Bread is one of my most favourite things. I find it especially irresistible when fresh from the oven. Arm me with butter and a knife and I could easily consume the entire loaf. It really is unfortunate that celery is one of my least favourite things! I can manage a small amount cooked and combined with plenty of other ingredients, but I certainly can't face it on its own. Suffice to say that I was deeply troubled by this recipe as celery was obviously a key ingredient! Mary mentions that this bread is well suited to accompanying soup. I thought this to be the best option; maybe a richly flavoured soup would make the bitter celery palatable. I could only hope!
Neil was attending interviews in the morning; I thought this bread along with some soup would offer a warming welcome home. I just needed to keep my little boy entertained before I made a start. I pushed him around in a battered old box which has already been stuck back together several times. I then read stories and we crashed numerous trucks against the wall. When nap time finally arrived I was tempted to see if I could squeeze into the cot too. I was worn out! Mary's promise that this crown loaf is quick to make spurred me on. As it doesn't contain any yeast, no kneading or rising is necessary. I was in two minds. On one side of the coin I was concerned that the bread would turn out heavy without yeast; on the other side I couldn't help but be won over by the simplicity and speed of the recipe.
After turning on the oven and greasing a deep round tin I moved on to measuring a large quantity of self -raising flour into a bowl. Despite the lack of yeast, for some reason I had still expected to use strong bread flour. For a change I'd remembered to leave the butter out of the fridge to soften, so the knife slid through it with ease. Compared to the amount of flour, the quantity of butter was tiny. It took next to no time to rub the two together, so I was soon ready to chop up the dreaded celery. I had forgotten how stringy it is. I spent ages pulling off the fine threads. Also, perhaps it might have been a better idea to prepare it before I'd stuck my hands into the flour and butter. The moisture from the celery combined with the dough on my fingers formed a paste. I suppose I should have washed my hands first. However, I'm a lazy cook!!!
A few weeks ago I developed a sneezing fit whilst baking and it happened again during this recipe, but this time it was MUCH worse. At my last count I was up to 16 sneezes! I had to move away from the chopped celery; I must be allergic to it!
Once I had recovered from my exhausting ordeal I could get on with grating the large volume of mature cheddar cheese. I had a mountain of cheese by the time I had finished; it was a job to fit it into the bowl. I collected a clove of garlic, peeled and crushed it as instructed. I must admit that I rarely add garlic to my cooking. This is not because I dislike it but because I forget to add it. We're always finding long forgotten bulbs of sprouting garlic dotted around the kitchen!
Now that the three savoury ingredients had been added to the floury mixture, I gave them a quick mix together. Stirring up the celery set off the sneezes again, so I stepped away, collected the milk from the fridge and measured six tablespoonfuls into a glass. Neil had just bought a massive six pint bottle of milk so my weak arm shook as I poured it into the spoon. My Baking Bible was almost drowned in a cascade of milk and the worktop was covered in numerous little puddles! I hoped I'd managed to get the right amount into the glass. I added more liquid in the form of an egg. I beat them together and poured them into the mixing bowl. I tried to bring all of the ingredients together to form a soft dough, I tried for quite some time but I had to give in and add a few more splashes of milk. I wouldn't be surprised if my initial measurement had not been accurate! Finally I had success and ended up with a green speckled lump of soft dough.
I divided the dough up into twelve balls. Mary mentions that they should be of equal size, but I couldn't be bothered to weigh them. Surely there is more to life?!! I placed the uneven balls of dough into the cake tin. There were large spaces between them but I hoped they'd spread in the oven and slot together. As if there wasn't enough cheese contained in this crown loaf, I had to sprinkle more over the top. I'm sure that at this point I felt my arteries slam shut! I placed the tin into the hot oven and hoped for the best. I worked my way through a large amount of washing up while I waited and I enjoyed the scent of cheesy bread!
Neil walked through the door just as the ring of bread exited the oven. I think he was more pleased to see his lunch than to see his wife! I let the golden bread cool a little on the wire rack while I heated up a generous amount of tomato soup. A few minutes later and we were sitting at the table ready to tuck in to our warming lunch. I couldn't help thinking that my crown loaf resembled a batch of dumplings!
I tentatively took a bite! To my relief and surprise I couldn't taste the celery. All I could taste was cheese. I wondered if this was due to the fact that I had used a strong mature cheese; perhaps it was a bit overpowering. I found it hard to believe that I was eating bread. In my mind it was a savoury scone. In fact it tasted exactly like a cheese scone! Neil enjoyed the crown loaf and ate quite a bit, but it wasn't something he would necessarily want again! I have to agree that this cheese and celery crown loaf was super quick and very easy to make. I just don't think it should be in the bread section of this recipe book!