In France, savory loaf breads like this one are called cakes salés. They are the kind of thing someone might bake up to serve as an hors d’oeuvre, thinly sliced and served either naked or topped with even more cheese or ham, crostini-style.
These cakes feel a bit like gougères in their deep cheesiness, except they’re easier and can be made entirely in advance without losing anything by being served at room temperature.
Leftovers are great for breakfast the next day—I love my slices toasted, buttered, and topped with slices of ripe tomatoes. If you’d like to skip the meat, substitute ⅔ cup sliced pitted olives for the ham.
Bread: You can bake the loaf up to 3 days in advance. Store it, well wrapped, in the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature before serving. Or freeze it for up to 2 months. After freezing, this is best sliced and served toasted and warm—and spread with butter if you like.
MAKES 1 LOAF
4 tablespoons (½ stick / 56 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
2½ cups (325 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (180 grams) coarsely chopped ham
3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 cups (8 ounces / 198 grams) grated Gruyère or sharp cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
1 cup (240 milliliters) buttermilk
How to make Savory Gruyère Bread with Ham
Heat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour a metal 9 × 5-inch loaf pan and set it aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Stir in the chopped ham, scallions if using, thyme, and 1¾ cups (7 ounces) of the Gruyère (reserving the rest for topping). In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, and buttermilk. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. The batter will be thick.
Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and spread it out evenly, smoothing the top. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup (1 ounce) cheese over the top. Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a skewer inserted in the center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, 45 to 55 minutes.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool for 10 minutes. Then remove the bread from the pan and let it cool completely on the wire rack.