I used to love baking bread. I started when I was a twelve-year-old in her first 4H club. If you aren't familiar with 4H clubs, the H's represent head, hands, health and heart, the four ways in which we could serve our families and our community. I remember waiting impatiently until I turned twelve; with a birthday late in the year, I had to wait an extra term until I could join my older friends in the club. There were two clubs a year, one each in the spring and fall, and they generally alternated between cooking clubs (which I loved and excelled at) and sewing or craft clubs (not so much).
That fall when I turned twelve, the club was based on the theme "Let's Bake Bread", and that's when I started my first recipe file. I still have the member's pamphlet that I received when I joined, and I was surprised at how well it stands up over time. It's full of common sense advice:
- "To make dishwashing easier, soak pots and pans immediately after use."
- "Avoid touching hair or face when working with food."
- "Recipes should be selected carefully and only those which the club member and her family would enjoy, or which are popular for entertaining, should be included in the recipe file."
My love of cooking and baking first came from being in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother, but being a 4H member helped me branch out and learn new recipes and techniques. And none have stayed with me longer than the first club I took, when I learned to bake bread.
Having said all this, I haven't been baking yeast bread this fall. For one thing, I've been back at my writing, and I really want to focus on that. But I did discover this easy recipe for bread that doesn't require yeast or risings, and that tastes absolutely wonderful. Savoury Cheese and Chive Bread is so simple and quick to make that it's hard to believe how great the flavour is. It would do any 4H alumnus proud!
1 3/4 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 generous cup (about 4 ounces) Gruyere or cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
2 ounces Gruyere or cheddar cheese, cut into very small cubes (1/2 to 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup minced chives
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8" x 4 1/2" loaf pan.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl for 1 minute, until foamy, then whisk in the milk and oil.
Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and gently mix until moistened. Stir in the grated and cubed cheese and the chives to form a thick dough. Transfer to the loaf pan and spread to make the dough even on top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the bread is golden and a slender knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 3 minutes, then run a knife along the edges of the pan to loosen the loaf. Turn it out and let it cool right side up before cutting and serving.