Olive and Fennel Bread Olive and Fennel Bread

Author: Canadian Living

Crusty on the outside, this Italian-inspired loaf has a wholesome chewy texture inside. It uses a biga, an Italian starter, similar to a French levain but much drier. It's easy to make and just takes a few minutes the day before baking; just make sure your bowl is large because it will rise quite high while it stands overnight.

  • Portion size 24 servings
  • Credits : Canadian Living Magazine: October 2011




Biga: In large bowl, sprinkle yeast over 3/4 cup warm water; let stand until dissolved, about 2 minutes.

Stir in whole wheat flour; let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in white bread flour to form shaggy dough.

Turn out onto lightly floured surface; knead to form smooth but slightly sticky dough, about 10 minutes. Place in large lightly greased bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at cool room temperature in draft-free place for at least 12 hours or for up to 24 hours.

Scrape biga into large bowl; stir in 7/8 cup water and whole wheat flour until combined. Beat in oil, salt and pepper. Beat in bread flour just until shaggy dough forms.

Turn out onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and soft but not sticky, adding up to 1/4 cup more white bread flour as necessary, 15 to 20 minutes by hand, about 10 minutes in stand mixer with dough hook at medium-slow speed. Transfer to greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover and let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Lightly push down dough to deflate. Turn out onto lightly floured surface; knead a few turns then press into flat disc. Scatter olives and fennel seeds over dough; fold dough to enclose, then knead until distributed.

Roll dough into 18- to 20-inch (45 to 50 cm) rope. Shape into 9-inch (23 cm) ring with 4-inch (10 cm) hole in centre, pinching and rolling ends to join. Place on parchment paper–lined or cornmeal-dusted peel or baking sheet. Cover with tea towel; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.

Bake on preheated baking stone or on baking sheet in 400°F (200°C) convection oven or 425°F (220°C) conventional oven for 15 minutes, sprinkling bottom of oven with a couple of handfuls of water when putting loaf in oven and again after 3 minutes baking.

Reduce heat to 375°F (190°C) in convection or conventional oven; bake until crust is hard, bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom and internal temperature reaches 200°F (99°C), 20 to 25 minutes for convection oven or 25 to 30 minutes for conventional oven. Let cool on rack.

Nutritional facts Per each of 24 slices: about

  • Sodium 187 mg
  • Protein 3 g
  • Calories 97.0
  • Total fat 1 g
  • Potassium 37 mg
  • Cholesterol 0 mg
  • Saturated fat trace
  • Total carbohydrate 18 g


  • Iron 8.0
  • Folate 12.0
  • Calcium 1.0
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Olive and Fennel Bread