to be of the plain, farmhouse variety – large and crusty and sometimes sprinkled with sesame seeds.
675 g white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
25 g fresh yeast
350 ml lukewarm water
75 ml olive oil
175 g pitted black olives, roughly chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or mint
Lightly grease two baking sheets. Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. In a jug, blend the yeast with half of the water. Add to the centre og the flour with the remaining water and the olive oil; mix to a soft dough.
Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled clear film and leave to rise, in a warm place, for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
urn out onto a lightly floured surface and knock back. Roll out to a round. Sprinkle the olives, onion and herbs evenly over the surface, then bring up the sides of the circle and gently knead together. Cut the dough in half and shape each piece into a plump oval loaf, about 20 cm long. Place on the prepared baking sheets. Cover with lightly oiled clear film and leave to rise, in a warm place, for about 45 minutes, or until the loaves are plump and nearly doubled in size.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C. Dust the loaves lightly with flour and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until golden and sounding hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.