Cheese Bread

When I picked up my youngest from preschool the other day, she was clearly troubled. You see, for lunch she had brought some homemade cheese bread and proudly showed it to her friends. However, X (our own He-Who-Must-Not- Be-Named) insisted that it wasn’t cheese bread. It couldn’t be cheese bread. His 5-year-old logic: it was white. Cheese is yellow. Therefore, it was not cheese bread.

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As I explained to Little Miss Lou, here’s where X’s theory breaks down: not all cheese is yellow. What color is feta? White. Goat cheese? White. Mozzarella? White. Queso blanco? Blanco. White cheddar? Um, white – just like the milk from which they’re made.  Why?  Because no annatto has been added. So, just to be clear (and so she could correct X when she brought more cheese bread for lunch the next day), this definitely is cheese bread. It’s simply made with annatto-free cheeses, in this case, gruyere and parmesan.

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If you, like X,  want to see and not just taste the cheese in this bread, feel free to substitute yellow cheddar or another of your favorite cheeses. Don’t worry – it’ll still be good. Real good. In fact, Tim proclaimed it the best bread I’ve ever made. Not surprising since it combines two of our favorite things – cheese and bread – along with a dash of hot sauce for kicks.

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Go ahead. Bake 4 loaves in 2 days like I did. Try it toasted with butter or use it to make a mean grilled cheese.  Just don’t be mean and say it’s not cheese bread.

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Cheese Bread

adapted from Beard on Bread

I prefer bread flour instead of the all-purpose Beard called for, although I tried both and either works just fine. I added weights because I much prefer my kitchen scale to my measuring cups. Rather than waiting to incorporate the cheeses after the first rise, as in the original recipe, I recommend adding them in the beginning. Oh, and I used my mixer to knead because I’m lazy but feel free to do it by hand.

  • 1 package (2¼ teaspoons or ¼ ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1¾ cup warm water (100-115°F), divided
  • 5-6 cups (25-30 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces) butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) Parmesan, freshly grated
  • ¾ cup (3 ounces) Gruyere or Emmenthaler, freshly grated

Dissolve yeast in sugar in ¼ cup warm water and allow to proof (become foamy to show that the yeast is indeed active). In a large bowl, mix 5 cups of flour with the salt. Make a well in the center and add the remaining 1½ cups water, butter, hot sauce, yeast mixture, and cheeses. Stir with a wooden spoon until well mixed. Knead for 10-12 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and satiny. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat all sides. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 1½-2 hours or so.

Gently deflate the dough, turn it out onto a light floured board, cut in half (each piece weighs about 23½ ounces), and let rest for 10 minutes. Then roll each piece into a rectangle about 11×6-inches and let rest for 5 more minutes. Roll each rectangle up and place dough into 2 greased 8×4-inch loaf pans. Cover and let rise in a warm spot until the bread has created over the top of the pan. Preheat oven to 375°F.

Bake in center of oven for about 30 minutes. Remove from pans and bake loaves directly on oven rack for a few minutes to firm the crust. Let cool completely before slicing.

Variations:

  • Substitute 1/3 cup peanut or olive oil for the butter.
  • Use fresh Parmesan or Romano only – 1 cup (4 ounces) – or use a mixture of the two.
  • Use shredded sharp Cheddar (yellow or white) instead of the Gruyere.
  • Add basil.

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