Sunday, April 5, 2009

Olive and Ham Bread

"Le Matte," the group of Italian women I've told you about, who meet each week to chit-chat in Italian, met at my home last week. Over the years, these gatherings have morphed from a simple coffee and cake gathering to an event with an intimidating array of savory and sweet treats. Recently, we've tried to limit the foods to two savory and two sweet items. Otherwise, the hostess has to spend too much time in preparation, a deterrent for many who might otherwise offer their homes for the meetings. It seems to be working, along with another new twist started in the last few months. We now team up with a partner and share the work. That makes it much easier and more fun too.

Last week I teamed up with my friend Anna, who hails from the Trentino region, and who also happens to be a great cook. (Well, actually most of the women in this group are terrific cooks.) I made the sweet things -a pastiera and lemon tiramisu - recipes I've already posted. Anna offered to make the savory foods and chose two different breads including this olive and ham loaf. It has a really tender crumb and it's packed chockful with flavorful ingredients. After the group had dispersed, she left me a couple of slices which we ate for dinner that night, alongside some sauteed vegetables and couscous. But it's also great all by itself if you're having friends over for dinner and want a little something to serve beforehand with drinks.

One of the ingredients Anna uses in the recipe is mimolette cheese, something I had never heard of before. It's a cow's milk cheese that has a greyish crust and an orange-colored interior, and sort of resembles a cantaloupe. Anna said if you can't find it, you can substitute a good quality aged cheddar cheese instead.
Mimolette cheese

Olive and Ham Bread

For the ham, ask the person at the deli counter to cut you a thick slice of baked ham, then dice it into small bits.

5 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
3 T. mixture of fresh herbs, minced: Italian parsley, basil leaves and chives
3 T. strong French mustard
salt, pepper

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup rye flour
1 T. baking powder

1 1/4 sticks melted butter
1 cup grated mimolette cheese or sharp aged cheddar cheese
1 7-ounce piece of baked ham
1 cup pitted green olives

Preheat oven to 360 degrees.
Butter a 5 x 9 inch loaf pan and coat lightly with flour.
Beat the eggs with a fork, then add the milk, herbs, mustard, salt and pepper to taste.

Sift the flour and the baking powder in a bowl; Add the melted butter, the grated cheese, the olives, the egg/milk mixture and the ham.

Blend the ingredients with a wooden spoon and transfer to the loaf pan. Bake for one hour. The cake is done when a sharp blade inserted in the center comes out dry. Wait 15 minutes before unmolding on a cake rack.


  1. I've never seen that cheese before. Yes, doesn't it look like a melon!

    P.S. Made your lemon tiramisu twice since you posted it - spending Easter with friends and that's what they've requested as my contribution. Shh! Don't tell anyone how easy it is.

  2. Oh my Linda, what a delicious bread. And I must try to find that cheese, it looks so delicious.

  3. Linda,
    I make this version of Pane de Jambon et Olives from a recipe from Ladurer Bakery in Paris!
    It is so good! My recipe uses vermouth or white wine and gruyere, but very similar.
    We could eat the whole loaf!
    You just reminded me to make some this week! Great Easter food.

  4. I love the idea of the women gathering together. Keep doing it!

  5. This looks so good, I've always wanted to make one of these savory breads! I have had mimolette before, but I don't cook with it that often. I'll have to pick some up.

  6. I wonder if our local Italian market has this type of cheese available.

  7. If you have a Wegmans Market near you (Northeast/Mid-Atlantic U.S.), they carry mimolette cheese at their cheese counter.

  8. I love that kind of savory bread! Yours looks so good! Mimolette, yummy!



  9. This looks fabulous...I love a savory bread and I adore olives...thank you for the recipe...I look foward to trying it...your blog is terrific I'm so glad Joyce told me about it....Sue

  10. Hi Linda,

    I made this delicious bread (it's dinner actually, isn't it!) and just loved it! One night we had it with sauteed spinach with toasted pine nuts and the next night with fruit salad. (I think it was best with the fruit!) Thank you for this wonderful recipe. It is a real keeper.

    later 'gator!


  11. That looks wonderful. Do you happen to know the calorie count? (I've got to track everything I eat for my doctor). Thanks!