This No-Knead Sicilian Olive Bread is the direct descendant of a very popular Middle Eastern appetizer we served a lot at catering events. The combination of calamata olives, orange zest, fennel seeds, rosemary, thyme, hot pepper flakes, and olive oil elevates the bread.
Several posts back I wrote about the original No-Knead bread. This is a variation of that bread. There are a couple of new things I discovered with this loaf. They can be applied to any No- Knead bread baked in a Dutch Oven…..or anywhere for that matter. They include refrigerating overnight, an easier way to shape and get the dough into the pan, and making a proofer to help the cold dough along. I also use a cold Dutch oven to bake my bread.
The bread itself is the much-admired No-Knead Bread from James Lahey that I posted earlier. Its very simplicity allows all the flavors of the appetizer to come through. The bread can be completed in a matter of several hours to 18 hours. I prefer the longer version for the depth of flavor that is not possible by speeding it up. If you take the long route, plan ahead so the dough isn't ready for shaping at two in the morning.
When I made this No-Knead Sicilian Olive Bread, I found it ready to shape at one o'clock in the morning. In my defense, I had planned for an 18-hour rise and it only took 12 hours. So I deflated it with a dough scraper by folding it in on itself all the way around the bowl. I placed the plastic wrap back on and put it in the refrigerator. The next morning it had risen about half-way again but that was fine.
Updated Shaping Method
I found a new way that is much easier to get it into the Dutch oven. Lightly spray a half sheet of parchment paper. Deflated the dough again in the same manner and with one fell swoop placed it in the middle of the sprayed parchment. With floured hands shape it into a round (it didn't need much). Picking the paper up by the long ends, I lowered it into the Dutch oven keeping it in the middle. It can be reshaped with a floured hand if need be but don't make a big deal of this.
So the take away is it doesn't have to be done in a day or a day and a half. It can be refrigerated overnight and the shaping is much, much easier because it doesn't require shaping it on a floured surface and then transferring the really soft, somewhat wiggly dough to the pan.
The trade-off for this No-Knead Sicilian Bread if refrigerated is that it will require a lot longer to rise from the refrigerator. You can speed that along, by making a proofer for it. Place the Dutch oven in the oven with the light turned on. Heat the oven at 350°F for exactly 1 minute. Turn the oven off and leave it in there for about 2 hours or until it has almost doubled. Remove the Dutch oven and proceed with baking.
I highlighted the important part because I forgot to turn the oven off once and the results were, as you can imagine, not good. So just stand there for a minute to make sure you turn it off. I don't preheat it for that minute because if you open the door and put the Dutch oven in, you have lost much of the heat. This proofer also works for any yeast product that needs to rise except those heavy in butter, such as brioche or laminated doughs.
Helpful updates from readers
Several questions were asked that might be of interest to everyone. I use a 5-quart Dutch oven. It measures 9 ½" across the top and is 4 inches deep.
If bread flour is not available, use all-purpose but the water must be reduced as mentioned. The rise might be slightly less but it will be fine.
Because I start the bread in a cold Dutch oven, the crust will be thinner. If you prefer a thick crust, simply remove it from the Dutch oven when it is finished baking. Put the bread on the oven rack by itself for another 5 minutes and the crust will much thicker.
No-Knead Sicilian Olive Bread
2 ¾ cups bread flour* (390 grams or 13 ⅔ ounces)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
Orange zest from a large orange
1 ½ teaspoons fennel seed
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup coarsely chopped, packed, calamata olives (85 grams or 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ⅓ cups water
*I used bread flour but all-purpose will work also but it may not rise quite as much. However, reduce the water to 1 ¼ cups if using all-purpose as it will not absorb as much water.
Place the flour salt and yeast in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the dough hook if available. Whisk to mix. Add the orange zest, fennel seed, rosemary, thyme, and pepper flakes. Whisk to combine. Add the olives and mix well so they are coated with flour.
Combine the water and olive oil. Pour it over and mix until it all comes together but no longer. While still in the mixing bowl and using a dough scraper, fold the dough over on itself several times to better distribute the olives.
Spray a container at least 3 times a big as the volume of dough. Transfer the dough to the bowl. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with non-stick spray and place it, sprayed side down, directly on the dough. Cover the top of the bowl with another piece of plastic wrap, mark the time you finished the dough as well as when it should be done.
Place it in an oven with the light on and the door held ajar with a wooden spoon. After 12 to 18 hours, the bread will have risen magnificently to two to three times its original size and be ready for shaping.
If you don't have time to shape and bake the dough, deflate it by folding the edges in toward the center with a dough scraper. Cover it directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until the next day.
Shaping the No-Knead Sicilian Olive Bread
After the dough has risen (or when taking it from the refrigerator), place a large piece of parchment on the work area. Spray it lightly with a non-stick spray. Using a bowl scraper, fold the edges of the dough into the center all around the bowl to deflate it. It should now be a ball of dough about the same size it was before rising.
Using the bowl scraper, transfer the dough in one fell swoop onto the parchment paper. Using a floured hand, shape the dough into a round if it has gotten too far out of shape. Don't stress over this. Pick up the paper and lower it into a Dutch oven. Reshape it with a floured hand if necessary.
