9 September 2011

Cheese, Ham and Olive Bread

Quick bread, what a magical thing it is! You can whip up a loaf in just the same amount of time it takes to make the simplest of sponge's and hey presto, 40-odd minutes later you have something that looks and tastes far more complicated and impressive than it really is! I have had a really major urge to do some bread baking lately and, although I reallyreally want to do some yeast work soon, my urge had to be satisfied there and then so quick bread to the rescue! In particular I wanted a loaf stufffeedd full of savoury bits 'n bobs, I was playing with the idea of different additions, especially caramelised onions and bacon (mmm), basically anything imaginable that could be shoved in a bowl of eggy mix and baked to create an all in one meal!

And that is what this is in essence, an all in one snack loaf that is great for that much needed energy boost around 11am and 4pm (or is this only me...I simply MUST have a mini-meal around these times, probably just being greedy!) I didn't need to fiddle much with the original recipe in the end to have exactly what I was craving :)

The closest I had got to making a savoury quick bread before was a last minute cheesy beer bread for an unexpected luncheon guest about a year back. The beer contains yeast that is responsible for making the bread rise but without the resting time of normal yeasty bread. It is quite obviously 'bready' in it's texture and I rather naively admit I was expecting the same this time, not the cakey kind of crumb that the final product of this recipe had. This is rather silly of me to be fair, as if you look at the ingredients it is essentially a cake mix of sorts so I shouldn't have been surprised at all! This bread met every expectation taste wise however, and I enjoyed everything about it (texture included!)

Now isn't that just the most attractive batter mix possible..ugly duckling and all that!

It is a moist bread with a wonderfully crisp crust and lasts incredibly well in the fridge. After a few days it loses it's freshness as most breads/cakes do but that wasn't really an issue because I particularly love this warmed up. I lazily shoved big hunky slices straight in the toaster and ignored the suspicious sizzling noises that emerged, it retains its moisture perfectly when heated so it is a crunchy edged, super soft centered comforting and filling snack. It's like a ham/cheese toastie but quick, easy 'n less messy. Seriously though - hot cheesy ham bread whenever you want it, what's not to love!

Oh did I forget to mention this is originally a Dorie Greenspan recipe? It's bound to be good :)

This is infinitesimally adaptable to your tastes and needs, you could knock out the olive's and/or ham if you wish, throw in some bacon, herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, use swiss cheese instead- whatever you fancy! The Brown Eyed Baker mentions this would be great cubed and served with appetisers, I think this is a fabulous idea. I would especially like to try slathering some onion chutney or something similar on it but it didn't hang around long enough for me to test out! If I was to change one thing for next time I would use maybe even more ham (I already upped the quantity a bit) and a sharper cheddar. I used a cheese graded 4 out of 6 in maturity, next time I'm gonna go crazy and use the grade 6 :) This bread can definitely handle stronger flavours so don't be shy!

Cheese, Ham and Olive Bread
Adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker and Baker Street
Makes an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
4 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk (I used semi-skimmed)
6 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 oz ham, diced
6 oz (1 1/2 packed cups) Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated*
2/3 cup pitted black olives, each sliced into 1/4 inch thick rings

Preheat the oven to 400F and grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan**
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center.
In another bowl lightly beat the eggs then whisk in the milk, olive oil and ham.
Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine.
Use a spatula to fold in the cheese and olives.
Pour into the pan and bake on the center rack for 10 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375F and continue to bake for 35 minutes more, until puffed, golden and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let rest on a rack for 5 minutes before turning it out. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

* Could also use Comte, Gruyere or Swiss
** A note for novice bakers like myself! I was unsure if I had the right sized tin as it actually measures 7 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches at the base but it is wider (the required size) at the top. After some research you should apparently take measurements from the top of loaf tins, and you can see the batter fitted easily into the one I used so I assume this information is correct :)

         Printable Cheesy Yum

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