Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ham and Cheese Bread

...a delicious savory quick bread featuring a soft, moist interior under a crackled and crunchy crust.


A last-minute tweak to the Sunday brunch menu left piles mountains of sliced ham and cheese hanging out in my fridge. "No problemo," I thought since these basic deli ingredients are incredibly versatile. We love loaded chef's salads, open-faced smorrebrod sandwiches, decadent Monte Cristos or Croque Madames, mac 'n cheese minis with ham... and the list goes on. Initially a few late hour snack attacks partnered the ham and cheese with crackers, mustard and pickles. Impromptu nibbles are the best! but we didn't make a dent in the leftovers. It was time to get serous.

Carb cravings kicked in when I ran across a Patricia Wells quick bread recipe, found in her book, Salad as a Meal. Yes, it would be Ham and Cheese Bread to the rescue! 


Wells called for chunks of ham and French comte cheese cut in 1/4-inch dice, but I worked with the slices of Black Forest ham and smoked gouda cheese already on hand. A rough chop of the presliced ingredients substituted for the specified cubes. It worked. Kalamata olives added some welcome salty, savory notes on day one, a tasty match for za'atar flavored chicken thighs and a Greek salad, but the olives were too dominant the next morning on the toasted slices. Was it the contrast with my mixed fruit breakfast smoothie? maybe. I'll try milder olives in the next loaf, or swap in nuts instead. 




The original recipe called for a 25-30 minute cooking time, but it took 45 minutes in my oven for the center to cook through and a cake tester to come out clean. By then the crust was well past golden, but I really do prefer breads with a crunchy, browned crust. Why so long a cook? was it my oven temperature? was it the glass pan? Some quick online research indicated it might be both, or either, or neither. Sigh. Use the listed cooking times as suggestions, checking often with a tester until the interior is done. 

We loved thin slices from the still warm loaf, without butter or any other accompaniments (like fig jam). Cooled to room temperature the slices offered less of a flavor punch, but still made delicious snacks and led me to thoughts of a savory bread pudding. Toasted breakfast slices were less well-received; I'll blame it on those assertive olives. Nonetheless the entire loaf disappeared in less than 24 hours. Now it's time to plan some flavor and ingredient tweaks for the next loaf, maybe four mini loaves with two for appetizers and two for the freezer. 





Ham and Cheese Quick Bread
recipe largely from "Salad as a Meal" by Patricia Wells

5 TBS extra-virgin olive oil 
1 cups All-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour   
2 level tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
5-oz cheese, chopped or cubed (Fontina, gruyere or swiss)
5-oz cooked ham, chopped or cubed
1/3 cup olives, pitted & halved (Kalamata or pimento-stuffed green)
additional olive oil or cooking spray to coat the loaf pan

  1. Place an oven rack in the center; preheat the oven to 400 F. Generously oil bottom and sides of the loaf pan.
  2. Use a large bowl and combine thoroughly the first 7 ingredients, olive oil through yogurt. 
  3. Add the cheese, ham and olives and stir to incorporate but don't overmix.
  4. Scoop the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake in preheated oven until the crust is a rich golden color and a cake tester comes out clean. This takes roughly 30 minutes in a metal pan. (It took 45 minutes in my oven using a glass pan)
  5. Remove from the oven and place the bread pan on a wire rack to cool. After the loaf cools, tilt it out of the pan to slice and serve at room temperature.

*Patricia Wells notes the loaf can be stored "at room temperature wrapped in foil for up to 3 days."


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