Black Olive & Herb Loaf

Another delicious use for Olé extra virgin olive oil. This rustic olive and herb loaf is light-textured, flavorful, aromatic and crisp on top. These loaves make for a great accompaniment to hearty soups and stews.
Ingredients
• 1 1/2 tablespoons (about 2 packets) active dry yeast, or 1 tablespoon quick-rising yeast
• 2/3 cup lukewarm water, plus 2 1/2 cups hot (110-115°F) water
• 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 1/2 tablespoons Olé olive oil, plus more for brushing
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives, or 2 teaspoons dried
• 1 1/4 teaspoons (generous) dried oregano and dried thyme leaves, or 3 1/2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
• 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
• 3 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour or white whole-wheat flour, (see Tip), plus a little more for dusting
• 2/3 cup well-drained, pitted and finely chopped flavorful brined black olives

Preparation

Step 1.
In a 1-cup measure, sprinkle yeast over 2/3 cup lukewarm water. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the yeast dissolves.

Step 2.
Place all-purpose flour, oil, sugar, chives, oregano and thyme (or rosemary) and salt in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the 2 1/2 cups hot water with an electric mixer on low speed (using a paddle attachment if possible) until well blended and smooth. Slowly beat in the yeast mixture until evenly incorporated. Gradually raise the speed to medium (or almost to the point the mixture begins to splatter), and beat for 4 minutes if using a heavy-duty stand mixer or 5 minutes if using a hand mixer.

Step 3.
Using a large wooden spoon, vigorously stir whole-wheat flour and olives into the dough until evenly incorporated; it’s all right if the dough is slightly sticky and wet. Turn out the dough into a very large lightly oiled bowl. Lightly brush the top of the dough with olive oil until evenly covered. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot (see Tip) until the dough doubles in bulk, 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Step 4.
Generously coat 2 round 1 1/2- to 2-quart (6- to 8-cup capacity) ovenproof casseroles or souffle dishes with cooking spray. Coat your hand with cooking spray; press down the dough in the bowl, then divide it between the prepared baking dishes. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of each; with your fingertips, smooth out the dough and evenly brush it with the oil. Sprinkle each loaf with about 1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour until evenly coated. Loosely cover the dishes with plastic wrap. Set in a warm spot until the dough rises to the plastic wrap, 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours (depending on the temperature of your room).

Step 5.
Remove the plastic wrap; let the dough rise until it’s about 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the rims, 15 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.
Step 6.
Transfer the loaves to the middle of the oven; avoid jarring, as they may deflate. Bake until the tops are nicely browned, about 30 minutes. Remove the loaves from the dishes (run a table knife around the edge to loosen if necessary), place top-side up on a baking sheet, and continue baking until they are well browned on top and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let the loaves cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Cut into thick wedges.

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