[The final recipe, here with olives, green onion and almond feta]
Question One: What’s the Big Deal with Formspring Me?
Personally, I’d rather springform (pan) me. Then, at least, I’d have cheesecake when I was done.
Of course, I do understand the appeal of asking a blogger questions about her/himself; we all like to learn a little more about fellow bloggers’ personalities and personal lives. (When I first started blogging, memes were all the rage, and I happily participated. In a way, they accomplish something akin to Formspring, since they answer previously unanswered questions.) But what’s wrong with asking questions the old-fashioned way, through a blog comment, email, or social media? (Okay, maybe those methods aren’t so old-fashioned after all. But an inquisition, interrogation, jury duty interview or Miss Universe Pageant have all been done before).
So please, go ahead, ask me anything! (Like, for instance, what’s up with Kara DioGuardi on Idol this season? I mean, canoodling with Simon? Drooling over Casey? Crying??) Or perhaps you’d like to know: how did I make this inimitable cheese bread?
[An early attempt: higher, but too moist in the middle.]
Question Two: Why Am I Craving Bread All of the Sudden?
Now that I’m following Phase II of the ACD (almost a month with a “moderate” score on the ACD questionnaire! Whoopee!), I’m allowed certain new grains and the occasional flour product. Needless to say, I’ve been going to town baking again. And though the sweet side of the recipe folder may remain a little neglected for a while, I’m perfectly happy to play with savory.
I’m not sure why I ended up with a hankering for this type of meal-in-a-loaf (or any bread, really), since I’ve never been a fan of these floury foods in any form. I rarely consume sandwiches (in fact, you’ll find but one mention of a sandwich on this blog, and only two recipes for breads). The idea of white bread–even a really good, crusty Italian ciabatta or French baguette–leaves me feeling “meh.” Now, give me a dense, hearty pumpernickel or a moist, tawny rye, and I’m there. These were the kinds of breads we had in our house growing up–straight from my dad’s butcher shop (in an area where ethnic bakeries abounded); bread was something substantial, hefty, and dense; bread could double as a doorstop, or a means of self-defense (sorta like my confiscated keychain).
Recently, I completed testing for an upcoming review of Celine and Joni’s amazing 500 Vegan Recipes (on the blog soon!) and found myself with some leftover “veganzola” cheese (the HH and I both loved it, and indeed enjoyed it for a few days in a row, but the recipe yields a huge amount).
Contemplating what I could do with the cheese, it suddenly hit me: “savory bread!”
Question Three: So How Do You Get the Caramel into the Caramilk Cheese into the Bread?
[Starting out with cheese filled savory muffins]
I thought it would be cool to enclose pockets of cheese within the bread so that each slice revealed a coin of the creamy stuff along with other savory goodies such as olives and green onions. But how to accomplish this feat–how to prevent the cheese from melting and dissipating into the bread, effectively disappearing?
I baked up an early batch in muffin form, simply to test the theory; would the cheese remain distinct from the batter? The answer was, clearly, “yes.” And these savory muffins make a great breakfast accompaniment.
I thought the bread would be more visually appealing, however, as a single loaf, so that’s what I tried next (told you I had lots of cheese left over!). Doubling the muffin recipe resulted in a huge slab, but one that required almost 2 hours to bake–and the middle was still a little too moist at that point.
Back to the flouring board.
[The final product: whole loaf success!]
Finally, I tweaked the recipe and proportions (while preserving the same ratios of ingredients–thanks, Michael Ruhlman!) to create a loaf about 3/4 the volume of my first attempt. This one baked up beautifully in just over an hour. I could barely wait for it to cool before tasting it–and when I did finally sink my teeth in, oooh mama! Success!
The combination of tangy, salty cheese; briny, marinated olives; and delicately pungent onion was divine. The cheese remained soft within the moist, dense bread, punctuating each slice with a warm pillow of creaminess. Manna!
Question Four: Sure, I May Have Liked It, But Are My Tastebuds Skewed From Being on the ACD for So Long?
As I sliced up the bread to photograph it for the blog, the HH observed from across the room.
“What is that?” he asked.
“Cheese bread with olives and onions,” I replied, crumbs dribbling from my mouth.
“Yeah, but it’s veeee-gan cheese, right?”
“Yup.” (munch, munch).
He watched me scarf down the first slice and reach for another. “Okay,” he conceded as I bit into it, “let me have a taste.” I handed over a corner of the slice.
He chewed contemplatively. “Hmm. Not bad,” he said. He broke off another piece from the slice and gobbled it up. Then he reached for the bread on the table.
“You can’t eat that yet–I have to take a photo,” I said.
“Well, hurry up,” he scowled, “this is really good.”
And that, dear readers, is when I knew: if an omnivorous, cheese-loving, gluten-eating, generally ornery and skeptical male wanted to chow down on this GF and vegan bread, I had a real winner on my hands.
Question Five: So What Are You Waiting For? Go Bake Bread!
Cheese Filled Onion and Olive Bread (ACD Phase II and Beyond)
This bread is so hearty, so substantial and satisfying that you may find all you need is a light green salad alongside a slice, and you’ve got a meal. And just look at that crumb!
1/4 cup (60 ml) unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbsp (30 ml) tahini (sesame paste)
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) unsweetened almond, soy or hemp milk
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
3 Tbsp (45 ml) finely ground flax seeds
1/3 cup (80 ml) oil-cured black olives, pitted and cut in half
2-3 green onions, sliced (white and light green parts only)
3/4 cup (90 g) amaranth flour (or use quinoa)
1-1/4 cups (145 g) millet flour
1/2 cup (55 g) soy flour
1 Tbsp (15 ml) arrowroot or organic cornstarch
2-1/4 tsp (12 ml) baking powder
3/4 tsp (7.5 ml) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) fine sea salt
about 1/2 cup (120 ml) of your favorite soft, flavorful “cheese,” homemade or packaged (I used “veganzola” from 500 Vegan Recipes and, in the final loaf, this feta.)
Preheat oven to 350F (190C). Line an 8″ (20 cm) loaf pan with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk the applesauce and tahini until smooth. Slowly add the soymilk and mix well. Stir in the vinegar, oil and flax seeds. Gently fold in the olives and onion; set aside while you prepare the dry ingredients, or at least 5 minutes (this will allow the flax to absorb excess moisture).
In a large bowl, sift together the amaranth flour, millet flour, soy flour, arrowroot powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir just to blend (do not overmix or your bread may not rise!). The dough should be the texture of a thick muffin batter.
Very gently, spoon about half the batter into the bottom of the pan (it doesn’t have to be perfect; just estimate), spreading to ensure there are no uncovered spots. Then, using about 2 teaspoons (10 ml) cheese per portion, stagger mounds of cheese across the top of the batter, taking care not to touch the sides of the pan (and ensuring that the hunks of cheese don’t touch each other, either). Carefully spoon the remaining batter over the first half in the pan, gently spreading it to cover the cheese completely.
Bake in preheated oven 70-75 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through, until the loaf is very deep golden brown on top (the usual test of doneness won’t work here, as the cheese will remain wet; however, if you’re certain you’re poking the loaf where there is no cheese, you can test with a toothpick inserted in the batter).
Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before gently turning the loaf onto a cooling rack. Slice using a sharp knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry between cuts (this will prevent the cheese from sticking to the knife, which can cause the slices to crumble). Especially good warm or at room temperature with melted coconut oil. Makes 8-10 generous slices. May be frozen.
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