As I write this, I am eating a slice of the Cake aux Olives et Jambon. I am trying to get the feel of what it's like to be French. According to the recipe, this cake is purchased on Friday nights at the local pâtisserie, then brought to the country house to be enjoyed, certainly with French wine, over the weekend. Since I do not have a country house, I am eating this Olive and Ham Loaf Cake in my kitchen, at the counter, in front of my laptop. Certainly not a bad place to be; I love my kitchen. But I also love filling my head with snapshots of how I imagine it would be to live the good life in France...
... I need to run over to Stohrer in the 2nd arrondissement, because that is the source of this recipe. I decide to hop on the Metro, since the patisserie is on the Right Bank and I live in a centuries old, stylishly renovated apartment on the Left... in the 6th. I usually prefer to walk, but I know how distracted I can be by beautiful things, and it's already getting late. I pick up the Cake aux Olives et Jambon, along with the tiniest of tarts for one, studded with even tinier fraises alpine -- just because. I arrive back at the apartment and find my husband has returned from walking our three French Bulldogs, Marcel, Claude, and Winkie. We quickly finish loading the vintage Citroen and escape Paris, through heavy traffic, driving most of the night until we reach our chateau in the hills near Barjac. I pass out in my bed of white goose down and French linens, and dream of the brocantes I will visit the next morning, hoping to find that perfect French pastry table for my kitchen in Paris. Pretty nice, huh? Do you want to come visit me? Well... it won't be there. That's not my life. But it's so much fun to dream.
In the meantime, I bake French things in my Saint Paul kitchen and that keeps me happy. This is the second "weekend cake" I have made. The two cakes have their similarities, but are still very different. They both have ham, green olives, and Gruyère cheese. But the Gateau au Jambon et aux Olives (recipe HERE) that I made several years ago for the first time is a bit more basic and not as dense. The Cake aux Olives et Jambon I made today is a bit more complex in ingredients and flavor. It's full of white wine and vermouth. And more of just about everything else that make up the Gateau. It's a dense cake and I ended up baking it for much longer than what was specified in the recipe. And in addition... I cut slices that I broiled in the oven briefly. All of the Gruyère and olive oil in the loaf cake lend themselves nicely to a little toasting. Serve alongside a salad of greens with fruit, nuts, and cheese, then drizzled with a French vinaigrette, and that's all you need. Oh... include a bottle of good French wine and a few friends!
• adapted recipe from PARIS BOULANGERIE PATISSERIE by Linda Dannenberg
• 2 cups, less 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 cup dry white wine
• 1/2 cup dry vermouth
• 4 large eggs, beaten
• 7/8 cup mild-flavored olive oil
• 1 1/2 cups finely diced cooked ham
• 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
• 1 1/4 cups green olives, pitted and chopped coarse
PREHEAT OVEN to 350˚F
1. Sift the flour with the baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center; add the wine, vermouth, and eggs. Mix gently just until combined. Add the olive oil, a little at a time, mixing until the batter is smooth. Add the ham, cheese and olives, and using a rubber spatula, mix just until incorporated.
2. Grease an 8-inch-by-4-inch loaf pan; pour in the batter. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted to the bottom of the cake comes out clean. I found I needed to bake my cake much longer than the recipe specified. The original recipe calls for 55 minutes. I baked my cake for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. It's a dense cake. If browning too much towards the end of baking, cover with foil.
3. Cool on a wire rack; then invert onto the rack and cool completely. If desired, slice the loaf and broil the slices briefly to toast.
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