Dijon Ham n’ Swiss Loaf

You wouldn’t know it by looking at my Instagram feed, but by nature, I’m a cautious cook. Unless something is roasting comfortably in the oven, with a timer [or two!] ticking away, I tend to like to hover. I know, I know: it’s not a very good quality. But what if the pasta water boils over? What if I need to add cornstarch to thicken a sad sauce at the last minute? What if I forget to come give the onions a good stir?

Needless to say, I am also easily rattled – if there are more than three burners going, if I’m cooking for a crowd, or if I have to substitute an ingredient or tweak an instruction in a new-to-me recipe. In these moments, you’ll find me with more than just my curls unraveling.

My mom, on the other hand, is as décontractée [French for “relaxed”] as can be in the kitchen. After une gorgée de vin [a sip of wine] and with une bouchée de fromage [a little bite of cheese] in hand, she radiates contentment. She looks as comfortable scraping down the sides of a whirring Kitchen Aid as she does coaxing a stubborn middle rack out of a 425-degree oven. Sharp ceramic knives and pretty pliable spatulas and sturdy wooden spoons look like natural extensions of her arms. She’s a total tornado when left to her own devices, but I can’t help but feel a surge of warmth whenever I dust five fingers of flour from her jeans.

In this space, she has seemingly no qualms. If it doesn’t turn out hyper-bon [really good], tant pis [too bad]!

She does things like:

  • Add 3 cups of zucchini to a perfectly acceptable chocolate cake [incredibly moist and fudgy, it turned out to be a unanimous family favorite]

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  • Stick a knob of ginger in the freezer [it won’t spoil or need to be peeled; just run a micro plane over the open end to quickly make zest]

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  • Extract the gizzards from a slimy raw turkey, without even wrinkling her nose [he looks much more presentable all stuffed and golden-brown, don’t you think?]

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  • Use an apparently arbitrary amount of molasses and maple syrup to compensate for that’s what we forgot in Honey and Cream Cheese Oatmeal Bread [tasted just as good as it looks]

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  • Dump a third of a cup of heavy cream on top of a halibut steak, in response to my complaint that it was going to be too plain [now I have a crush on cream…and it feels pretty serious]

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  • Trim and tie up 8 pounds of beef tenderloin that looked like it belonged strictly in a butcher’s capable hands [YouTube is the new Google!]

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  • Drench a gorgeously gooey gingerbread cake with lemon sauce, one night on a whim [when sweet met tart and warm met cool and they all lived happily ever after, with three pairs of stretchy pants on rotation]

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AND, years ago [judging by the tea-colored recipe card I’m holding], she had the gall to try packing an entire meal inside a twist-tied loaf of homemade bread. Sidenote: yours won’t be missing an end, like ours is…as my brother says, “ya gotta eat!!”

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I still haven’t learned how to make this alone yet – I’m a little apprehensive about working with yeast. This isn’t even an unfounded fear. You can kill yeast, you know! And here I hear my mom’s voice, gently infused with a smile: “You can also open another packet, dear…”

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But today was a day where I just wanted to set up shop on the other side of our marble island and learn through osmosis. The whole thing comes together pretty quickly – and if I HAD left the kitchen, I would’ve missed her nimble fingers rolling out the dough and the little incisions that eventually join hands over the filling.

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Said filling involves a ménage à trois of ham, cheese, and mustard. We added tomatoes this time too, but you absolutely must not omit the cornichons listed [as we had to do today – that’s what we forgot]. I am not a pickle person, but they belong in this recipe just as much as the flour and the sugar and the butter and the cheese do.

Mom still knows a thing or two! …Including that brushing bread with egg before you bake it will make it turn all kinds of appetizing.

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And also, just as importantly…that men like meals like this. They like them a lot. In fact, meals like this can make a marriage.

Recipe:

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 packages Fleischmann’s RapidRise Yeast [I think this recipe was on the flip side of one of their packages way back when]

1 cup water

¼ cup Dijon Mustard

2 tablespoons butter

1 ½ chopped cooked ham [8 oz]

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese [4 oz]

½ cup chopped pickle

1 egg, beaten

Method:

Set aside 1 cup flour.

Mix remaining flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.

Heat water, mustard, and butter to 125 degrees F to 130 degrees F; stir into flour mixture.

Mix in enough reserved flour to make soft dough, and knead 4 minutes.

On a greased baking sheet, roll dough to 14×12-inches.

Sprinkle ham, cheese, and pickle down center third of dough length.

Make cuts from filling to dough edges at 1-inch intervals along sides of filling,

Bring strips from opposite sides of filling together; twist and place at an angle across filling; cover.

Place large shallow pan on counter; half-fill with boiling water.

Place baking sheet over pan; let dough rise 15 minutes.

Brush loaf with egg.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes.

Serve warm from the oven, to a very hungry four or a saving-for-dessert six.

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2 thoughts on “Dijon Ham n’ Swiss Loaf

  1. I have been looking for this wonderful recipe, thanks for sharing. The original recipe from the fleischmann’s recipe booklet called for green olives with pimentos and a handful or so of raisins. It was wonderful.

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