As some of you may know, I try to make a loaf of bread once a week. For the last year or so I’ve been making no knead bread as my go-to loaf. Betsy and I use this for sandwiches or toast throughout the week or just to snack on. Even though I completely love my normal bread bread, occasionally I like to change it up. Some weeks I’ll throw in a loaf of olive bread, but this week I decided to change it up with this cheese bread!
I’ve had this cheese bread recipe bookmarked for a while now. What I love about it is that it uses a nice semi-hard cheese, so it doesn’t get melty and soggy. Instead it stays kind of firm and just slightly oozes throughout the bread.
Yield: 1 loaf.
3 Cups bread flour
6 ounces Semi-hard cheese (I used a Pecorino Toscano 6 month aged), about 1 to 1 1/2 Cups cubed
3/4 Teaspoon yeast
1 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon Black pepper
1 1/3 Cups water
Cast Iron Dutch Oven (I actually use an enameled Le Creuset variety.)
1) Cut off any rind sections on the cheese and cube it into 1/4 inch pieces.
2) Mix cheese with flour, salt, yeast, and pepper. Then stir in water. The dough should be very stick... too sticky to knead.
3) Cover the dough loosely and let it ferment at room temperature for 18-24 hours.
4) Flour a clean surface and scoop the dough out onto it. Sprinkle the top with more flour. Fold the dough over itself a few times and shape it into a loaf. You can either make a round version or a more rectangle shape.
5) Invert the dough on a towel that's been dusted with cornmeal or flour. The seam of the dough should be down. Lightly cover the dough and let it sit for another 2 hours.
6) 30 minutes before you want to cook the loaf, preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Stick your pot in the oven also for the preheat time so it gets really hot. No need to heat up the lid for the pot.
7) Take the pot out of the oven and flip the dough into the pot so the seam is up.
8) Cover and bake at 475 for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 20-30 minutes.
9) Remove the loaf and cool it on a wire rack for at least an hour.
10) Serve with olive oil or make sandwiches with the bread. It's great.
Pane con Formaggio from My Bread.
In the original recipe, Jim Lahey recommends using a 3 month aged pecorino toscano, but I could only find the 6 month variety. Cheeses tend to get a bit saltier as they age so I decreased the salt in my recipe by 1/4 Teaspoon as he recommends.
You could use a pretty wide variety of cheeses for this, but I do think you want something semi-firm to firm. You don’t want something that’s going to ooze all over the place. Any pecorino or parmesan would probably work fine.
The flavor of the cheese comes through pretty strongly in this bread, so in my opinion, it’s worth getting the good stuff for it.
To prep the cheese, cut off any rind sections (you can save them for soup or stock if you want) and then dice the cheese into 1/4 inch cubes.
Mix the cheese in with the flour, salt, yeast, and black pepper just to combine everything evenly. Then add your water. You should end up with a very moist, sticky dough. It’s impossible to knead even if you wanted to.
If you have a heavy hand with the flour (I do), you may have to add another 1/4 Cup of water (I did) to get the dough to this point. Eventually, it should all come together in a big sticky ball dotted with cheese cubes.
Cover this bowl and let it sit at room temperature for 18-24 hours. It will bubble and more than double in size and be kind of sloppy.
This was mine after 18 hours and looks about right:
Shaping the Cheese Bread
Lightly flour a clean surface and pour or scoop or splat your dough onto the surface. Dust it with a bit more flour if you hands are sticking to it and then gently press it into a rough rectangle.
Then fold the ends in to produce a loaf shape. Mine was probably 10 inches long by 4 or 5 inches wide.
Gently invert this onto a towel that’s been heavily dusted with cornmeal or flour. Cornmeal works the best in my opinion. It’s important to make sure that the seam (the one above that you can see) is DOWN on the towel.
That’s because when we flip this into a pot, we want the seam side to be UP.
Once your dough is on the towel, fold the towel edges over to cover it and let it sit for another 2 hours.
About thirty minutes before your loaf is done proofing, stick your pot into the oven with the lid OFF and preheat to 475. You want to give it 30 minutes to get really hot. Don’t preheat the lid because A) it’s unnecessary and B) if you have a lid with a hard plastic nob, it might melt!
After it’s preheated, carefully pull your pot out of the oven and flip your shaped cheese bread into the pot. So now the seam should be UP.
This was mine. It’s hard to see, but those creases in the below photo are the seam.
Why is it important that the seam is up? It gives steam an easy way to escape. If you don’t do this, you’re bread might have a huge air bubble in the center where steam was trapped.
Baking the Loaf
When you’re dough is in the pot, put your lid on it and cook your loaf at 475 for 30 minutes.
Then carefully remove the lid. You’ll have something beautiful like this:
It’s not done cooking, but it’s on its way. Return your pot to the oven with the lid OFF and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes. This will let the loaf form a really dark, lovely crust.
Cool it down
As always when baking bread, it’s super-important to let your loaf cool down. Let it cool for at least an hour before cutting into it. And yes, it will still be slightly warm after an hour. It takes at least two hours to cool completely.
This was my cross section of the bread:
I’m really not sure it gets much better than a few slices of this bread, slightly warm, with some olive oil. It’s hard to see the cheese in the bread after it baked, but the flavor is there. Trust me.
I was very impressed with this loaf. I’m not sure that I like it as much as the olive loaf for everyday use (I love olives a lot), but it would be great to make for an appetizer at a party or something.
My one worry about the loaf was that the small bits of cheese that were on the outside of the loaf would melt and burn to the pan. That happened in one or two spots, but they didn’t burn to charcoal. In those spots, the crust was just very crunchy. Not a problem in my book!
This is an expensive loaf of bread actually, but in my mind it’s worth it. The flavor was great and it would be perfect for some dishes. Broccoli soup with this bread would rock my world.