Dijon Ham Loaf

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This is my family’s go-to meal. When we have family movie night, we make dijon ham loaf. When a family friend has surgery, we make dijon ham loaf. When I visit Seattle and we want comfort food, we make dijon ham loaf. So when I had to make bread for a class project (I’m writing a story about bread), clearly I decided to make dijon ham loaf!

To make this recipe (which makes one loaf, or about 5 servings), you’ll need:

4 cups of flour

2 T sugar

2 packages of active dry yeast

1 cup water

1/4 cup dijon mustard

2 T butter

1 1/2 cups chopped ham (I love to use the rosemary ham from Trader Joe’s!)

3 cups shredded swiss cheese

1 egg, beaten

Mix 3 cups of flour with the sugar and yeast. In a saucepan on the stove, heat water, butter, and dijon mustard to 125 degrees F. You can use a meat thermometer to gage the temperature, and make sure that it does get to exactly 125 degrees – which will probably happen in about 2 minutes over the heat. If the mixture is hotter than that, it will kill the yeast and the bread won’t rise. If it’s colder than 125 degrees, then the yeast won’t activate at all.

Once the mixture is 125 degrees, stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Mix in some of the reserved flour until the dough becomes soft. Dump it out onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes.

Put flour on a baking sheet and roll the dough out until it’s about an inch thick and shaped like a giant rectangle. Sprinkle the ham and cheese in a line down the center of the dough (pile it up!) and then make cuts along the edges of the dough, leaving an uncut area in the middle for the ham and cheese. Cut the same amount of strips on each side of the loaf, each about an inch thick. Then bring the opposite strips together, twist them, and place the ends at angles across the top of the bread.

Once the entire loaf is braided, cover it with a cloth. Fill a large, shallow pan with boiling water and place the bread over the pan to help it rise for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, brush the loaf with beaten egg (this will help it become golden brown) and put it in the oven at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

You’ll be able to tell when it’s done because the bread will sound hollow when you tap on it with your finger. Cut it into 2 inch thick slices, and serve with a green salad or some asparagus/ broccoli. You can also freeze a loaf if you’re cooking for yourself and don’t think you’ll eat it all in one sitting.

Enjoy!

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