Greek Olive and Onion Bread

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. Serve it plain; toasted and drizzled with olive oil; or sliced for sandwiches (turkey, lettuce and tomato is a favorite).
Prep
50 mins
Bake
20 to 22 mins
Total
16 hrs 10 mins
Yield
2 loaves
Greek Olive and Onion Bread

Instructions

  1. To make the sponge: Combine the water, flours and yeast in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir until fairly smooth, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.
  2. To make the 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 — until 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.
  3. Allow the dough to rest, covered, for about 15 minutes.
  4. 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.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.
  6. Divide it in half and form each half into a ball or an oval.
  7. Place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking pan or sheet, or one that's been dusted with cornmeal.
  8. 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. (See "tips," below.)
  9. Preheat your oven to 450°F.
  10. Just before placing the loaves in the oven, make several slashes across the top of each, and spritz them lightly with water.
  11. 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.
  12. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a wire rack.
  13. Store, well-wrapped for 5 days at room temperature, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Tips from our Bakers

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