The trick to keeping bread tender is to start with a small amount of flour and add more only if you need it.
- 2¼ cups bread flour, plus additional if needed and for dusting
- 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
- ¾ teaspoon instant yeast (i use fleischmann’s bread machine yeast)
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 liquid cup water, at room temperature (70 to 90 degrees)
- ½ cup chopped green and black olives, patted very dry
- 4 teaspoons butter, melted
- ½ cup ice cubes
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, and black pepper (you can do this with a regular old whisk instead of the whisk attachment). Then whisk in the salt. Attach the dough hook, turn the mixer on low speed (#2), add the water, and mix for a minute, until all the flour is moistened (scrape down the sides if necessary). Knead the dough on medium speed (#4 on a KitchenAid) for 7 minutes.
- The dough should be sticky, but shouldn't stick to your finger if you touch it. If it's too wet, knead in extra flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until it's right. If it's not sticky at all, but is rather dry, spray it with a little water and knead it in.
- Add the olives and mix on low speed until evenly incorporated (you might need to add in a little more flour now if the olives are very oily). Dust the dough lightly with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
- Shape the dough and let rise: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and roll it around a little to lightly flour all surfaces of the dough. Roll the dough between your hands and the counter into an 18″-long rope, dusting with flour as necessary. Shape the rope into a ring, overlapping the ends by 2″ and pinching the seams together. Transfer the ring to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (the ring should be about 7″ in diameter). Oil a piece of plastic wrap and cover the dough with it, oiled side touching the dough. Let rise at warm room temperature for an hour, until doubled in bulk (the ring will be about 9″ in diameter).
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven: once the loaf is shaped, set a rack in the lowest position and place a baking stone on it. Set a baking sheet on the floor of the oven under the stone (I use an old broiler pan for this–it's to hold the ice cubes). Turn the oven to 450 and let it preheat for about an hour.
- When the loaf is doubled, brush it with half the melted butter and slide it, parchment paper included, onto the hot baking stone. Toss the ice cubes in the baking sheet and immediately close the door (this produces steam and a great crust). Bake for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 400, slide the bread from the parchment directly onto the stone, rotating it a little as you do so, and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the bread is deep golden brown (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the bread should read about 211 degrees). When it's done, turn off the oven, open the oven door slightly, and leave the bread in the oven for 5 minutes.
- Remove the bread and transfer it to a wire rack. Glaze with the remaining melted butter and cool completely.