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Eliopitas (Olive Bread)

A couple weeks ago I made “flaounes” with my mom. One of the advantages of making “flaounes” is that you can use the same dough to make “eliopitas” (olive bread). In Cyprus, a lot of the “eliopitas” I have tried are more bread-y and less olive-y than I would like. You can often find “eliopitas” in Cyprus with whole pitted olives dotted throughout. It’s not really what I grew up with. Although there is obviously a tendency to prefer what-you-know I think the key is that I prefer my olive bread with a lot more of olives simply because I love olives! My love for this bread is precisely because of the olives, so I like a recipe to maximise their presence. The “eliopita” recipe below is definitely for the olive lover. The emphasis is on the diced olive and onion mixture in the middle of the bread. As a result, it becomes more like an olive roulade. When you slice it, there is an equal balance of bread and olive.  I would recommend using a combination of 3 types of olives: Kalamata, Moroccan and Royal olives. But if you don’t have these, any olive mixture will do!

Level of Difficulty: 4/5
Preparation Time: about 6 hours
Cooking Time: about 35-45 minutes, but this will vary depending on the size.
Makes about 10 to 12 medium sized “eliopitas”, but will vary depending on the size.

For the dough:
Note that the dough recipe is essentially the same as the dough recipe for “flaounes”. So, if you have any extra dough when making “flaounes”, you can use it to make some “eliopitas” and simply adjust the quantity of filling below. If you are making “eliopitas” from scratch, then use the following recipe which is the same as the dough recipe for the “flaounes”, except that it is a smaller amount.
6 1/2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
6 1/2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (spry)
small pinch of salt
3/4 tbs of mastic
3/4 tbs of mehleb
2 large eggs
3 1/4 cups of milk
2 envelopes dry yeast
just under 1/8 cup of sugar
sesame seeds

For the filling:
1.5kg of pitted and chopped olives (kalamata, maroccan, royal are recommended but you can use your favourites)
1 finely chopped onion
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tbs ground dry mint


1. Prepare the filling. Add chopped olives, chopped onion, olive oil and dry mint into a large bowl. Mix and let rest while you prepare the dough.

2. Prepare the dough. Mix together the flour, mastic, mehleb and salt in a large bowl. Add the vegetable shortening and rub the shortening into the flour mixture with your fingers.

3. Dilute the yeast with 1 cup of warm milk and 1 tbs of sugar in a bowl making a very soft dough. Cover the same and let rise in a warm place for about 15 minutes until a light foam has formed on top.

4. In the meantime, warm the remaining milk with remaining sugar over the stove at low heat. Place in a large bowl.

5. Beat the eggs and add them to the milk. Keep this mixture warm until the yeast mixture has risen.

6. Once the yeast mixture has risen, add it to the flour mixture. Start adding the milk mixture slowly while mixing the dough with your hands. If the flour mixture needs more water, have some warm water at hand and add a little warm water if necessary.

7. Start kneading the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes.

8. Cover with a blanket and let the dough rise for about 2 hours.

9. When the dough has risen, punch it down with your fists.

10. Cut a piece of dough the size of a small lemon. Roll it into into a rectangle approximately 9 inches long.

11. Place 2-3tbs in the lower half of the rectangle. Starting at the bottom of the rectangle, roll the dough towards the top of the rectangle forming a roll.

12. On a flat, clean surface sprinkle a generous amount of sesame seeds and pour a little water over top the sesame seeds to wet them.

13. Place the roll onto the sesame seeds covering it with sesame seeds, including the bottom of the roll.

14. Place on baking paper on a pan. Prepare all the “eliopitas” the same way. Once a pan is full, cover the same with a kitchen towel and let the “eliopitas” rise again for about 1 hour. Do the same with each full pan. It is important to let the “eliopitas” rise again before placing them in the oven to prevent them from becoming hard.

15. Preheat the oven to 160C. Lightly brush the top of each “eliopita” with egg wash and bake for 35-45 minutes. If you put the egg wash on top of the “eliopitas” before they have had time to rise again before placing into the oven, the egg wash will only make patches of your “eliopitas” glossy.

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