Greek Olive and Onion Bread

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Greek Olive and Onion Bread

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Published prior to 2008

Many Greek breads are associated with specific religious holidays: the most famous of these are Tsoureki, a golden braid enclosing colorful dyed hard-boiled eggs, at Easter; and citrus and spice Christopsomo, at Christmas. Elioti, an olive-studded loaf, was originally a Lenten bread, but is now commonly available year-round. The following is our take on that classic.

This savory bread is softer than a typical hearth loaf, though it's quite chewy. We like to serve it plain; toasted and drizzled with olive oil; or sliced for sandwiches (turkey, lettuce and tomato is a favorite).

1 cup (8 ounces) water
1 cup (4 3/8 ounces) King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

All of the sponge
1/2 cup (4 ounces) water
2 1/4 cups (9 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup olives (Greek or Kalamata, pitted and halved)*
1 small red onion, peeled, finely minced, and lightly sauteed (3 1/4 ounces after mincing, about 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon)

*One 4-ounce jar of pitted olives, drained, will yield 1 cup of olives.

Sponge: Combine the water, flours and yeast in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir till fairly smooth, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours (overnight is just about right, as long as you don't go to bed too late or get up too early; this sponge needs a minimum of 12 hours resting time -- kind of like a growing teenager).

Dough: Add the water, flour and salt to the sponge, and stir to combine. Knead the dough -- by hand, mixer, food processor or bread machine -- till it's smooth and supple. It'll be a bit dry and stiff at this point, but once you add the onion and olives, and they release their juices, it'll become soft. Allow the dough to rest, covered, for about 15 minutes.

Knead in the olives and the onion, place the dough in a greased bowl, cover the bowl, and set the dough aside to rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until it's doubled in bulk.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide it in half and form each half into a ball or an oval. Place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking pan or sheet, or one that's been dusted with cornmeal. Cover the loaves with a proof cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow them to rise for 1 hour, or until they're nearly doubled in size. Note: For extra flavor, the dough may be refrigerated for 4 to 18 hours before baking. This will give the loaves their best flavor, and will contribute to a nice, open texture.

Preheat your oven to 450°F. Just before placing the loaves in the oven, make several slashes across the top of each, and spritz them lightly with water. Bake the bread for 20 to 22 minutes, until it's golden brown and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 200°F. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a wire rack. Yield: 2 loaves, 8 slices each.

Nutrition information per serving (1 slice, 63g): 131 cal, 2g fat, 4g protein, 25g complex carbohydrates, 2g dietary fiber, 331mg sodium, 76mg potassium, 6RE vitamin A, 2mg iron, 13mg calcium, 54mg phosphorus.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XI, No. 6, Autumn 2000 issue.


  • star rating 12/23/2014
  • cynthia20932 from KAF Community
  • This bread is a rare treat. I only had half a cup of olives, but it was still the best bread I ever ate in my life. It will be even better next time, since I have stocked up on olives. I made one loaf in my long covered baker. Makes delicious sandwiches, too. Thanks for a great recipe.
  • star rating 11/23/2014
  • Nancy from Brownsville Vt
  • star rating 04/02/2011
  • Carrie from Chicago
  • This bread is great! The flavor is amazing, like something purchased at a gourmet bakery. Onion-y, and salty from the olives, really chewy with a perfect open texture and delicate crisp brown crust. I did the sponge for 12 hours, and then did my kneading and second rise, then shaped and refrigerated them for about 16 hours. I then brought them to room temp, then baked as directed. They were beautiful loaves and perfect for our Greek dinner!
  • star rating 09/06/2009
  • Heidi from Milton, ON Canada
  • This is our favorite recipe yet!! Thanks King Arthur. I will use this recipe to teach my childrens cooking classes in the months to come. The flavour and crispiness of the crust beats all the rest. I highly recommend this to olive and bread lovers. Try a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip. I only wish your flour was sold in Canadian stores.
  • star rating 12/31/2008
  • Dinah from Riverdale, NY
  • I made this bread and I brought it to a potluck dinner; it was the first food to vanish. The first question was who brought the bread? The second question was where did you buy this scrumptious bread This bread is a little labor intensive but the flavor is unbelievable. I will make this bread again but I will need to improve on the crust texture. I like the crust to be chewy and crispy just like the artisan breads that one purchases at the farmer’s market.