Time: 2hr 30min (includes prep and cooking)
If you have a little more time to spare in the kitchen, you’ll love making your own olive and rosemary crown. This loaf is packed with iconic Italian flavours like tangy olives and fresh rosemary, and they are brought together with a hint of high-quality blue cheese and a touch of sweet jam for the ultimate savoury bread to complete your main dishes. Keep reading to find out more about the origins of this recipe, how to make it, and how to serve your homemade rustic Italian bread.
The history of Italian bread
We’ve been making bread for thousands of years and the loaf of bread as we know it today is said to have been introduced by the Egyptians around 4,000 years ago using stone utensils. Ancient Romans, however, took this basic staple to a higher level.
The Romans were to first to produce the specific type of flour used to make white bread. They also improved wheat’s milling techniques and opened a baking school in Rome in 100 AD. Since then, bread had played a fundamental part in Italy’s rich culinary heritage, linking not only to its top-quality cuisine and cooking practices, but also to nutrition and religion.
Popular types of Italian bread
Like with most foods, each Italian regions has its own varieties and adaptions of bread. Making your own bread is also an important part of Italian culinary culture, with family recipes containing secret ingredients and special techniques being passed down from one generation to the next.
Here are some of the most popular Italian breads:
Focaccia - One of the most simple and most celebrated Italian breads is focaccia. Its texture is similar to pizza dough. A common flavour combination for focaccia is herbs and olive oil, but many Italian regions elaborate on the ingredients and top their focaccia with a selection of meats and vegetables.
Pane Toscano - Tuscan bread is similar to a traditional white loaf, but flatter. It’s traditionally cooked in a woodfired oven to give it a unique flavour and it’s perfect for soaking up any leftover soup or stew!
Pizza Bianca - This cross between pizza and bread literally translates to “white pizza”. The pizza bianca dough is quite thick and it’s normally topped with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh herbs, mozzarella, or olives.
Ciabatta - Even though ciabatta was only invented in Italy in the early 1980s, it is one of the most well-known Italian breads. It has a soft and chewy texture with a perfectly crispy crust, and it’s perfect for sandwiches, soups, or just for dipping.
Coppia Ferrarese - Italy’s answer to sourdough is Coppia Ferrarese. Not only is its twist shape unique, but it also has a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), meaning that part of its production is specific to Ferrara, northern Italy. Coppia Ferrarese is a great choice for a traditional antipasto board or appetiser.
Panettone - While traditionally served as a dessert around Christmas and New Year, panettone is a sweet bread, filled with candied fruit, that originates in Milan. In fact, the word “panetto” means “a small loaf of bread”.
Olive and rosemary bread
We got creative and combined traditional Italian flavours with a unique crown shape to make our bread. The simple flavours make it the perfect side to most dishes like Sicilian spaghetti or creamy tomato risotto, and its round shape made of twisted dough strands makes an impressive centrepiece on the dinner table.
For the filling, we also added a hint of subtle blue cheese and a touch of apricot jam to balance the sweet and savoury flavours in the bread and give the finished dish a beautiful sweet sheen.
Olive & Rosemary Bread Recipe
250g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
7g fast-action yeast
2 tbsp dried rosemary
50g unsalted butter
135ml warm milk
1 egg, beaten
For the filling
150g blue cheese (we used Gorgonzola), crumbled
3 tbsp apricot jam, warmed
Fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
Combine the flour, salt, yeast, and dried rosemary in a bowl. Then, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Make a well in the centre and add the milk and egg. Use your hands to gradually bring the flour mixture into the middle and form a dough. Knead for around 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Note: we recommend using your hands for this steps, but if you’re using a mixer, use a dough hook and knead for 5 minutes. Once your dough is ready, place it back in the bowl, cover with cling film, and let it rest for 1 hour 30 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
Next, line a baking tray with baking paper. Dust a clean surface with flour and tip the dough out. Press the dough firmly with your fist to get all the air out, then roll it out into a rectangle roughly 33x25cm, making sure that it’s placed horizontally. Spread the olive cream all over the dough and sprinkle the crumbled Gorgonzola all over the top.
Roll the dough tightly from the top down along the long edge, like a Swiss roll, with the seam at the bottom. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough cross the centre, all the way through, revealing the swirls. Make sure you leave a small bit on each end uncut so that the dough can stay attached at the top.
Turn the cut side out to expose the layers and twist the two strands. Pinch the ends together and join them to make a circle. Place the crown on the lined baking tray and cover with some greased cling film. Leave it to rest in a warm place for 30 minutes. The crown should double in size again.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7. Bake the crown for 25 minutes. Remove and leave it on a rack to cool.
In the meantime, warm the jam for a few seconds in the microwave to loosen it up a little. Use a pastry brush to brush the jam all over the cooled bread. Sprinkle the top with some fresh rosemary and serve.
How to serve your olive and rosemary bread
One of our favourite ways to serve this stunning olive and rosemary bread is with our porcini mayonnaise. The superior quality of homemade mayonnaise makes a fantastic combination with the authentic flavours in this bread recipe. But this bread is so versatile, so if you prefer, why not try soaking up your favourite Italian soup or stew with it, serve it with any pasta dish, or simply dip it is some delicious olive oil for a show-stopping appetiser.
Take a look at our collection of wonderful Italian recipes for plenty of inspiration for enjoying your olive and rosemary crown.
Celebrate an essential part of Italian food culture with this incredible olive and rosemary bread recipe. It’s a little more effort in the kitchen, but we promise it’s worth it, and our olive cream will make achieving delectable Italian flavour effortless! Its creamy texture and taste of genuine, hand-picked olives adds a luxurious touch to the bread that will impress your guests and loved ones.
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