Thursday, February 05, 2009

Vermont Cheese Bread

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Today was ChiliFest at the State Public Defender's Office. My friend Cathy is the unofficial Social Director of our office, and every now and then, she just has to have some kind of party. Today was a chili pot luck, with Ngoc bringing Havana chili, Andrea whipping up a turkey chili, Jodie with a healthy eggplant-based chili, and Cathy herself bringing a giant crockput of your regular hamburger and kidney bean variety. Ben was supposed to be responsible for the white chicken chili, but his kids were being difficult last night, and he opted to get some sleep instead of stirring chili. Probably not an unreasonable choice. Sara made corn muffins, and I brought cheese bread. There were plenty of desserts: a chocolate-coconut bundt cake, and bars galore (in Minnesota, there is a separate category of dessert called "bars," which is pronounced sort of like "barse.") All potlucks in Minnesota have barse for dessert, and ours was no exception: Toll House, lemon cheesecake, ginger, and brownies. The non-cooks had the option of bringing drinks or condiments.
I turned to the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book again, and I was impressed with the results. I made the dough Tuesday night and it sat in the refrigerator until this morning. At 7:00 a.m., I dumped it out on the counter.

The master recipe is supposed to make four loaves, so I cut it in half, figuring I'd make one loaf for ChiliFest and another one this weekend. When I divided the dough in half, though, I realized that it made very small loaves, so I changed my plan: I'd bake both loaves this morning and bring the leftovers home for us.

I've had mixed success with the method where you slide the bread from the pizza peel directly on the hot baking stone, but this time it worked, and I didn't burn my hand in the process either.
However, once the breads were in the oven, I realized that I'd completely forgotten to slash the breads with my cute little French knife, so when I turned on the oven loaf to see how they were doing, I saw that they had developed slashes au naturel.

I blame this on my having only one cup of coffee, which was half decaf; this clearly did not provide enough caffeine to get me through an entire recipe without a mistake. And I had even spent a considerable amount of time deciding what slashing pattern I would use. Aha, I thought to myself, in a glass-half-full kind of way, this provides me with a challenge--can I go through the entire day without announcing to everyone that I had screwed up the bread? Almost. I told only one person, and she seemed completely uninterested in my mistake. For the rest of the day, if someone said something about the bread, I just smiled and said not a single word about how it was supposed to have been slashed decoratively.
Oh, and that plan to bring home the leftover bread? It didn't happen. As some of you may know, the fact that something is eaten when it's brought into the communal kitchen in an office doesn't necessarily mean that the food is good; it just means that it was there. But in this case, the bread actually was good. The extra-sharp aged cheddar gave the bread a distinctive, delicious flavor, but it wasn't gooey and greasy as some cheese breads are. It was a perfect complement to four different kinds of chili, but would be good with almost any soup and would probably be an excellent sandwich bread too.
I'm going to include a shortened version of the four-loaf recipe, but I'll put in a plug for buying the book, especially if you, like me, just like to read cookbooks. First, all the recipes are based on a particular method, and it's useful to read about the method before tackling a bread. Second, you may have better luck with some recipes than others. The first bread I tried from this book was too salty, because I hadn't followed my own advice and read through the entire method before trying a recipe--all the recipes advise the use of kosher salt, and I used table salt; two teaspoons of table salt is a lot more salt than two teaspoons of kosher salt. The second recipe, a rye bread, was fine but not spectacular. A buttermilk bread that I tried next was excellent, as have been the brioche and cheddar breads. That's a good enough percentage to justify purchase of the book, I think, especially if you relish the idea of having bread dough on the ready in the refrigerator.

Vermont Cheddar Bread
3 c. lukewarm water
1 1/2 T. instant yeast
1 1/2 T. kosher salt
1 1/2 T. sugar
6 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 c. good quality sharp, aged Cheddar

1. Mix all ingredients, either by hand, or using the dough hook of a heavy-duty mixer. You don't have to knead; just make sure all flour is incorporated. This is a wet dough.

2. Cover, not airtight, and let rest at room temperature about two hours. Dough should rise and start to collapse. Refrigerate in a covered (but not airtight) container, and use within 7 days. (I made the bread on the third day and it had a very slight tanginess).

3. On baking day, cut off a one-pound, grapefruit-sized piece of dough. Dust with flour and shape into a ball. Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for one hour.

