Fair warning: this is a slow bread to make, but very much worth the time.
The Americans did not invent sourdough, it has been around for centuries. The French have a nice fancy word for sourdough, they call it levain. Really the same thing. Levain is frequently made up with a higher hydration than standard sourdough. So, here is a French-style variation on the ancient Mediterranean olive bread:
Liquid Levain (Sourdough)
134 g Bread Flour (1 cup)
167 g water (3/4 cup)
28 g starter (1/8 cup)
533 g Bread Flour (4-1/2 cups)
74 g whole wheat flour (3/4 cup)
301 g water (1-1/4 c)
9 g salt (2 tsp)
301 g Levain (all – 1/8 cup for next starter)
185 g Pitted Olives (1 cup – packed)
I should mention that the weights are exact, the volumes are kind of guestimated, I weigh, I don’t measure.
If you’ve never done a pure sourdough with no additional yeast the timing of things may surprise you. As in it is really long compared to standard baker’s yeast breads. Start your final sourdough build either first thing in the morning or just after dinner, depending on what is more convenient. You want the culture to mature for 12 to 16 hours – it should be nicely bubbly.
Add everything except the olives. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes. Mix on second speed 3 minutes. If you are a glutton for punishment, mix and knead by hand at least 20 minutes.
Olives: Any good grade olive that you like: black, Kalamata, or green. You may be able to find some really nice olives, but good stuff is usually not pitted, which is a pain to do yourself. You can use a standard 7 oz. jar of pimento stuffed olives, just split the olives in half (I just use my fingers) and rake out the pimento and discard. However you get the olives, firmly press them between layers of paper towels to get all the excess liquid out. Add olives – drained and squeezed dry, mix low speed until evenly incorporated. By the way, do not chop up the olives or the texture will be wrong and the bursts of olive flavor will be lost.
Let rise in a lubed bowl covered with plastic for 1-1/2 hours. Fold. Rise 1 hour. Alternately, if time is going to be a problem, let rest overnight in the refrigerator.
Shape into 2 equal loaves (somewhere around 1.5 lb): bread pan, round or oval loaves. I personally prefer the small bread pans for this loaf as it is easier to cut into sandwich-sized slices.
The final rise can take 4 to 9 hours.
Bake at 460°F for 40 to 45 minutes with steam.
If patience and/or time is a problem, a packet of standard yeast can be added and the rising times taken back to standard. Mix, rise 1 hour, fold, rise 1 hour, divide, shape, rise 1 hour, bake. It will be pretty good, but you will not get the full sourdough flavor.
You could also substitute various other veggies for the olives, just use your own taste and judgement and get about equal weight.