Cover it loosely with a towel and let it rise again. It can be left at room temperature but will take a long time. You can make a proofer for it by following the directions above and it will shorten the time considerably to about 2 hours. You will know it is ready for the oven if you press it with your finger and the indentation stays. If it doesn't, let it rise a bit longer. I test it on the side so it won't show when baked.
Baking the Bread
After the bread has risen in the, take it out of the oven while it is preheating. Preheat the oven to 450°F. When ready to bake, place the lid on the Dutch oven and put it back in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Very carefully remove the lid (it will be very, very hot) and bake for another 15 minutes. It should be medium golden brown and have a crisp crust that sounds hollow when tapped. The temperature will be about 190°F.
The bread should be removed immediately from the pan so it doesn't continue baking. To do this safely, since the pan will be extremely hot, pick it up by the parchment paper. However, the paper will be very brittle and if that doesn't work, I use a pancake turner and get under the bread. Stand it on its side and then pick it up with a potholder. Place it on a cooling rack.
If a thicker crust is desired, see the Helpful Updates from Readers above.
Wait at least 30 minutes before cutting.
Here are a few more breads you might like:
I've read that different yeasts are used in different applications. I have the kind that is labeled for bread machines. Would I use the same amount of this as instant or active yeast?
Hi Patty - It is so interesting you asked that. Tomorrow I have post coming out that addresses this very question. There are several kinds of yeast but I use them interchangeably. So use what you have, it will be fine.
Would it matter to use regular black olives instead of Calamata?
Do all Italialns prefer regular black or Calalmata? I have an Italian friend (from Italy) and he is very picky and I don't want to ask him because I want to surprise him with it.
Hi Annabelle, I'm not sure all Italians like the same thing but I would suspect that calamatas would be more familiar to him than mission olives which are not as pungent. The bread would definitely not taste the same if another olive were substituted. what a very nice surprise you have planned.
Does this recipe really only use 1/4 tsp of yeast?? That seems like a very small amount!
It does. I was doubtful and surprised also but it yields the beautiful bread in the photo. It is the long rise in a warm atmosphere that does it. I found it amazing.
Can I use fresh rosemary chopped? I don’t keep dried on hand.
Absolutely, Elle. Use 2 to 3 times as much fresh as dried.
What size dutch oven do you use?
Hi Vivien, It is a 5-quart dutch oven. It is 9 1/2" across the top and 4" deep. Thanks for asking, I'll put this in the article.
Great post, Helen!!!!! I just sent your link to my stepson's partner who is starting her adventures in bread baking, and I know she will love it...
Thanks, Sally - I would bake bread every day if I could. One of my favorite things to make.
This looks great. Now I will have to see if anyone has bread flour for sale. Everyone in this area must be baking bread all of a sudden. Regular flour is scarce too. Funny thing is all the boxed cake mixes are still plentiful. Keep safe.
Hi M.J. Use all-purpose. The rise will be slightly less but not enough to worry about.
It looks so tasty!! I would love to make it! My question is about the dutch oven you put the dough in to proofe.So next step is to put it in the oven? No need to preheat the dutch oven before putting the proofed dough in it, as we usually do when baking no knead bread ?Am I correct? Thank you for amazing instructions and for great recipes!I live in Greece and I am reading you with great pleasure and confidence!
Hi Liza - Yes you put the bread in the cold dutch oven and then proceed as mentioned. I mention in the original article, I cannot eat bread that has a really thick hard crust. This will have a thinner crust. If you prefer a thick crust, simply remove it from the dutch oven when it is finished baking. Put the bread on the oven rack by itself for another 5 minutes and the crust will much thicker. Thanks for asking, I'll put this in the article.
Thank you! It is now clear for me! Have a nice day! Stay safe!!
You're welcome Liza. You also stay safe and enjoy the bread.
Is there an alternative to a Dutch oven?
Hi Mary - in my first article I mention this. "This bread can be made without the Dutch oven. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Shape the dough and place it on the cookie sheet to rise, covering it. Preheat the oven as called for. Place a small pan on the bottom rack of the oven and place abut 1/2″ water in it. Double pan the cookie sheet and the bread in the oven and bake for 45 minutes, tenting the bread with foil if it browns too much."
Thanks for all the helpful tips. I’ve been making No Knead Bread similar to your recipe but as I have a cold house I have great trouble getting a good rise.
I only today tried the 1 minute oven heating and it was a win, but I was pleased to see you say the same thing.
My bread will be successful from now on. Many thanks. :))
Hi Mary - so glad you used it. I have been doing this for years to help things along. I know they sell a home proofer, but it is so expensive and small.
Don’t need anymore ‘gadgets’ when the oven will do the job. :))
I enjoy your site because you explain the steps to whatever recipe you offer. Helpful to me and, I’m sure, gives confidence to other cooks who are just starting. Pictures are so explanatory.
Thanks for a great site.
Thank you, Mary. I so appreciate this. I treasure each one of my readers and my goal is to offer as much assistance I can. It's good of you to let me know I'm succeeding.