A twisted olive bread for your picnic basket

Summers in South Africa are made for sunset picnics with a glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc in your hand and the laughs of friends and family nearby. This twisted olive bread is destined for such a picnic, whether it’s paired with beef teriyaki or a meze platter. Ridiculously easy and therapeutic to make, and packed full of flavour, this bread may well prove to be a faithful friend.



Prep time: 20 min + 45 min for fermentation and proofing | Baking time: ± 30 min | Makes: 2 loaves 

For the bread dough
750 g (5 cups) cake flour
30 ml (2 Tbsp) sugar
7.5 ml (1 and ½ tsp) salt
5 ml  (1 tsp) black pepper
10 g instant dried yeast
500 ml lukewarm water
30 ml (2 Tbsp) olive oil
1 egg, beaten
Extra cake flour for kneading

For the filling
100 g Kalamata or black olives, pips removed and finely chopped
3 fat cloves garlic, crushed
3 sprigs rosemary, stalks removed and chopped
4 sprigs thyme, stalks removed and chopped
30 ml olive oil
125 ml finely grated Parmesan cheese
Extra olive oil for drizzling
Salt and pepper to taste


1. To make the dough, sieve the flour, sugar, salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast and mix.
2. Mix the lukewarm water, olive oil and egg together. Add to the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon to combine the mixture until it comes together to form a soft, slightly sticky dough.
3. Sprinkle your surface well with cake flour. With floured hands, knead the dough for about 10 minutes – until it is smooth and has elasticity to it. Sprinkle with extra flour if still sticky while kneading but don’t add too much. Place in a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with a tea towel and allow to double in size. On a hot summer’s day this will take about 30 minutes, max. If you have a food processor or stand mixer with a dough hook, you can also save yourself the elbow grease and let it do the kneading for you.
4. While the dough is rising, prepare the filling ingredients. Combine the chopped olives, crushed garlic, herbs and olive oil.
5. Remove the risen dough from the bowl and divide it into two parts.
6. Knock the air out of the first piece and roll out into a rectangular shape. Drizzle with a little olive oil, then evenly spread out half of the olive mixture onto the dough. Sprinkle with half the Parmesan cheese and season.
7. Gently roll the mixture up tightly like a Swiss roll. Place onto a greased large baking tray (leaving room for the second loaf). Cut the long cylinder shape down the length with a sharp knife to expose the two cut sides.
8. Pinch the ends together on the one side and twist the two pieces of cut dough around each other, making sure the cut sides are facing upwards as much as possible. Pinch the end bits together and tuck them in. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
9. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling ingredients. You should have two twisted breads.
10. Preheat a fan-assisted oven to 180°C.
11. Allow to proof for 15–20 minutes at room temperature (a second rise). Then bake for 30 minutes. To check if they are cooked through, give the bases a tap, if they sound hollow, you’re done.

Once you’ve mastered this bread, you can play with fillings. Instead of olives, try sundried tomatoes, crispy bacon bits and fried onions. Homemade pesto is also a great option to spread onto the dough before rolling. You can also choose to make one large bread (cut the large cylinder shape into three and plait the dough before increasing the baking time to ± 45 minutes).


Wrap this bread up in a tea towel or wax paper and pack it in your picnic basket to be enjoyed where ever spontaneity and friends take you.