O.live a little...

Olive Ciabatta with Apple and Thyme Jelly

Everytime I go into the shops to buy bread, I almost die a little when I see the price of a lowly loaf of ciabatta. Not only is ciabatta one of the easiest breads to make, its fun, and you get to play with goo (the dough is seriously sticky- fun times.)

It is known as slipper bread to the Italians, because of is shape and texture. It has characteristically large bubbles and makes a lovely cracking sound when squeezed. I just love it because it soaks up Olive Oil and Balsamic like a dream and is just yummy.

I never usually follow a recipe for it, I just go by its texture and throw it in the oven. But here is a true and tested recipe poshed up with the addition of some glorious Calamata olives.

In Venice, my Half starved (that’s what happens when you cant speaka tha language) brother and I came across a bread that was pecularily heavy for its size. Because it was fairly cheap, and we were hungry enough to eat, almost, anything, we snatched it up. On closer inspection we found out that buried beneath the soft layer of crust lay a handful of glossy green olives, like jewels in a cave. Needless to say that bread didn’t last very long, and the taste of bread and olives always takes me to that place.

Olive Ciabatta with Apple and Thyme jelly.

The combination of salty olives with the sweetness of apples and a tang of fresh thyme reminds me of blustery summer days in Italy. You can either fold the olives into the bread creating a speckled effect or hide the olives in the middle of it like the venetian green olive bread.

Olive Ciabatta
6 g dried instant yeast
300 g warm water
375 g bread flour
7.5 g salt
150 g sliced or whole black olives

In a bowl add the yeast, and warm water to the flour, Add the salt and stir well. Stir until you think your arm will fall off, and then stir some more.

*Throw the olives in, or to make a centre filled with them add them before shaping on the tray. *

Leave to rise for 30 mins.
Then “massage” slightly - using wet hands, flop the mixture over in the bowl .
Leave to rise again for 30 minutes, and repeat the "massaging" process again.
Repeat this process another 2 times, so you have left it to rise for a total of 2 hours, and "massaged" the mixture 4 times.
Mix with a spoon and pour onto a floured baking tray.

*flatten and add olives, using flour to roll up into desired shape.*
Leave to spread and rise.
 When it has almost reached the desired size, preheat the oven to 180◦C.

When risen fully, place in the oven and cook for 20 mins.
If making jam as well, place the jars in the oven to heat up.

Apple and Thyme Jelly.

The difference between a jam and a jelly is the straining. Jelly is clear, and doesn't have chunky bits in it.

Makes 450 g
(or 4 small jars of 200 ml each)

1kg cooking apples
2 small bunches thyme
900 ml water
150 ml Apple vinegar
450 g sugar for every 600 ml juice

Chop the apples, peel, pips and all. Add them to a high brimmed pot, with one bunch of thyme. Add the water and vinegar, and cook until soft.
Mash the apples up in the liquid.
Leave to strain overnight in a muslin bag, being careful not to squeeze it.

Measure out the liquid, and weigh out 450g of sugar to every 600ml of the apple juice.
Bring slowly to the boil, ensuring all sugar has dissolved. 
Boil until setting point, approx 30 to 50 minutes.

Testing for setting point:
after 30 -40 mins, the liquid in the pan will start to become a gel. It will look slightly “strandy” and instead of pouring from the spoon, it will flop off in small soft blobs.
This is good.
Add the chopped or whole thyme leaves, and stir.
Pour a thin layer of cold water onto a shallow dish or plate.
Add a small blob of the jam in the middle of the plate.
Leave it to cool for a moment. Generally with jams, you judge by how this blob holds itself, but since this jelly is softer it will spread slightly in the water.
Push your finger through the blob, if it wrinkles, its done.

Pour into hot jars! (either boil them or heat in the oven).

A yummy alternative is also to add finely sliced red and green chilis instead of thyme, it has a hint of apple, and a slight bite from the chillis, and gives a lovely flecked texture to the golden yellow of the Jam.

Serve with cheeses and fresh bread, or add to stews and baked dishes.


  1. Hi Lara

    Its Barry here (sure you remember me). I want to follow your recipe but I don't understand the part about massaging the bread. What does "Then “massage” slightly,
    using wet hands to flop into over in the bowl a few times" mean?

  2. Hey Barry.
    Of course! back in the day when we were salsa dance pros, lol.
    Ok: All bread needs to be kneaded (punched in and stretched). I use the term "massage" because the dough is very soft, so you cant actually take it out of the bowl and knead it.
    Wet your hands with water so the dough doesn't stick to you, and basically turn it over in the bowl, so that the dough that was facing upwards is now facing downwards. Make sense?