Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Olive Bread

Jim Lahey’s no-knead olive bread from Sullivan Street bakery is made with flour, water, yeast, and olives and lets you create the bakery’s signature artisan loaf at home with very little effort.

Sliced loaf of Jim Lahey's no-knead olive bread on a kitchen towel

Curious what famed breadmaker Jim Lahey has to say about his signature olive bread? On the Sullivan Street Bakery website, he describes it as possessing “a golden brown crust and an open, airy crumb with large pieces of green olive. Slightly sour with an intense olive flavor.” (Did anyone else just go wobbly in the knees?) We’re ogling this olive bread recipe as a conversation-starting nosh with wine prior to a dinner party, as an idyllic accompaniment to a cheese plate, or as just an all-around pass-it-at-the-table-and-grab-a-hunk type of bread. We’re crossing our fingers for leftovers, too, seeing as we think a slice or two of this would be inspired in grilled cheese, as a base for bruschetta, even as croutons. Stay tuned.–Jim Lahey

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Olive Bread

  • Quick Glance
  • (14)
  • 15 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Makes one 10-inch round loaf
4.6/5 - 14 reviews
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Ingredients


Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, chopped olives, and yeast.

Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds.

Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough has more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.

When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Using lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula, lift the edges of the dough in toward the center. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.

Place a clean towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough seems sticky, dust the top lightly with a little more wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour.

Fold the ends of the towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C) and adjust the rack to the lower third of the oven. Place a covered 4 1/2- to 5 1/2-quart heavy pot in the center of the rack to warm it.

Using pot holders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up. (Use caution—the pot will be very, very hot). Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue baking until the olive bread is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more. Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to gently lift the bread from the pot and place it on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing. Originally published October 5, 2009.

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    *What You Need To Know About Which Olives To Use For This Olive Bread

    • For this no-knead olive bread recipe, any pitted olive will yield something worth eating. (You don’t want to go to the trouble of pitting them yourself, because it is tedious and the results will not be as neat.) But what Jim Lahey turns to most often are pitted kalamata olives soaked in a pure salt brine—nothing else, just salt. A commonly available kalamata that I’m very fond of is made by Divina and can be found at many supermarkets and gourmet stores.

      You might think that because they’re black they will change the color of the bread, but they won’t, unless you carelessly dump some of the brine into the dough. Green Sicilian colossals, sometimes called “giant” olives, packed in pure salt brine, are another good option; they’re often available at Italian food stores. As a result of the brine the olives release during baking, this recipe calls for no salt.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    This Jim Lahey bread is absolutely STUNNING, from the crunchy, dark crust to the shiny crumb with nice, big holes.

    I used green and black olives and I also took the liberty of grinding some fresh rosemary from our garden and kneading it throughout the dough. The dough had more than doubled in about 10 hours, but if you wait a few extra hours, the flavors will be WONDERFUL.

    I also recommend patience in leaving the lid on the Dutch oven for the entire 30 minutes. The idea behind Jim Lahey's method is to create a soft, airy crumb surrounded by a CRUNCHY, dark, almost nutty crust. Take your time and adjust for the depth of color AFTER the first 30 minutes when you remove the lid. My oven browns things quickly, and I checked the loaf after 15 minutes uncovered and it still needed another 5 minutes to reach perfection.

    As the loaf cools, listen to it crack and groan and enjoy the wonderful scent of olive and wheat while patiently waiting for the loaf to cool enough to slice. Take your time with this recipe and you will reap RICH rewards.

    I'm an experienced bread baker and accustomed to teaching breadmaking. This olive bread recipe was so foolproof, simple to make, and delicious that I will definitely make it again and again. It had an excellent crust and crumb structure.

    It’s an especially good recipe for a neophyte to breakmaking. The recipe calls for baking it 30 minutes covered and then 15 to 30 minutes uncovered, until it’s a deep chestnut color. When I uncovered it after the initial 30 minutes and tested it with an instant-read thermometer, it had already reached 190°F, which is when bread is fully done. I'd suggest checking it after about 20 minutes and then uncovering it.

    HUNGRY FOR MORE?

    #leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

    Comments

    1. I haven’t made this yet. The long proofing time puzzles me. Is there a reason for it to be so long compared to other loaves? I’m a beginner who finds proof timing difficult. How can I get it right? Is dough temperature an answer?

      1. Ron Young, elides giving a more flavoursome loaf, the long 12 – 18 hours fermentation breaks down phytates in the grain (flour) which enables most people to be able to digest the bread a lot easier.
        If you decide to make this loaf, persevere with the long proofing/ferment time. It is truly worthwhile….

      2. Ron, this is the famous no-knead bread. It relies on slow, long rising time for better flavor. All that’s important is that you give this the time required to double in size. (You don’t have to be too precise with this.) I think you’ll find this is one of the most forgiving breads out there.

    2. By the way, I’ve made this bread several times since my first desperate appeal for help. It’s really good. But I wanted to mention that the oil-cured moroccan olives are really good in this, too. 🙂 And they are salty, so definitely don’t add salt, but they have a nice flavor.

    3. I just baked this bread and followed the instructions exactly. The crust turned out beautifully but the inside is still moist–the bread is not completely cooked through. Any idea what I could have done wrong? I have an oven thermometer and the temperature was at 475 as prescribed. Thanks!

      1. Amy, sorry to hear the bread was less than stellar. With these high-moisture breads, it can be tricky. The best way I find to make sure that everything is copacetic is to use an instant-read thermometer. I insert the thermometer in the bottom of the loaf and look for a temperature of between 200°F-210°F. (I usually hit 207°F, and it’s perfect for my taste.)

    4. I feel like the bad penny, but if you will insist on putting together these slide shows…;)

      I love olive bread, but what I don’t like is the sour bite of it. Is this due to the olives, or is it the long rise time? That bread looks quite a bit like ciabatta inside, think I could just put the olives in the ciabatta dough and get a not sour bread, or will the olives make it sour/tangy?

      Thanks!

      1. Ruthie, no bad pennies here. You might be tasting the brine from the olives. What I suggest is to rinse the olives very well before using them. I think that will help minimize any off tastes for you.

      1. the gamin, as Lahey says in the headnote: “As a result of the brine the olives release during baking, this recipe calls for no salt.”

        In step four, the instructions say to place a covered pot into the oven. So, yep, heat the lid.

        No, no olive oil.

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