Delicious soft Homemade Cheese Bread , made two ways - a lovely Cheddar cheese version and a Parmesan and Herb version.
I love to cook new things. I have a cooking queue of new recipes to try that's a mile long. So many recipes, so little time! So when something makes a repeat performance in my kitchen (or several, in this case), I figure it's worth sharing.
That's definitely the case with this Soft Cheese Bread Loaf, first discovered a couple of years ago in Peter Reinhart's book "Artisan Bread Every Day". A batch makes two loaves, so I have taken to making two different versions when I make it. Today, it was a Cheddar and Herb and a Parmesan Garlic and Herb.
Of course, this is a yeast bread, so it doesn't really qualify as "quick", but it is easy and with one baking session, you'll be rewarded with two great and different loaves. And these loaves freeze beautifully, so slice them up and pop them in the freezer and pull some out whenever a side of bread is in order. Pasta night? Toast up some of the Parmesan Garlic Herb (toasting or popping under the broiler for a bit, really brings the flavours out in this one!). Soup night? Cheddar and Herb will go perfectly with it. And of course, either of these would make a great sandwich bread.
My Best Tips for Baking with Yeast
I think most of the problems people have with baking with yeast, is treating yeast-based recipes like say, a cake recipe, where you just measure the ingredients, mix them all together and bake.
Yeast-based recipes just can never be that precise. Things like temperature, moisture in the flour your are using, the season your are baking in and rising time can differ from one kitchen to the next. All that makes yeast recipes less consistent from one kitchen to the next.
Now that you know this though, that's more than half the battle :) Baking with yeast isn't just measuring, mixing and baking, like a cake, for example. You'll need to add to the mix a little trust in what you see (it looks sticky, so it needs more flour, regardless of how much flour the recipe says should go in), and a feel for the dough (does it feel smooth like a baby's bottom when you're done kneading?) and watching much it has grown in size as it rises (rather than watching the clock). Do that, and all will be good!
- Be careful with the temperature of your proofing liquid before adding the yeast, so you don't compromise the yeast from the start. If the liquid is too cold, the yeast won't activate. Too hot and it will die. The best temperature range for proofing liquid is 105-110F for Active Dry Yeast. Instant yeast is a bit more forgiving and can take temperatures up to 120F. All yeasts die at about 140°F. An Instant Read thermometer is handy to have on hand to check.
- Always treat the amount of flour specified in yeast-based recipes as "approximate". Flours will vary from kitchen to kitchen and by season, so the amount needed to make a smooth, soft dough will vary.
- Given tip #2, I always hold back 1/4-1/3 of the flour specified in a recipe and add in only as much as is needed. If you dump all the flour in at the start, you may find that it is too much and it's difficult to adjust well after that.
- Use a large glass measuring cup to proof your dough. It's easy to see when the dough has doubled.
- Be patient. Rising times are also "approximate" and will vary as well. Trust what you see and not the clock.
This bread is endlessly customizable. All kinds of cheese, herb and other add-in combinations will work. Want to throw in some sun-dried tomatoes or a bit of pesto? Why not! Olives?
Yuck. Sure. Lots of cheese or just a bit? It's up to you.
Finally, there is an option to overnight-rise this dough in the fridge. I rarely do that, because I'm a) impatient and b) not that organized, but feel free to do so. There's no doubt that any bread benefits from a longer rise for better flavour.
Soft Cheese Bread: Two Ways
- 6 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour, can use all purpose, if that's all you have
- 2 tsp fine salt , or a bit more, if using coarse kosher salt
- 5 Tbsp white sugar, or 5 Tbsp brown sugar or 3 1/2 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar
- 1 cup lukewarm water, about 95F (for even softer bread, use 1 cup water leftover from boiling potatoes, cooled)
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp buttermilk or milk, lukewarm, about 95F
- 1 1/2 Tbsp regular instant yeast, such as SAF Brand
- 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter , or vegetable oil
Cheddar and Herb (to make one loaf):
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup minced herbs, (parsley and chives are good choices)
Parmesan, Garlic and Herb (to make one loaf):
- 1 1/2 cups Parmesan, freshly grated
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder, or about 2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
- 1/4 cup minced herbs, parsley works well
- 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
- In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, salt and sugar* together. (Tip: If measuring your flour in cups, without a scale, hold back 1 cup to add as needed later). *If you're using honey or agave, add with the liquid ingredients instead.
- In a large measuring cup or bowl, combine the water and buttermilk and whisk in the yeast until dissolved. Add this mixture, along with the melted butter, to the dry ingredients. Mix by hand or with a dough hook, until the mixture is combined, about 2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
- Continue mixing the dough, adding more flour or water, as needed, until the dough becomes soft, smooth and tacky, but not sticky.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes, then form dough into a ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and either refrigerate for up to 4 days, or allow to sit at room temperature until doubled in size (about 60-90 minutes). (*Tip: I like to use an 8-cup glass measuring cup, so it's easy to see when it's doubled by the markings).
- Note: If you have refrigerated your dough, remove from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to bake, to allow it to come to room temperature.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Dust each with a bit of flour and then, using a rolling pin, roll into a rectangle approximately 10 inches wide and 16 inches long.
- **See the video at the bottom of this Recipe Card, that demonstrates the rolling and shaping process for this cheese bread.**
- For the Cheddar and Herb Bread: spread shredded cheddar and herbs evenly over the surface of the dough. Starting with the shortest side, roll the dough up jelly-roll style and pinch the seam together.
- For the Parmesan, Garlic and Herb: spread the softened butter over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan, garlic and herbs. Press lightly with the palm of your hand to press the toppings into the butter. Starting with the shortest side, roll the dough up jelly-roll style and pinch the seam together.
- Grease two 8-inch by 4-inch loaf pans and set aside.
- Shaping: Using a sharp knife, cut the roll of dough down the centre, lengthwise. Rotate each piece so that the cut sides are facing upward and place them side-by-side. Pinch together the farthest end. Keeping the cuts sides facing upwards as much as possible, place the right-side piece over the left-side piece. Straighen it up and then repeat, pinching together the end closest to you. If any cheese escapes, just place it back on top. Using a bench scraper or spatula, carefully lift the dough into the greased loaf pan. Repeat with the other dough log, then cover both with a greased piece of plastic wrap and allow to rise until the dough rises to about 1-inch above the side of the pans in the middle.
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake for 45-50 minutes total, but after 25 minutes of baking, rotate pans front-to-back in the oven and loosely cover with a piece of aluminum foil if necessary (if bread is already well-browned), to prevent the top from over-browning. Bread should reach about 185° internal temperature in the centre.
- Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for a couple of minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the bread and carefully remove the loaves to a cooling rack. Allow to cool for 1 hour before slicing.
Nutritional information provided for general guidance only and should not be relied upon to make personal health decisions.