4. Preheat oven to 450, putting a broiler pan or cookie tray (with sides) on the bottom of the oven or the lowest shelf, and a baking stone on the lowest or next-t-the-lowest shelf--depending on where the pan is.

5. Just before baking, slash the bread with a razor or sharp knife. Or not.

6. Slide loaf directly on the hot stone. Pour one cup hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door. Bake for about 25 minutes.


Melinda said...

Now that I am locked up here at the Ski lodge in Checkendon, I should try this 5 minute artisan bread that has been all the rage.
That bread looks quite beautiful with it's au naturel slash.
Cheese bread sounds like good comfort food for here at the lodge.

Anonymous said...

Although I'm always a bit nervous using recipes written in volume, I think I will give this one a go! It looks so good and seems EASY(famous last words!!). Like Melinda, I am more or less a prisoner in the house, we have quite a it of snow, for us anyway, but the main reason being that our roads are not so good, only the main ones have been cleared. The cost of machinery to keep our roads clear is too much for little ole Britain! Jeannette.

breadbasketcase said...

Yes, and if you use Vermont cheddar, you could pretend you were at a Vermont ski lodge, although that might not be as romantic as the Checkendon Chalet.

breadbasketcase said...

Sorry I was too lazy to convert the measurements to weight. The only thing that irritates about this cookbook is the lack of weight measurements. That was the cause of my too-salty bread, which I believe I ranted about at some length in my original post.
Minnesota is pretty good about keeping the roads clear of snow, but at this point in the season, the roads are filled with mammoth potholes caused by the freezing and thawing, so it's still dangerous driving.
The bread really is easy.

evil cake lady said...

Marie, good for you for not telling everyone about your plans for slashing the bread! I actually like the au naturel slashes. You lawyers sure know how to throw down at an office party! Makes me wish I worked in an office.

breadbasketcase said...

You could be the official doula for our office, which has been very fertile in the last few years, and, as such, you would be invited to all the potlucks.

Doughadear said...

I think I may just go out and purchase this book. The cheese bread looks so good, very artisan like. How great to have a ChiliFest at work to bring some fun to the work place. This is a good time of year for chili, when it is cold outside and you want to stay warm inside. I made chili for Superbowl Sunday and it was very good accompanied with Rose's Best Buns which I make regularly. The recipe for the buns was in the Washington Post, May 23, 2007 in case you are interested. If you can't find it I'll send it to you.

breadbasketcase said...

Thanks. I just found the recipe and printed it out. It looks wonderful; I'm going to save it for our first hamburger barbecue of the season--which I may have to push a little in order to make these buns. Right now, though, the Weber is still covered with snow. Do you include the mixed seeds in the dough?

Doughadear said...

I've made the recipe with the seeds but usually make them without. I make these almost on a weekly basis. I shape them into 72gr portions, roll them in a round balls and place them into a 13 x 9 pan. When they have risen ready for baking I brush them with milk and sprinkle half of them with sesame seeds and the other half with poppy seeds for some variations. Then I slash each bun and bake. They are really really good. I'll send you a picture.

Melinda said...

Marie, I made the cheese bread for dinner this evening. Of course, I had a hard time finding Vermont Cheese here so I just had to use regular old deepest and darkest Oxfordshire cheese that was to hand!
It was delicious and I am looking forward to using up the rest of my dough.
It's really puffed up in the fridge already. I hope it doesn't overflow in the night! (hmm, that 1 1/2 instant yeast is a Tablespoon, right?)

breadbasketcase said...

Yes, it's a tablespoon and a half--a lot of yeast! It bubbles and burbles even in the refrigerator, but I don't think it will spill out and take over. It sounds like it could be a horror movie--The Cheese bread that ate Checkendon!
I suppose you didn't forget to slash it prettily?

Lillie said...

Is there an alternative to using a baking stone? I don't have one, but this bread is calling my name :)

Lillie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am glad that you started posting recipes. I think people read blogs for the stories AND the recipes. I had stopped reading your blog for a while but now i'm back and I'll be trying some of these recipes.

breadbasketcase said...

The baking stone helps form a crust, especially on free-form breads, but it's not necessary. You'll still get a good loaf of bread just putting it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

That's good to know. I sometimes wonder if I'm wasting my time typing out the recipes, but I'm glad to do it if it's helpful. Some of the books have so much explanation, though, that a single recipe doesn't seem to do the book justice.

