In my defense, there are extenuating circumstances. You see, Poppa Trix went and bought me a whole mess of cookbooks, most of which include irresistible bread recipes, like this one for libum, an ancient Roman cheese bread, from Mark Grant's Roman Cookery. And as long as I'm passing around some blame for my carb-o-mania, I might as well include The Winter Guest, a Madrid-based blog chock full of beautiful breads and starchy sundries that I absolutely covet. This was the site that introduced me to Roman Cookery, via a post about staititai, a scrumptious honey and sesame pizza.
There are so many carb-y things in the book that I can't wait to try, but I started with this one because 1.) It didn't require a lot of prep time, which is good because Poppa Trix and I had spent all day cleaning and dusting our post-holiday, pet-hair-filled house, and we just wanted to eat, and 2.) There was cheese. Lots and lots of cheddar cheese.
Now the original recipe, from Cato's On Agriculture, does not specify the type of cheese to be used. It seems that most modern interpretations call for ricotta - some for feta - but I like Grant's reasons for using a nice, strong cheddar. In his attempts at making cheese using Roman methods, he says he ended up with a very bold cheese, with a texture not entirely unlike modern cheddar, so the choice isn't anachronistic. Besides, since the cheese is providing the only real flavoring in this bread, Grant feels that a strong, flavorful one should be used. (Feta would certainly fit that bill as well.) In any case, anyone who's going to go ahead and make cheese the Roman way is my kind of crazy, and I'll happily follow his advice.
As you can see from the photo, this isn't exactly light and fluffy bread:
It's sort of a cross between a soft flat bread and a crispy cracker, although the next day's leftovers definitely leaned more towards the crispy end of things, at least until I gently reheated them in the oven.
What's so cool about these little discs is the fact they taste so very cheesy, yet there's no melting, gooey cheese in sight, and that has everything to do with the prep method, as you'll see. I halved the recipe and adjusted things a bit as needed - I think the fact that it was so cold in my kitchen affected the dough's moisture requirements. Here's what worked for me; I ended up with 10 rounds:
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 egg, beaten
a drizzle of olive oil (This isn't in the original, but my dough was simply too dry to work without it.)
10 (or so) fresh bay leaves
I realize that I am outing myself as an incurable dork, and Poppa Trix teases me to no end for this, but libum kind of reminds me of lembas bread, the Elvish bread from Lord of the Rings. I wonder if that's what Tolkien had in mind?
Dorkish musings aside, this went really well with another ancient Roman dish, lentil and red wine stew. I'll share that recipe soon!