All day, I'd dreamed about olive bread.
I'd dreamed about it in the morning, when Chefhusband brought home a sample container of artisanal olives from his restaurant supplier.
I'd dreamed about it while I'd kneaded the dough and set it aside to rise.
I'd continued to dream about it even after the dough didn't rise much, and I slid it in the oven to bake anyway.
And when it ended up being more of a flatbread than the loaf I'd anticipated, I ate it and dreamed of trying again.
Thing is, every loaf of bread is an exercise in both science and faith. Sometimes loaves just fail. Sometimes there seems no reason at all. Sometimes it's the baker. Sometimes it's just the yeast.
It's at this point when there's nothing for it except to go back to basics.
Step One: Proof the yeast.
Step Two: Peer into Pyrex measuring cup and dip a finger into beige slurry to see if there are any signs of life beneath the surface.
Step Three: Discard beige slurry.
And so today, with a new batch of olives, I also break the vacuum seal on a fresh package of yeast.
A gasp of air rushes in, and the aroma of brewery wafts out. An aroma that hints at one of the baking world's most magical acts of microbiology: The fermentation of sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Fermentation is a beautiful thing.
In bread, it inflates the dough so it's light and airy. It changes the flavour profile of the loaf. It alters the protein structure to make the bread soft.
And this time, when I dissolve a level tablespoon in a cup of warm, sugared water and set it in a warm place, I return ten minutes later to a pillowing froth. I can practically hear the yeast cells multiplying as they elbow each other for space by blowing tiny bubbles.
Perfect bread is a baker's version of searching for the holy grail. Where intuition meets the Arrhenius EquationÂ (a formula for the temperature dependence of reaction rates). Where chemistry lab meets kitchen.
Without a proper bakery, however, with its controlled temperatures and perfectly calibrated steam ovens, I feel like I'll always be at a disadvantage. Partly, though, it's that I have nowhere near the skill with flour that I'd like. Partly it's that I'll never get enough practice unless I open a black market bakery out my back door.
Nevertheless, while there are bakeries in town that sell loaves lovely enough to make baking my own bread entirely unnecessary, there are days when nothing will do except the feel of dough in my hands, followed by the aroma of bread in the oven.
Today is one of those days. And as I slide an olive-topped pan of well-risen dough in to bake, all that's left to do now is wait.
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 Tbs active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp flaked kosher salt
3/4 cup pitted marinated green olives
Dissolve yeast and sugar in water. Set in a warm place to proof for
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour and salt. Fit machine with dough hook and turn speed to low.
Add yeast mixture and olive oil, drizzling both in while the mixer's running. When combined, continue mixing on low for 3 minutes.
Increase speed to mediumÂ and mix for 8 minutes.
Transfer dough to clean bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled. Punch down, shape into a ball and transfer dough to a square baking dish that's been well oiled. Press and stretch to loosely fit into the bottom. Turn over to coat in oil. Press olives into dough.
Cover and let rise a third time, until doubled. Sprinkle with flaked kosher salt.
Bake at 425F for 40 minutes, until lightly golden.
Note: Etna olives were used in this recipe. They're small and green, marinated in roasted garlic, peppers and hot chili, and named for the active volcano Etna. Available in Kelowna at Codfather's on Gordon Drive.
Darcie Hossack is a food writer and author of Mennonites Don't Dance. For past recipes, nicefatgurdie.wordpress.com. Her column appears each week in Okanagan Sunday. Contact her at