Thursday, March 27, 2008

Vermont Cheddar Cheese Bread

It’s been about 6-12 months ago that I first read about the No-Knead Bread. It’s made the rounds of bloggers around the world. Not too long after I read about it I tried it. And was positively amazed how good it was. And how easy it was. It’s just that it requires about 18-24 hours of time (very little of it with any work, though) to make. The dough develops a sourdough kind of flavor, and is baked in a heavy Le Crueset-type pan, with a lid. The pan creates its own hotter-than-heck oven, within the oven. Gives the bread a great crispy crust like the artisan loaves you may buy at your local bakery.

Some other blogger mentioned a book out there – Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I ordered the book, have read parts of it, and decided I’d have to try this recipe last weekend. The prep and baking method is very similar to the no-knead bread, although maybe easier since this one requires only a two-hour rise to start the batter.

The bread is a cinch to make, i.e., don’t be intimidated by the long list of instructions . . . they’re just wordy and very thorough. You can do everything by hand if you choose, but I utilized my stand mixer (with dough hook) to perform the harder work for me. This dough does not require kneading at all. In fact the recipe indicates you do not knead it. The less you mix it, the more of those wonderfully big holey holes you’ll get in the loaf.

The steps include:
(1) mixing up the dry stuff, the wet stuff and combining the two
(2) letting the dough rest for 2 hours
(3) refrigerating the dough to bake at a later time (up to 7 days later)
(4) shaping the loaves (takes about 3-4 minutes) and allowing them to rise
(5) baking in a 450 oven, on a pizza stone

I’ve only made one recipe so far, from this new book. But if this bread is any indication of the others, I’ll be making more of them in the future. Next time I am going to try using hard wheat flour too, and do my best to do less kneading. This version doesn't have quite the sourdough flavor the no-knead (18-24 hour) bread does, but it's certainly a worthy competitor.

Cook’s Notes: be sure to use ample cornmeal under the formed loaves so they don’t stick to the pizza peel. A pizza peel is ideal. Most peels are made of wood, but mine is a lightweight metal with a plastic edge (the peel is a big, wide, flat kind of spatula the pizza makers use to slide pizza off of onto the hot oven floor), but you could also use a cookie sheet that has no lip.

Vermont Cheddar Cheese Bread
Recipe By: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day -- Hertzberg & Francois
Serving Size: 24
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast -- granulated type
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup grated cheddar cheese -- sharp, or New York
1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast, salt and sugar with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
2. Mix the dry ingredients and the cheese, without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment) or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with dough hook). If you're using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately two hours.
4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next seven days.
5. On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a grapefruit-sized piece (if baking one loaf). Alternately, weigh the entire amount and divide into 4 equal portions, about 1 3/4 pounds each. Dust the pieces with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Allow to rest and rise uncovered on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for one hour (or just 40 minutes if you're using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).
6. Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with a baking stone placed on the lowest rack. Place an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread.
7. Sprinkle the loaf liberally with flour and slash a cross, a scallop, or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife. Leave the flour in place for baking; tap some of it off before eating.
8. Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone. If it sticks, gently coax it off the pizza peel. Pour one cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until deeply browned and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments to baking time.
9. Allow to cool on a rack before slicing or eating. Makes 4 approximately one pound loaves.
Per Serving: 147 Calories; 2g Fat (12.0% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 5mg Cholesterol; 430mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain (Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
Printer-friendly PDF recipe.


Kalyn said...

Sounds very good. I can tell there's a lot more bread in my future, thanks to this book!

Rich said...

This sounds fantastic. I'm afraid I'm hugely guilty of usually making bread on my cold pizza stone and then sliding it into the oven, instead of heating it up like you're supposed to. I'll have to use my pizza board like I'm supposed to for these.

Anne said...

I made this bread this weekend and boy is it good. And so easy. Definitely want to work with the dough for shaping after a good long chill because the fresh stuff is incredibly sticky. Now I have to go out and acquire another new cookbook. Oh darn :-)