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!

Vermont Cheddar Bread

Hil and I are done with finals and have been planning to make homemade bread for oh, I don’t know, basically the whole semester, so we decided that today was the day! Hil made a variation of this bread last year with some of her rowing friends and loved it, and it was just as awesome tonight as it was last year. It made me remember that there’s nothing like a good slice of warm homemade bread with melty butter. Yum!

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This recipe made two of the loaves that you see above. To make it, you’ll need:

3 cups of 100 degree water

1 1/2 T active dry yeast (that’s one and a half packets)

1 T salt

1 1/2 T sugar

6 1/2 cups of flour

1 cup grated cheese

cornmeal (for dusting)

1 cup of warm water (to set in the oven)

To start, mix the water, yeast, salt and sugar together in a bowl. The water must be between 100 and 110 degrees F so that it doesn’t kill the yeast. Leave those ingredients in the bowl for 10 minutes until the mixture starts to bubble slightly (which means that the yeast is activating).

Then add to that mixture the flour and grated cheese. You can stir it with a spoon, but you may have to incorporate the last of the flour with your hands. You can knead it slightly in the bowl, but over mixing will make it tough. Once everything is combined, set the bowl in a warm place (we put it on top of the oven, which was on a bit earlier in the day) and cover the bowl with a moist towel. Let it sit for 2 hours – get excited, it will double in size!

When you come back after two hours, your dough should look like this:

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Take it out of the bowl and divide it in half, patting it into two long ovals. If you’d like smaller loaves, you can divide it into four smaller pieces. Dust two cookie sheets with cornmeal and place the dough on the pans, dusting the tops of the loaves with flour. Cover them again (they should look like the below picture) and let them rise for another hour.

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When you come back, they should be doubled in size. Using a sharp knife, make a few cuts across the tops of the loaves at a diagonal and put them into a 450 degree F oven. You should also fill a small baking dish with the remaining cup of water and put that water into the back corner of the bottom of the oven. Putting water in the oven will make the crust of the bread crispy.

Our loaves cooked for 35 minutes each, but I would start with 25 minutes on the clock and check the loaves after that time period. When they are done, they will be golden brown and will sound hollow when you tap them with your finger. Smaller loaves will require less baking time. Once you’re done, cool them on a wire rack and then slice them. The recipe that we based this off of said that it should be eaten within seven days because of the cheese in the bread, but we’re not worried. Pretty sure it’ll be gone in a couple of days.

Enjoy 🙂

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