Olive and Herb Sourdough

from "A Handful of Flour"

Some of you may know that we are currently in the midst of the Real Bread Campaign’s “Sourdough September” (more information on that here). I thought it would be a good time therefore to share one of the sourdough recipes from my cookbook, opting for this olive and herb sourdough to try and eke out just a few more days of the flavours of summer… Our head baker, Salah, uses our ciabatta flour for this recipe which helps create a lovely open crumb structure, although any strong white bread flour will work.

There is more information in “A Handful of Flour – Recipes from Shipton Mill” on making a sourdough starter (p.96) and kneading technique (p.122) if you are interested.

Makes 2 loaves, weighing around 950g each.

If you do bake this recipe, or in fact any sourdough this month, don’t forget to share it on social media with the Real Bread hashtag of #SourdoughSeptember

Photo copyright Jonathan Gregson, and recipe extracted from “A Handful of Flour”.


  • 200g pitted Kalamata olives
  • 5-6 tbsp dried Provencal herbs (to make your own blend, mix dried thyme, basil, oregano and rosemary)
  • 300g wheat sourdough starter
  • 650g water
  • 50g olive oil, plus extra for the bowl
  • 1kg strong white flour (our ciabatta flour works well)
  • 18g salt
  • semolina and extra bread flour, for dusting


Mix your olives and herbs together in a bowl. Set this to one side to build up some flavour. Mix the starter, water and olive oil together in a bowl very gently. Add the flour, mix until almost all incorporated, and then add the salt. Combine to form a rough dough. Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead it until it is smooth and elastic (or use an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook).

Flatten the dough slightly with your palms, and scatter the olives and herbs over the centre. Fold the dough over to form a parcel around the olives, to stop them slipping away as you knead. Very gently, to avoid breaking up the olives, start kneading the dough to distribute them evenly. If you’re using an electric mixer, add the olives while it is kneading the dough, but on a slow setting.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and knock it back, folding the outer edges tightly into the centre. Cover with a cloth and leave it to rest for 2 hours at room temperature. Knock the dough back again, cover, and leave it to rest for one hour at room temperature.

Tip the dough on to a lightly floured work surface, and divide into two equal lumps. Lightly shape them into loose rounds using the palms of your hands, then shape each into a rough oblong. Stretch out the dough slightly with your hands to flatten it enough to fold into an oval bloomer shape. Take the top length of the dough, fold it into the middle, and press down with the heel of your hand. Take the top length, and again, tuck it into the middle, sealing the seam with the heel of your hand. Take the top length for a third time, and seal it with the base of the oblong, forming a smooth oval bloomer. Transfer the loaves, seam facing upwards, into liberally floured proving baskets. Cover with cling film, and rest them in the fridge for 8 hours, or overnight.

Preheat your oven to 240°C. Place 12 ice cubes in an ovenproof dish in the bottom of your oven. Leave your dough to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before baking. Dust a baking stone or tray with semolina and tip your bread on to it. Score your bread with quick decisive movements in a pattern of your choice. Bake for 10 minutes, and then quickly remove the ice cubes. Bake for a further 25 minutes until the bread has turned golden and the base sounds hollow when tapped. Leave the bread to cool on a wire rack before slicing.