Monday, January 3, 2011

My Bread Baking Adventures, Part 3: Crusty Cheese Bread

So, this bread from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day combines two of my favorite things -- crusty sourdough bread and cheese. It actually reminds me of a very different roll I used to buy at the Diamond Bakery on Fairfax in L.A. when I lived there. That roll was also filled with cheddar cheese but I believe it was made with eggy challah dough. I could never quite put my finger on what made it so special, though, until I made this sourdough bread: onions. Because they sort of melt into the dough when baking you don't get a clear, definitive oniony flavor, but it clearly has an impact. So, not only did I enjoy making and eating this bread, I got a handle on how to make a cherished favorite bread I haven't had in about 20 years.

Like Reinhart's other crusty sourdough breads, you begin with your mother starter and make a baking starter that is best refrigerated overnight. Then, on baking day, enters a wealth of ingredients not otherwise included in the levains and rustic breads I've been making from the book. Here we have milk, instant yeast, honey, diced onions, and cheese. I opted for cheddar but any hard cheese should work. I admit, I also added several cloves of minced garlic. The dough below includes everything but the cheese, which gets added later.

The dough, which was kneaded for a whole two minutes, could be refrigerated overnight or up to four days, but can also be baked on the same day and that's what I opted for. That meant it needed to rest for about 90 minutes, during which time it does an impressive rise. Then it's time to add the cheese and shape. This recipe is enough for two loaves. So, I divided the poofy dough in two, then stretched each piece into a rectangle. Unlike many of Reinhart's other doughs, this is actually very easy to work with since it isn't as wet.

Now, you can either shred, grate, or cube the cheese and add it at this point. I opted for cubing. I could also have simply kneaded the dough into the bread before shaping to avoid air pockets caused by the melting cheese, but I wanted to try Reinhart's roll-up method first.

Once you roll up the cheese into the dough, you'll shape it into a loaf and let it rise for about two hours, during which time it should swell nicely.

You can see the cheese just poking out a bit, as well as bits of onion, but don't worry about it; you're baking the loaves on a parchment paper-lined pan. Pre-heat the oven, slash the loaves, and then it's time to bake.

Yes, some of the cheese oozed out, but that's why you're using parchment paper, right? The breads were nice and crispy on the outside but very moist and with a good crumb inside. Just let the loaves cool for about an hour before slicing. It was hard to wait but worth it.

This was my New Year's Eve treat, along with a mini lasagna I'm still enjoying -- but that's another story for another day!

I hope you all had a wonderful New Year's celebration and wish you the very best in 2011!

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  1. Santa did NOT bring me this book for Christmas, but I do have and love Bread Baker's Apprentice. It does not contain a recipe for cheese bread and now I am jealous. That looks and sounds delicious. It's like the laziest grilled cheese sandwich ever because it's already assembled.

  2. I hadn't thought about it that way, but yes! This morning I had a slice with a fried egg on top. The bread just sops up the yolk perfectly!

  3. I've been messing around with my sourdough recipe for a while now. I started with Reinhart but have graduated to my own techniques. My newest love is Tartine Bread. The author also does a wet mix stretch-and-fold technique like you, with incredible results. I wrote about it here (, and I have some recipes on my blog. Happy baking from one San Diego baker to another!