I knew immediately upon hearing about Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, Around My French Table, that I would be absolutely enamored with it since her Baking: From My Home to Yours is one of my most beloved cookbooks, filled with fabulous recipes. I put in my Amazon order for the book, and before it got here, I was browsing through Barnes & Noble when I picked up a copy of the book, eager to flip through it and not wanting to have to wait for it to arrive. At the beginning of the book is a section called “Nibbles and Hors D’oeuvres” and while turning the pages I landed on this, referred to in the book as “back-of-the-card cheese and olive bread”. And I knew immediately it would be the first recipe I would make from the book. Now, I don’t like olives. I can tolerate black ones if they are on a pizza, hanging out with lots of other stuff. But the green ones? Just the smell makes me want to gag. BUT… my Chief Culinary Consultant absolutely loves olives. When I make pepperoni bread I always add green olives to at least one loaf just for him. So once I saw this recipe, I knew it was something he would love and couldn’t wait to make it.
The most amazing thing about this bread? I absolutely loved it. I guess I’ve learned that if black olives are surrounded by enough cheese and pork products (on pizza – sausage and pepperoni, in this bread – ham), I actually might dig them a little bit. And saying I dug this bread would be the understatement of the century. We both totally loved it, and his brother did as well. His brother also isn’t a huge olive fan and said that sometimes they can plain ruin a dish, but that the bread was fabulous. This was great at room temperature as well as warmed up. My CCC said he thought it would make a great breakfast bread, and I think it would also be great cut into thick cubes and served with appetizers.
The bread has a thick, dense, yet moist texture with a tight crumb. Usually I would have used a Swiss-style cheese or white cheddar in this, but I already had a block of sharp yellow cheddar in the fridge, so I figured I might as well use that (hey, we’re still in a recession, right?!). The recipe in the book calls for an olive tapenade, not ham, but in the preface to the recipe Dorie notes that swapping diced ham for the tapenade would bring the recipe close to the original (which was printed by a French cheese makers’ organization and passed out on cards). Well, that was a no-brainer. Less olive? Additional flavor from ham? Sold. If you want to try the version with tapenade, just omit the ham and use 1½ tablespoons tapenade in its place.
I hope you’ll give this quick and easy recipe a try and Dorie’s book a look – both are truly fabulous!
1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Oil or butter an 8½-x-4½-inch loaf pan.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.
3. In another bowl or in a large measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk, olive oil, and ham. Pour the liquid ingredients over the flour mixture and stir gently to blend. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the cheese and olives. Scrape the batter into the pan.
4. Bake the loaf for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and continue to bake the loaf for another 35 minutes or so, until it's puffed and golden, and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let it rest for 5 minutes, then turn it out. Turn the loaf right side up and let cool completely on the rack.