Ready to level up your sourdough? Learn how to add fillings to any sourdough bread recipe with this step-by-step technique and video, plus an easy, olive sourdough bread with thyme, lemon zest & Parmesan cheese.
Adding fillings to bread dough, such as fragrant rosemary, olives, dried fruit (even chocolate chips!) will enhance the flavor and texture of any sourdough bread recipe. It takes about 2 minutes tops, and it’s exceptionally easy to do. You just have to know when to do it.
This tutorial and video will teach you how to add fillings to sourdough, with step-by-step instructions. I’ve also included an easy olive sourdough bread recipe adapted my book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, so you can practice what you’ve learned right away.
Step #1: Mix the Dough & Let it Rest
Combine the wet and dry ingredients to form a rough dough. Pay attention to the texture at this stage: it should feel stiff and shaggy. The key now, is to let it rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
The technical term for this (first) resting period after the initial mix, is called is called autolyse.
During autolyse, the flour hydrates and the gluten begins to form. As a result, the dough morphs from stiff and shaggy to soft and manageable. This is what you want. When the dough is soft and manageable, it’s easier to add fillings to the dough.
Tip: Can a stand mixer be used instead? Absolutely. The same steps apply: mix the dough and let it rest. Add the fillings. On low speed, using the dough hook, mix the dough to incorporate. Check out my Sourdough Cinnamon Raisin Bread to see this in action.
Step #2: Prepare the Fillings
Here I’m using mixed chopped olives, lemon zest and thyme. You can use any fillings you’d like, about 1 cup (100g- 130g) for every dough made with 500 g of flour.
Tip: What about dried fruit or nuts? In most cases, you’ll need to soak the dried fruit and nuts first. Otherwise, they tend to absorb additional water in the dough (which can make it dry). For nuts, toast them first for extra flavor if preferred, then soak in water. Drain and pat dry.
Step #3: Stretch and Fold the Dough
To incorporate the fillings, sprinkle them over the top of the dough. Use the stretch and fold technique to tuck them into the dough. To do this, stretch the dough upward and fold it over toward the center of the bowl. Give the bowl a turn and repeat (stretching, folding & turning) until you have tucked all the fillings into the dough.
Tip: Some of the fillings will pop out as you go. This is ok. Just smush them back into the dough- otherwise they might burn.
Let’s make some rustic, homemade bread! Below you’ll find my easy olive sourdough bread recipe with thyme, lemon zest and Parmesan cheese + a sample baking schedule. The plump, juicy olives act as natural steam injectors as the dough bakes, creating a soft and tender interior crumb! We love this bread for sandwiches or toasted with fresh basil pesto and goat cheese.
Sample Baking Schedule
Note: if making this dough in the summer skip the overnight rise (as mentioned below). Bulk rise during the day; when the dough has almost doubled in size, cover and chill the whole bowl overnight. Bake the following day.
In the evening…
- 8 PM (or later): Make the dough. Rest for 30 minutes.
- 8:30 PM: Add the fillings.
- 8:35 PM: Cover and let rise overnight @ 68 F (10-12 hrs); @ 70 F (8-10).
- 9:05 PM: Optional stretch & fold
- 9:35 PM: Optional stretch & fold
In the morning…
- 6 AM: Check dough. Adjust time, as needed. Shape, second rise, bake.
Level up your sourdough bread with chopped olives, woodsy thyme, fragrant lemon zest & Parmesan cheese. Recipe adapted my book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.
- 50 g (1/4 cup) bubbly, active sourdough starter
- 360 g (1 1/2 cups) water
- 470 g (about 4 cups) bread flour
- 30 g (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
- 9 g (1 1/2 tsp) fine sea salt
- 120 g (1 heaped cup) pitted mixed olives, roughly chopped
- 2 g (1 tbsp) picked thyme leaves
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 80 g (1/2 cup) ground Parmesan cheese, optional
- Make the Dough: In a large bowl, whisk the starter and water together with a fork. Add the flours and salt. Combine to form a stiff dough, then finish mixing by hand to fully incorporate the flour. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Add the Fillings: After the dough has rested, add the olives, thyme, lemon zest and parmesan cheese (if using) to the bowl. Gently knead the fillings into the dough, using the stretch and fold technique, To do this: stretch the dough upward and fold it over toward the center of the bowl. Give the dough a turn and repeat (stretching, folding and turning) until the fillings are tucked into the dough.
- Bulk Rise: Cover the bowl with lightly coated plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until double in size. This will take about 8 to 10 hours at 70 F (21 C). Note: if making the dough in the summer, the rise time will be considerably less; bulk rise during the day and chill the whole bowl overnight when almost double in size. Optional Step: If you’d like, for added structure, do 1-2 sets of stretch and folds during the bulk rise, spaced 30 minutes apart.
- Shape: Remove the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Shape it into a round or oval and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line a proofing basket with a towel and dust with flour. With floured hands, gently cup the dough and pull it toward you to tighten its shape. Then place the dough into your basket, seam side up.
- Second Rise: Cover the dough and let rest until noticeably puffy but not fully risen, about 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on temperature. Alternatively, chill the dough overnight, up to 8 hours. Let rest at room temperature while the oven heats up before baking. Preheat your oven to 450 F (230 C). Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit the size of your baking pot.
- Score: Place the parchment over the dough and invert the basket to release. Sprinkle the dough very lightly with flour and rub the surface to coat. Make one long, off-center cut down the length of the loaf using a small knife or razor blade. Use the parchment to transfer the dough into the baking pot.
- Bake: Bake the dough on the center rack for 20 minutes, covered. Remove the lid, and continue to bake for 30 minutes. Lift the loaf out of the pot and finish baking directly on the oven rack for the last 10 minutes. Cool for 1 hour before cutting into slices.
This loaf will stay fresh up to 1 day stored at room temperature in a plastic bag.
Keywords: sourdough bread recipe, olive sourdough, no-knead bread, sourdough starter