As we mentioned when we first introduced Our Kouppes, many of the recipes we will feature here are heavily influenced by our parents and Greek cuisine…but not all of them. This particular bread recipe for example, although heavy with Mediterranean elements like Kalamata olives, feta, and oregano has very little to do with our parents. In fact, this bread is brought to you because of a
man hero named Jim Lahey.
We don’t really remember how or when we first heard about Jim Lahey; for some reason Oprah Winfrey seems to have been involved. Maybe she had him on her show, or maybe his book My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method was featured as one of her Books of the Month (probably not…but maybe). Or perhaps we learned about Jim Lahey some other way and we were simply watching Oprah the first time we ate this no-knead bread, likely an entire loaf during one episode. In recent years it seems that there has been a surge of no-knead bread bakers; we believe that many of them may have been inspired by Jim.
No matter how this bread making technique came into our lives, we are grateful. Using the recipes in Jim Lahey’s book we have impressed friends, wowed family, and consumed a lot of carbs. Each recipe has turned out beautifully, and with ease. Many loaves later, as we gained confidence in our bread making, we began experimenting with flavours, while keeping to the basic principles set out in our dog-eared copy of the book. Here we share one of our favourite creations, a Greek-style, no-knead bread that we think Mr. Lahey would be proud of.
The most important aspect of this recipe, and any no-knead bread, is time. Your dough will rise for a minimum of 14 hours, which means that this is not something you can whip together on a whim – unless your whim is to have bread the next day, in which case, that is fine.
Along with time, you will need a heavy duty pot with a fitted lid. We have made this bread using an enamelled cast iron pot as well as a glazed ceramic one. Unfortunately, despite being of good quality and costing a pretty penny, the latter got damaged. Although the pot is still very usable, it is far less pretty than it used to be. The glaze didn’t seem to withstand the high heat as well as our enamelled cast iron pot does.
Speaking of pots, you want to select a pot which is neither too large nor too small. In fact, if you have a pot which is about the same size as the bowl you have used to allow your dough to rise in, that is ideal. If your pot is too big, your dough will spread out and your bread will be a little flatter than it needs to be.
We like to line the pot with parchment paper when making this particular bread. This makes clean-up easy and melted cheese less of a problem.
In Jim Lahey’s book My Bread, he suggests using bread flour for his recipes. We used to do that, until one day when we had run out of bread flour and were feeling quite rebellious. Instead of going bread-less, we opted to use all purpose flour (which incidentally, is usually less expensive than bread flour) to make one of his recipes. The result…perfectly fine. So, in the recipe which follows, if you want to use bread flour, go ahead. If you prefer to dig into the 10 pound bag of all-purpose flour that you bought at Christmas to make koulourakia and melomakarona, go ahead.
Both the olives and feta tend to be a little wet; for this reason, in order to prevent somewhat soggy bread, it is helpful to pat both of these ingredients dry using paper towels before adding them to the flour.
When you remove the bread from the oven and place it on a cooking rack, take a listen. As described by Lahey, you can hear the bread “singing”. It is really a glorious sound, a kind of crackling which occurs when steam escapes from the bread. The sound of delicious things to come.
Mia Kouppa: No-knead bread with olives and feta
- 3 cups (400 grams) bread flour (or all purpose flour)
- 3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) instant dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups (200 grams) pitted and sliced Kalamata olives, drained well
- 1 1/2 cups (200 grams) Greek feta, cut into small cubes
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) dried oregano
- 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) cool water
- In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, oregano and yeast. Stir together.
- Pat the olives and feta dry using paper towels. Add the olives and feta to the bowl with the flour and stir until they are both well coated with flour.
- Slowly pour in the water and mix well, either with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until there is not dry flour visible (it is well mixed). Cover your bowl with plastic wrap, cover that with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest in a draft-free place for at least 12 hours and up to 18 hours.
- After the long resting period, take a similar sized bowl and coat it with a bit of vegetable oil. Sprinkle some flour into the oiled bowl and shake the bowl around to distribute the flour as evenly as possible over the oil. Then, simply transfer the dough (which should have risen quite a bit at this point) from the original bowl into this second bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and then a clean kitchen towel.
- Allow to rise in a draft-free place for at least 2 hours.
- Approximately 30 minutes before you will be baking your bread, preheat your oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a covered cast iron or enamel pot (bit enough to hold your bread dough) onto the middle rack and allow it to come to temperature for at least 30 minutes.
- Carefully remove the pot from the oven, remove the lid, and place a piece of parchment paper along the bottom of the pot and coming up the sides. Transfer the dough into the pot and onto this parchment paper. Replace cover, and place pot onto the middle rack of your oven. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake the bread for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove pot from oven and using heat proof mitts or gloves, remove the bread from the pot. Allow it to cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting into it. Enjoy!