Bread is a classic baker’s staple. Anyone who calls themselves a “true baker” should have at least one good homemade bread recipe so that when someone in their house requires a quick grilled cheese, the bread is at the ready.
And then there’s reality, where most of us buy bread if we eat it at all. Between Atkin’s diets and gluten-free trends (and true celiac disease), poor bread has gotten the short end of the stick. Plus, it’s hard, right? Well, in week three of our Great British Bake-Off Challenge, we attempt an easier sort of bread: quick bread. That’s any bread that doesn’t contain yeast and therefore doesn’t require a rise. Fewer steps to carby goodness, right? We shall see.
The bake: Any non-yeast bread, sweet or savory
I love quick breads. When they’re done correctly — *cough, ease up on the baking soda, cough* — they are a dense dream come true. When watching the last season of The Great British Bake Off, I was instantly intrigued by Alvin’s Prosciutto, Manchego and Balsamic Onion Soda Bread. I mean, sweet, tangy, balsamic caramelized onions, salty prosciutto, and salty yet creamy manchego cheese? How had I not had this bread in my life before?
The loaf was a little intimidating, because I do happen to reside in the Mile-High City. Given the amount of flour, I was sure to reduce the soda and salt by 1/4 tsp each, and I had to use the entire 10oz of buttermilk to form a sticky, but not too sticky, dough. But aside from adjusting my leavening agents, this bread was stupid easy to assemble. The “hardest” part is caramelizing the onions, and that is merely a time-consuming process; it’s not particularly difficult.
Once they cooled, I diced up my ingredients, mixed them into the loaf, opted to make one large loaf as opposed to two small loaves, and topped it off with the leftover fillers. Once the bread came out of the oven, I brushed it generously with melted butter and holy mother of God I’ve never tasted a quick bread this delicious. It’s like a complete meal in a slice of bread. Every slice has the perfect ratio of prosciutto to cheese to onion, and this might be my new go-to breakfast bread recipe. The only thing that would make it better would be a bowl of spaghetti marinara. In fact, I think I just figured out dinner for tonight.
I was torn between making this bread and this other “quick” bread, but then I watched the episode. NO YEAST ALLOWED. So in conversation with my fellow We Write Things bakers, I determined that a beer bread was the way to go, and I wanted add-ins. I decided to go with She Makes and Bakes’ Cheddar Jalapeño Beer Bread. Bonus! It’s already adjusted for high altitude!
The dough could NOT be easier. Just like the biscotti, it was a quick mix of the dry ingredients and adding the wet. But in this case, the only wet ingredient was a can of Odell Brewing Co.’s Drumroll American Pale Ale. Look, they have a video about it! My jalepeño pepper must have been pretty mild, because I didn’t cough while dicing it, and I was happy to see that a full cup and a half of sharp cheddar cheese was required. I do like cheese. Unlike the biscotti, this came together pretty perfectly and in record time. And, there’s a full 1/2 cup of melted butter poured under and over the dough. Drooling now.
The one snafu I ran into was the bake time. I let it go 50 minutes, checked on it and determined that it had indeed reached “golden brown” on the top. I took it out of the oven, out of the baking dish and took a picture. Then I cut it. And it was still raw in the middle. Oops! Back in the dish, back in the oven, and I covered with foil for another 15 minutes to get the middle to bake fully. It was still on the slightly underdone side, but was cooked through enough for my tastes.
What’s the scientific term for eating fresh bread, warm from the oven, oozing with cheddar cheese, a bit of tang from the beer, a crusty buttery crust, and a bit of spice from the pepper? Bliss? Whatever it is, I believe we have it here. It’s a pretty dense bread, so a little goes a long way, but I’m certainly looking forward to making homemade roasted tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches with this bread to go along with it later this week. (It was 90 this weekend, so I can hold off for cooler temps before going full Fall Soup Mode.) Success, and will definitely make again!
Brooke & Kelsey
Quick bread week is the best week. Biscotti may have been a confidence builder, but our cheddar jalapeño buttermilk loaf was easy like Sunday morning, smelled absolutely delicious while baking and was quite a lot of fun to assemble. It’s not super often that you get to go savory when baking and spicy, cheesy goodness was a welcome departure after two weeks in the land of sweet.
And because we learn from our mistakes we started from an Americanized recipe and left math well out of it. The hardest element of this bake was making buttermilk and that is accomplished merely by mixing milk and lemon juice. So yeah. We crushed it. The most dangerous element was the chopping of the peppers, which set us both to coughing on powerful whiffs, but this was a small sacrifice for peppers that made themselves known in the final bake.
Also, we are heathens and fully ate a number of pieces of this bread before we snapped a pic. Whoops.
This week’s goal was baking redemption after the slightly disastrous go with the biscotti.
After watching this week’s episode, I became obsessed with the idea of pesto bread from Ian’s recipe and the couple of bakers who made it during the 3D structure challenge. I can across a recipe that was basically deconstructed pesto bread: all the ingredients of pesto, but not together as a sauce.
Thankfully this week’s recipe was all in American terms so there was less chance of screwing it up. I, of course, chose the hottest day of the weekend to fire up the oven and literally broke a sweat grating parmesan cheese. I heeded the voice-over caution against over handling the dough and tried to create a nice, round freeform shape. It was good to know that adding cuts to the top of the bread has a real baking purpose, and I was curious to see if they would work out.
My oven contains no window so it added to the suspense. I didn’t want to open the door too soon and ruin the heat metrics and rising action as I recall the voice-over also cautioning against in other episodes. Apparently the voice-over is slowly teaching me things. I peeked in around 30 minutes and was excited to see that it had doubled in size. I ended up baking it for about 50 minutes, until it was lightly brown and the toothpick came out clean of the center. An added bonus was the scent of basil permeating the apartment. Side note, can we discuss how the Brits pronounce basil?
I took the bread to a gathering so my moment of truth came with some witnesses. I cut the bread in half, just like Paul might, and was relieved to find that it had cooked all the way through. It was pretty tasty and the pine nuts added a nice texture to the bread. We ate most of the loaf in one sitting, so I’d call it a success in my book.
Half of our bakers are off to the Motherland of The Great British Bake-Off next week, so Jen and Annemarie will go about the “Dessert” episode by themselves. On the docket: cheeescake. Want more We Bake Things? Read last week’s foray into biscotti.
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- Special 20th Anniversary Required Viewing: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - March 23, 2017