Easy Bread recipe – A Review

Last week I posted about my Spinach Dip Cob test that quite a few of my work friends are now keen to try themselves with the upcoming Australia Day long weekend.  For everyone that’s not an Aussie, Australia Day is the public holiday to celebrate the landing of the first fleet, kind of like Columbus Day in the US.  In the last few years it’s been a hot topic of debate as some want to change the date of Australia Day for one reason or another.  Most people I know actually don’t quite care.  To us it’s a great excuse to get together with friends, have a barbecue and a few laughs together, and celebrate what a great place we live in.

Anyway, back to the point of this post…bread!  My work boo Tess had a great suggestion the other day.  I’ve tested the dip, why not test making the bread bowl?  That only makes total sense right?  So off I went to start finding a bread recipe worth testing.

I think everyone can relate to the fact that we all have our preference with bread.  Some of us like a soft white sandwich while others prefer a dark, solid multigrain loaf.  Me, I’m a hard crunchy crusty type with a soft airy centre.  That’s quite likely my French side coming out.

As this is the first time I’ve ever tried to make bread from scratch, I thought it wise to try an easy bread recipe over a complicated one.  I figured some of my readers and viewers might be in the same position as me, wanting to master bread making but didn’t want to easy and then progress to a more complicated process.  Julia Child, your bread recipe will have to wait. That’s when I stumbled upon Life as a Strawberry’s Easy Crusty French Bread.  The name said it all.  It was to be easy, and the images on the page looked like a crusty bread to me.

Check out my video on this recipe test on my YouTube channel:

Let’s dive in to bread making shall we? Here’s Life as a Strawberry’s recipe:

INGREDIENTS

  • 2.25 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1.25 cups warm water (about 100 degrees F should do)
  • 1.5 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2.5 cups All-Purpose Flour, plus extra for dusting

Spinach Dip Cob: the retro party food that just won’t Die

Is it too late to say Happy New Year?

Nah. Screw it. Happy New Year! I hope you smash all of your 2018 goals out of the park.

New year, new you.  Right?  Maybe not.  At least it gives you an excuse to start of fresh. I’m not the type to make resolutions or anything, but after stepping out of my comfort zone and starting my YouTube channel (Go on, take a peak and subscribe to my channel.  You know you want to!), I think it’s time to set a few goals for myself that I think are easily attainable.  So here are my goals for 2018:

  • Get serious about Clem’s Recipe Reviews, and be consistent in posting. You guys seem to enjoy the reviews, confirming the reason why I started this blog.  I’m not the only one who has tried a recipe only to have it fail miserably! Plus my recipe collection is only getting bigger. #recipeaddict
  • Go on an adventure at least once a month, whether that be an art exhibit, new restaurant, or an area I haven’t explored yet.

I reckon two goals are pretty realistic, and challenging enough that I’ll definitely feel like I’ve achieved a lot if I complete them.  Now on to what this blog is all about…a recipe review!

This post I decided to do something slightly retro,  something that our mums and grandmums have been bringing to barbecues and parties for decades –  seafood mousse.

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Haha no I’m kidding.  I couldn’t put you through that!  What I’m reviewing is a Spinach Dip Cob, a retro recipe that just seems to never die.  And for good reason!  Here in Australia there’s never been a barbecue that I’ve been to that didn’t have a cob loaf of some description.  This party dish is so popular there’s a town that has a cob festival in Wellington, NSW and competition to crown the “world’s best cob”.  There’s cold cobs, warm cobs, and even dessert cobs.  They’re so popular, they’re even mentioned on the radio.

If you don’t know what a cob loaf is, it’s pretty much just a round loaf of bread.  BOOM! Mind blown.

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But I’m going to stick to the classic spinach dip cob, and I’m going to use the most popular version of this recipe found on Taste.com.au.  I mean, if it’s highly rated surely it’s the best recipe for spinach cob right?

Time to get on your expandable pant wear as we review the Spinach Dip Cob!

If you want to watch the video of my review, check it out below:

Here’s the recipe from Taste.com.au:

Cob Loaf Spinach Dip

Ingredients

  • 450g (approx 1 pound) cob loaf
  •  250g (approx 8 ounces) frozen spinach, thawed
  •  250g (approx 8 ounces) creamed cheese, softened
  •  300ml (approx 10 ounces) tub sour cream
  •  40g (approx 1.5 ounce) packet French onion soup mix
  •  Crackers, to serve

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F)/160C (325F) fan-forced. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Cut 4cm (1 inch) off top of cob loaf to form lid. Scoop bread from centre of loaf, leaving 1.5cm edge. Tear or roughly chop bread pieces.
  3. Squeeze out any excess moisture from spinach, discarding any liquid. Combine spinach, cheese, sour cream and soup mix in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Spoon mixture into loaf. Top with lid. Place on prepared tray. Arrange bread pieces in a single layer around loaf. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Serve with cut vegetables and extra crackers if desired.

