Eliopsomakia (Olive Breads)

Olive bread is made all over the Mediterranean. My olive bread recipe comes from Cyprus and was handed down by my mother and grandmother. It’s made with black pitted olives, spring onion, mint, fresh coriander and orange juice.
This olive bread was traditionally only made at Lent, the Greek orthodox period of fasting, (with no forbidden ingredients), but it is so popular that it can be found in bakeries all year round. When making this bread, choose good quality olives and pit them yourself for a better flavour. In the old days, the pips were left in the olives but this can be dangerous for your teeth and I should know!

Ingredients (makes 10-12):
700g (1½lb) strong white flour or a mixture of white and wholemeal
1 x 7g sachet of fast action dried yeast
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tbsp good olive oil
200ml freshly squeezed orange juice
200ml lukewarm water, approx
2 shallots or one small onion, finely chopped
3-4 spring onions, finely chopped
A handful of chopped coriander leaves
3-4 tbsp chopped fresh mint or 1 tbsp dried mint
250g/ 300g Greek Kalamata black olives, pitted and halved

Add the flour into a large mixing bowl with the salt, sugar, yeast and black pepper, then rub in the olive oil or use a food mixer to do this. Pour in the lukewarm water and orange juice and mix, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix together, adding more water or flour if necessary. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until the dough is soft, elastic, a little wet and easy to handle.
Place in a clean oily bowl, cover with cling film or a cloth and allow to prove in a warm place for about an hour or until it has doubled in size.
Knead the dough lightly, divide and shape into 10 round balls. Place on a lightly greased and floured baking tray, cover once again and allow to rest for 30 minutes to an hour.
Preheat oven to 180c or Gas Mark 4. Place an oven dish on the bottom of the oven with hot water – this will make the olive bread crispy outside but keep it soft inside.
Place the bread in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Brush or spray the finished olive breads with olive oil and serve hot or cold.

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