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.

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Olive Bread Recipe

When I first opened Sullivan Street, with Roman baking in mind, this slightly pungent olive loaf immediately became my signature bread. As a result of the brine the olives release during baking, this recipe calls for no salt. The loaf possesses a golden-brown crust and an open, airy crumb with large pieces of green olive. It’s slightly sour with an intense olive flavor.–Jim Lahey

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Olive Bread FAQs

What kind of olives can I use in no-knead olive bread?

For this loaf, 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 Lahey turns to most often are pitted kalamata olives soaked in a pure salt brine, nothing else, just salt. You might think that because they’re black they’ll 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.

Why isn’t the crust of my no-knead olive bread crisp?

The most likely reason is moisture. Because the bread is baked in a cloche, it needs that last little bit of uncovered baking to crisp it all up. And during the hour rest period, ensure that air can circulate around it by putting it on a wire rack with nothing touching it.

Why do I have to wait an hour before cutting into my no-knead olive bread?

In that hour (some say it’s the longest hour in the world…), the steam inside gets absorbed back into the bread as moisture. If you cut into it, the steam escapes and your bread is going to dry out faster than it should. Unless you plan on eating the whole loaf, like, immediately (no judgement here, we promise), try and hang on for that interminable hour.

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.

Print RecipeBuy the My Bread cookbook

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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.

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Comments

  1. Your recipe states the wrong amount of water. Jim Lahey’s book My Bread uses 1 1/3 cup and you call for 1 1/2 which leaves the dough impossibly wet and sticky. Please correct this mistake.

      1. Well, I see that but I have 1 1/3 in my 2009 edition and when I followed your instructions the dough was comparable to hot mozzarella on a pizza right out of the oven. I worked in more flour and my bake this morning looks pretty good anyway.

        By the way, I forgot I had the book since I usually look recipes up on the internet now.

        Cheers, JP

          1. 1 star
            No I measured everything. My book is the Gourmet Book Club edition (although I got it from Amazon) and I can only speculate that is where the shenanigans occurred. My loaf tasted bland anyway and I am discarding it. While I used a cup and a half of drained Kalamata olives, they didn’t provide enough salt to make the bread rise very well. Other recipes I have looked at include salt anyway. I love Jim Lahey’s recipes for pizza and bread but this one just doesn’t cut it.

          2. JP, I’m confused. Did you use the Gourmet Book Club version or this version? Were your olives in oil or in pure brine? Did you rinse the olives? Also the more salt you add to bread, the more it inhibits rising. The recipe doesn’t include salt because if you use the correct olives they give the bread enough salt to enhance the flavor.

  2. 5 stars
    I have made this recipe several times, and the olive bread always comes out delicious. Last time, I tinkered with the flour ratio using 2.5 cups of regular bread flour and half a cup of whole wheat bread flour and that may be my new favorite. I have found that if I add the flour as the last step after combining everything else, mixing it into a dough ball was much easier. I have also used the parchment paper method (where you place the dough ball on parchment for the second rise), and that made transferring the dough to Dutch oven so much safer. 😅 Thank you for posting this recipe! Can’t wait to try other things on your page 🤗

    1. Thanks, Loann! That is a stunning loaf and we so appreciate you sharing your tips with us. Can’t wait to hear what you try next!

  3. Suuuper duper easy, which was nice. The bread turned out pretty fluffy with a good taste (though some extra flavour could be fun (I heard jalepeno/cheddar from another comment??), and just a little too moist on the inside. However, I couldn’t shape it for the life of me… It was a wet gooky mess in both first and second rises, and didn’t stay in a ball at all (ended up sticking to bottom of the pan). Can anybody answer why that might have been?? Other than that, it would be an easy make-again bread! Thanks.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Jessica! It is a very wet dough, so don’t be worried about it not holding shape, although if it’s completely unmanageable, you can add a little flour. Also, if you found it a little too moist inside after baking, try baking for a few minutes longer.

  4. I believe the US to metric conversion is off. 3 cups bread flour should be approx 360 grams and not 420? Also 1/4 tsp yeast instead of 3/4 tsp? I will find out tomorrow how my bread turns out, since I feel I may have used too much flour.

    1. Do let us know how it turns out, Maria. We use a weight of 140 g/cup for bread flour, so 420 grams is accurate.

      1. It turned out well, I’m really pleased! I made it into cheddar/jalapeño bread. Used 2 cups (280 grams) regular bread flour and 1 cup (140 grams) white whole wheat flour which included 1 1/2 tsp vital wheat gluten. I did have to add 2 tbsp water. 1 cup shredded cheddar and approx 1/4 cup well drained chopped jalapeños. The different weight(s) for a cup of flour is interesting, I’m glad it ended up working out here!

        1. That’s a good-looking loaf of bread, Maria! I’m so glad you forged ahead with the recipe and that combination of Cheddar and jalapenos sounds divine. Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know how it worked out.

  5. Hi! is it possible to put the dough inside the ref for the 12-18 hours? We live in the tropics and the room temp, even with the airconditioning on, may get a bit on the warmer side. Thanks!

    1. kat, we haven’t tried it with this particular recipe, so we can’t guarantee it will work, but there are many recipes that include an overnight rise in the refrigerator, so I think it would be fine. The refrigerator will slow down the rise significantly, so you want to make sure you do get it to the point where it’s doubled in size before proceeding with the recipe.

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