Friday, February 22, 2008


Remind me to stop trying non-sweet quickbreads. I just don’t like them that much. Cornbread? Soda bread? Scones? Bah humbug.

After the delicious Dill Bread, I got cocky. I craved more savory, herby homemade breads, but I didn’t want to have to work so hard. So I got lured into this recipe, which promises plenty of cheese and ease. It has a fine pedigree from the inimitable Dorie Greenspan, the user reviews are glowing, and with no yeast, “It takes less than 10 minutes to put together, requires no special equipment, and really takes no special skill.” Bingo!

It certainly turned out a gorgeous loaf (it helps that I made it during the day and got to photograph my food during full sunlight, for once). And it didn’t taste bad or anything, but it didn’t taste how I expected—in fact, it didn’t really taste that strongly of chives or cheese. Everyone who tasted it (me, A, P) agreed that it seemed as though something were missing. I tried eating it with butter, even a sprinkling of salt, but the slightly flat flavor stubbornly remained. P described it as “eggy.” I wonder if maybe I should have used medium cheddar instead of sharp. A wanted a more flavorful herb. And to be fair, Greenspan suggests that you play around with the recipe however you like, using any hard cheese that suits your fancy, varying the herbs however you like, or including add-ins like ham or nuts or vegetables. I appreciate this versatility, and I’m sure I could keep trying this until I found a flavor I liked.

The texture of the bread was also unusual; Greenspan describes it as a “savory cake,” and indeed, it felt oddly like cake in the mouth. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, but it wasn’t what I expected. It had a little of the dry crumbliness I don’t like about cornbread.

I still have half a loaf left, and I’m looking forward to trying it lightly toasted, as Greenspan suggests—that might really make the difference for me, as I love toast far more than “raw” bread. And I really can’t blame this recipe for differing from my expectations. I’d still recommend it, since it was just as quick and easy and reliable as promised, and you can flavor it however you want. But it wasn’t what I was craving, and with so many other delicious-looking bread recipes out there clamoring for my attention, I probably won’t be making it again. I think what I’m looking for is a yeast bread, and I should resist being tempted by shortcuts.

Still, that photo is awfully appealing, if I do say so myself.

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ to 1 teaspoon salt (depending on what add-ins you’re using; I used the full 1 teaspoon for the basic cheddar-chive combo)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup milk, at room temperature
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 ounces coarsely grated cheddar or other cheese
2 ounces cheddar or other cheese, cut into very small cubes
½ cup minced chives or other herbs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and generously butter a loaf pan.

2. Put the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

3. Put the eggs in another mixing bowl and whisk for 1 minute, until foamy and blended. Whisk in milk and olive oil.

4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones and gently mix with a wooden spoon or sturdy rubber spatula until dough comes together. Because beating the dough makes it tougher, there’s no need to be too thorough or energetic—just mix until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the cheese, the herbs, and any other add-ins you’re using. Turn the dough into the buttered loaf pan and even the top with the back of the spatula or spoon.

5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the bread is golden and a slender knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack, wait about 3 minutes, and then run a knife around the sides of the bread and turn the loaf over onto the rack. Invert to right-side up and cool to room temperature. The bread can be served slightly warm, but it’s better when fully cool, and best when given some time to “ripen”—wait a few hours or overnight to serve.

Serves: 8
Time: 1 hour

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