You know how, when your friends are having a dinner party and everyone is asked to contribute a dish, you never know what you should bring? You want to make something easy but impressive, delicious but simple? The host is taking care of the main and somebody else got to dessert first, so the only things left are (boring) salad and sides? This is what you should make.
(Disclaimer: Look, I love salads, and in fact I’m bringing one to a potluck this evening. But let’s be real here: in the context of impressing your pals, they’re boring.)
My reasoning is simple. You need something to snack on while while you catch up over that first glass of wine, everyone loves freshly-baked bread, and the opportunity to indulge in a pairing so nutritionally off-limits (simple carbs! pure fat!) is definitely the right tone to hit for a party.
This recipe comes from one of my favourite cookbooks by one of my favourite food writers, Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. From my first flip-through of this wonderful book I knew I wanted to make this– a freeform rye soda loaf which comes together so quickly it should hardly be called baking at all.
Just promise me that you won’t make this bread without the herb butter, which is the silent star here. Mixed with goats cheese, shallots and herbs, it’s one of the tastiest things I’ve eaten all year. Just make sure that your pals finish it off at the party, otherwise you may find yourself sneaking tiny spoonfuls of leftover butter every time you open the fridge door. Or maybe that’s just me.
Rye Bread with Herb Butter
recipe from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
For the bread:
275g (2 1/3 cups) rye flour
225g (1 3/4 cups) plain flour, more for dusting and kneading
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
2 cups buttermilk, plus some for brushing
For the butter:
1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
115g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
60g (1/3 cup) semisoft goats cheese
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 400F/205C and place a rack in the middle of the oven.
- Sift together the flours, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk. Mix well with a dough whisk or wooden spoon, until everything comes together into a sticky dough.
- Turn out dough onto a lightly-floured surface and knead for about 30 seconds, giving it just enough turns to form a cohesive, slightly-flattened ball.
- Place ball on a lightly-floured baking sheet and brush the top with buttermilk, then sprinkle over a few more tablespoons of flour. Using a sharp serrated knife (it will help to wet it with hot water first), make four deep gashes across the top of the dough, about 2/3 of the way down into the loaf.
- Bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes, then quickly move the loaf to the top part of the oven for another 20 or so, so the top gets nice and browned. When the bread is done, a hard crust will form everywhere and the loaf will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove to cool on a rack.
- To make the herb butter, mash together the butter, cheese, shallots and herbs. I find that the easiest way to do this (especially if your butter and/or cheese is still a little cool) is to use the blade of a large and sturdy knife to mash everything together on a chopping board. Sprinkle over the sea salt, mash it in, and pack the butter into ramekins or a small bowl. It will keep for about a week in the fridge, but is best served at room temperature.
Images © Eleanor Büsing