The Good, the bad, the inedible

As always, lets start with the good.

Mate, this recipe is so easy, there’s no way you can screw it up.  And it’s really quick to make to.

Yeah. That’s about it really.

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Let’s start with those instructions.  How the hell are you supposed to cut 4cm off the top of a round loaf?  let me just get my laser level and square ruler out of my back pocket and measure that out exactly.  Seriously Taste.com.au, let’s be realistic here.

Good lord this dip is SALTY.  And all you taste is French onion soup mix.  If it’s called “spinach dip” surely you want to taste the spinach in said dip right?  If not then don’t call it spinach dip!

Even without seasoning it as per the reason (because me being as impatient as I am, I had to try the dip out a couple of times before completing it), it was still salty.  Then I read the ingredients on the back of the French onion soup mix.  Did you know that the list of ingredients goes in order from what’s used the most in a recipe to the least?  Pretty handy tip for  when you’re keeping an eye on your salt intake or anything else in general.  Anyway, salt was the third most predominant ingredient in this particular mix.  The next time I went to the supermarket, I got curious and looked at every French onion soup mix packet I could find, and every single one had salt as the third or fourth most predominant ingredient. Every. Single. One.  Pretty scary ay?

Next downside to this is the dip once made, doesn’t actually fill a whole cob.  Which really just sucks because that means there’s too much bread to dip.  So if you want to fill the cob you have to double up this recipe.

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Each time I got it out of the oven, I dove my crispy bread cube all the way down to the bottom of the dip.  A) because I wanted to ensure that the entire dip was warm and B) because I am a pig. And each time I did this, the dip wasn’t warmed all the way through.  It was warm on the top and room temperature on the bottom.  Now, I don’t know about you, but my instincts usually say with any cream based dips if they’re room temperature that’s not entirely food safe.  It’s probably okay in this scenario, but I certainly don’t think it makes this dip the best cob dip on the planet.

I think this is my first review of a taste.com.au recipe, and to be honest it leaves something to be desired.  What I’ve found is that the ingredient amounts aren’t enough to fill the whole cob (seriously who in their right mind would fill a cob only halfway?!), and their instructions are too specific for their own good.  If you’re going to publish a recipe, no matter how simple the process is, make the instructions simple. Make sure the ingredient amount complement the entire recipe or actual serving size.  Come on Taste, you can do better than this!

So, let’s move on to my new and improved version!

I threw out my laser level and square ruler thingy and just cut a quarter from the top of the loaf.  The dip then filled the loaf enough that there was an excellent bread to dip ratio!

I thought immediately it’s time to scrap the French onion soup mix.  You can give flavour to the dip without adding too much salt, and the soup mix was just too overpowering. This is the perfect opportunity to add some fresh herbs and use some garlic and onion to give it some flavour.

I decided that raw onion and garlic would be way too overpowering as the dip doesn’t actually cook in the oven. Instead, powdered garlic and onion would be the perfect option – not too powerful, but just enough to give the dip flavour. But after adding double what I thought needed to be added, the dip was still missing something.  Something tangy, and a bit acidic.  Dijon mustard did the trick!  And with the new version, this dip was perfect even just cold, which if you’re like me, a cold dip is WAY better than a warm one.

So, go grab a cob and a few simple ingredients and get dippin’!

New and Improved Spinach Cob

Ingredients

  • 450g (approx 1 pound) cob loaf
  •  250g (approx 8 ounces) frozen spinach, thawed
  •  250g (approx 8 ounces) creamed cheese, softened
  •  300ml (approx 10 ounces) tub sour cream
  •  2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs (I used parsley)
  •  Crackers, to serve

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F)/160C (325F) fan-forced. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Cut the top quarter of cob loaf to form lid. Scoop bread from centre of loaf, leaving thick edge. Tear or roughly chop bread pieces. If you’re serving a cold cob, toast your bread cubes in the oven and set aside.
  3. Squeeze out any excess moisture from spinach, discarding any liquid. Combine spinach and all remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. If you want a cold dip, refrigerate for at least half an hour and serve in your cob.
  5. If serving warm, spoon mixture into loaf. Top with lid. Place on prepared tray. Arrange bread pieces in a single layer around loaf. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve with cut vegetables and extra crackers if desired.