It’s funny how we tend to define ourselves and out habits in absolute terms, even though anybody observing our habits from the outside would conclude that things are not nearly as absolute as we suggest. I will tell you at the drop of a hat that I hate sport, period. Doing it, watching it – anything involving it. But look more closely and you will see that I am completely besotted with skiing, and that I spent an unhealthy amount of time this summer watching the rather thrilling Tour de France cycle race. Umm, there goes that theory then! I also tend to describe myself as impatient – but then I will spend hours editing half a dozen photos, making sure to get them just right before I use them on my blog. (Note to self – being intolerant of incompetence is not the same as impatience!) Or I will cheerfully tell you that I don’t bake – but when you scroll through my blog’s recipe index, you quickly discover that there are in fact quite a few baked goodies in there.
I think the more correct statement would probably be that I am a lazy baker. There – I’ve said it. My name is Jeanne and I am a lazy baker. I love the buttery flakiness of puff pastry; but the idea of making it myself just sends me into fits of hysterical laughter. I swoon for a good macaron – but as soon as I read about all the steps and tips and tricks involved in making good one, I feel overcome by inexplicable exhaustion and maked an informed decision to eat an apple instead. Few things excite me more than the smell of a hot baguette, freshly baked from the oven – but the entire idea of kneading the dough, waiting for it to rise, and all the other activities that go along with “proper” baking make me feel woefully inadequate.
But show me a baked recipe that includes the word “quick” and I am all ears. No wonder, then, that I took one look at this bread recipe that my friend Kalyn posted a couple of weeks ago and made an immediate mental note to try it. And apart from the remarkable speed and simplicity of this bread recipe, an added bonus was that it would use up the last of my za’atar spice mix that was getting a bit long in the tooth. For those of you not familiar with it, za’atar is a spice blend popular throughout the Middle East prepared using ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram (or some combination thereof) mixed with toasted sesame seeds and salt, although other spices such as sumac are also often added. Traditionally, housewives throughout the Middle-East made their own variations of za’atar. These recipes were kept secret, sometimes not even shared with daughters and relatives, which is why it can be difficult to determine the exact spices and proportions used. Middle-Eastern shops and spice shops should sell it though.
The bread was a breeze to make. I used my new silicone pan which was astonishingly convenient but if you do use silicone, remember that it lacks the conductive properties of metal and you may have to bake the bread for a little longer than the recipe suggests – be sure to test donneness with a skewer before turning the oven off. The loaf had a good crispy to crust and a densely satisfying crumb. It kept well in the fridge wrapped in baking parchment overnight and I was still enjoying the final slices toasted almost a week later, slathered in butter.
WHOLEWHEAT QUICK BREAD WITH OLIVES, FETA, SPRING ONIONS & ZA’ATAR (makes one loaf) – recipe from the wonderful Kalyn’s Kitchen
150g whole wheat flour
150g plain white flour
3 Tbsp za’atar*, plus more for sprinkling on top (or substitute your favourite spice mix)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs beaten
1 cup buttermilk**
2 Tbsp olive oil
200g crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1 large spring onion, thinly sliced
* If you can’t find za-atar, you can use this recipe to make your own.
** Buttermilk is for sale in the UK at some branches of ASDA, Morrison’s Tesco and Sainsbury’s (it is in the fridge with the cream) or online from Goodness Direct. For a homemade substitute, mix one teaspoon of lemon juice into every cup of milk that you need for our recipe.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 25x10cm loaf pan (or use silicone like I did). Slice the olives and green onions and crumble the feta.
In a medium-sized bowl mix together the flours, the za’atar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl mix together the beaten eggs, buttermilk, and oil. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring just enough to ensure all the ingredients are moistened – but do not over-mix. Fold in the olives, green onions, and feta.