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Olive Bread

Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods. Evidence from 30,000 years ago in Europe revealed starch residue on rocks used for pounding plants. It is possible that during this time, starch extract from the roots of plants, such as cattails and ferns, was spread on a flat rock, placed over a fire and cooked into a primitive form of flatbread. Around 10,000 BC, with the dawn of the Neolithic age and the spread of agriculture, grains became the mainstay of making bread. Yeast spores are ubiquitous, including the surface of cereal grains, so any dough left to rest will become naturally leavened.There were multiple sources of leavening available for early bread. Airborne yeasts could be harnessed by leaving uncooked dough exposed to air for some time before cooking. Pliny the Elder reported that the Gauls and Iberians used the foam skimmed from beer to produce "a lighter kind of bread than other peoples." Parts of the ancient world that drank wine instead of beer used a paste composed of grape juice and flour that was allowed to begin fermenting, or wheat bran steeped in wine, as a source for yeast. The most common source of leavening was to retain a piece of dough from the previous day to use as a form of sourdough starter.

This is popular all over the Mediterranean. For this Greek recipe use rich, oily olives or those marinated in herbs rather than canned ones. Black olives impart a deep, rich
flavour while green olives produce a fresher taste.

Olive Bread

Makes 2 loaves

2 red onions
30ml/2 tbsp olive oil
225g/8oz/l % cups pitted black or green olives
750g/ 7 cups plain bread flour
ll/2 tsp salt
20ml/4 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
45ml/3 tbsp roughly chopped parsley, coriander (cilantro) or mint

Slice the red onions thinly, then fry them in the olive oil until soft but not browned. Remove from the heat. Roughly chop the olives.
2.Put the flour, salt, yeast and parsley, coriander or mint in a large bowl with the * fried onions and olives and pour in 475ml/16fl oz/2 cups hand-hot water. Mix to a dough using a round-bladed knife, adding a little more water if the mixture feels too dry.
3. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead for about J 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put in a clean bowl, cover with lightly oiled clear film (plastic wrap) and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour until doubled in bulk.
4.  Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7. Lightly grease two baking sheets. Turn i the dough on to a floured surface and cut in half. Shape into two rounds and
place on the baking sheets. Cover loosely with lightly oiled clear film and leave until
doubled in size.
5.Slash the tops of the loaves with a knife, then bake for about 40 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped underneath. Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little before serving warm. - Fly at a Smile-Price