The aroma of this sourdough bread is incredible. Fragrant lemon zest, woodsy thyme, and briny olives—just close your eyes and imagine you’re in the Mediterranean! For variety and color, I like to use a blend of mixed olives, including kalamatas, niçoise, and cerignolas, the plump red and green ones. You can easily find these olives in the deli section of your grocery store. The Parmesan, nutty and sweet, is sprinkled onto the crust after the loaf is baked.
About the Dough: This is a delightful dough to work with. The olives act like natural steam injectors when baked, which makes the crumb soft, tender, and squishy. To support the weight of the olives, I like to stretch and fold the dough during the bulk rise for added height. This step is optional but fun.
- Yield: 1 Loaf
- ¼ cup (50 g) bubbly, active starter
- 1½ cups (360 g) warm water
- 4 cups (470 g) bread flour
- ¼ cup (30 g) all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp (9 g) fine sea salt
- 1 cup (120 g) pitted mixed olives, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp (2 g) picked thyme leaves
- 1 Lemon zest
- ¼ cup (40 g) ground Parmesan cheese
- Olive oil, for brushing
- ½ cup (80 g) grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
- A few days before baking, feed your starter until bubbly and active. Store at room temperature until ready to use. MAKE THE DOUGH
- In a large bowl, whisk the starter and water together with a fork. Add the flours and salt. Combine to form a stiff dough, then finish mixing by hand to fully incorporate the flour. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes. Replenish your starter with fresh flour and water, and store according to preference. ADD THE FILLINGS
- After the dough has rested, add the olives, thyme, lemon zest, and Parmesan to the bowl. Gently knead the fillings into the dough, about 1 minute. The dough will take on a slight purple-stained hue from the olives. BULK RISE
- Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise at room temperature until double in size. This will take about 8 to 10 hours at 70°F (21°C). When ready, the dough will have a few bubbles on the surface and will jiggle a bit when you move the bowl from side to side. Optional Step: About 30 minutes into the bulk rise, stretch and fold the dough for added structure and height. Repeat this technique, about 2 to 3 sets, spaced 30 minutes apart. SHAPE
- Remove the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Shape it into an oval and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line a 10-inch (25-cm) oval proofing basket with a towel and dust with flour. With floured hands, gently cup the dough and pull it toward you to tighten its shape. Then place the dough into your basket, seam side up. SECOND RISE
- Cover the dough and let rest until noticeably puffy but not fully risen, about 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on temperature.
- Preheat your oven to 450°F (230°C). Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit the size of your baking pot. SCORE
- Place the parchment over the dough and invert the basket to release. Sprinkle the dough very lightly with flour and rub the surface to coat. You will be dusting the loaf with cheese later on, so it’s best not to go too heavy with the flour at this stage. Make one long, off-center cut down the length of the loaf using a small knife or razor blade. Use the parchment to transfer the dough into the baking pot. BAKE
- Bake the dough on the center rack for 20 minutes, covered. Remove the lid, and continue to bake for 30 minutes. Lift the loaf out of the pot, and finish baking directly on the oven rack for the last 10 minutes. Cool for 1 hour before adding the cheese and cutting into slices. ADD THE CHEESE
- Lightly brush the surface of the loaf with oil. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, patting down gently to stick.
- This loaf will stay fresh up to 1 day stored at room temperature in a plastic bag.