Bunny said...

You are a riot I love reading your blog! I made some of this dough up, it's in the fridge and will be baked off tomorrow, yours looks so darn good! My hubby was hungry for pizza yesterday and since I had this dough mixed up I took a hunk off and make pizza with it, it's not the dough for pizza but I did it anyway. I'm such a rebel. Anyway, it wasn't as elastic as the pizza dough would be , it took a little He said it was nice and soft! bit to get it stretched out to a , probably medium size pizza and baked it. Hubby loved it!!

Lillie said...

Thanks! I just baked homemade bread for the first time last weekend and I want to try another recipe this weekend. This Vermont Cheese Bread is the front runner at this time.

breadbasketcase said...

I don't think it would have occurred to me to use it for pizza dough. I'll bet that even if it wasn't quite traditional, it still had a good taste.

Congratuations! I hope you enjoyed the results and keep on baking--you'll like the cheese bread.

pinknest said...

brioche and cheddar breads?! *sigh* you had me at...bread.

jini said...

i'm back from warm and now it's melting and pretty ugly here. brown is not so purty as white! sorry the brits are that from work too i wonder? that would make it better.
i confess that i forgot to slash one time too. i was concentrating on the cornmeal on the peel and heating the stone and forgot the slash. oh well. it was still yummy.

breadbasketcase said...

Melting is never ugly--it's a harbinger of spring! If forgetting to slash the top of the bread were the worst mistake I ever made, I'd be happy. Welcome back!

jini said...

thanks for the welcome back. :) you have a lot more faith than i if you think melt is a sign of spring. our "lake" out by the shed is frozen again today and i imagine we are still due several inches of snow before we see spring. does that mean my cup is half empty?

breadbasketcase said...

It must mean that you don't hate winter as much as I do--I have to give myself a lot of encouragement to keep from sinking into winter depression.

Anonymous said...


If you go to the website for the book, it has a list of "errors"; the most important one of which is using TWO (2) tablespoons of yeast throughout the book when it calls for "1 1/2".

I hated to bake bread; even with the bread machine doing most of the work. I just did not enjoy it and was convinced I was missing the "bread gene".

After this book, not only do I bake bread a minimum of twice a week, but I'm really loving it! I read a lot of comments about not only this book, but others on Amazon which is where I came across the website and the list of "errors". There aren't many "errors", but the amount of yeast is a biggie. The website also has additional adaptations and recipes.

This book makes it so easy. It's almost embarrassing the kudos I get - even after I tell people how easy it is.

Hope this helps and all the best! Barbara

breadbasketcase said...

Thanks for pointing out the "errors" section on the web site. It would be maddening to go through all the edits for a cookbook and then discover you'd still made mistakes! You've written a great testimonial for this book--they should put you on the cover for the next edition.

Jackie said...

Actually Anonymous misread the correction in the error section. This is what it says:
Throughout the book we call for “1 1/2 tablespoons of yeast (1 1/2 packets).” It should read “1 1/2 tablespoons of yeast (2 packets).”
The recipe in the book calls for putting the stone on the lowest shelf but I did that with my first cheese loaf and it almost burned in 20 minutes. I have two more loaves ready to go into the oven and I'm putting the stone a bit higher up this time.

breadbasketcase said...

You're right--that makes more sense now that I think about it because otherwise the yeast amount would be significantly off in every one of their recipes. I put the bread on the lowest shelf--with some trepidation--but when I use the convection bake setting on my oven, I've had almost no problems with burning.

Jenny said...

Like Jackie, I can't put my stone on the lowest rack. I did it once and the bottom burned. I figured out the "2 packs of yeast" error a couple of weeks ago after measuring it when one and a half packs didn't seem to be enough yeast.

breadbasketcase said...

I can't say enough good things about my convection oven--it has virtually made burnt loaves a thing of the past. (Knock on wood).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this excellent recipe! I've made 2 loaves thus far from one recipe and the rest is still in the refrigerator. I, like others, don't have a baking stone or pizza peel so I had to improvise. I plonked the dough into a bread pan, let it rise and baked it as per a "normal" loaf. Absolutely delish I tell you. Think that I'll have this sitting around on a daily basis :)
Keep them coming.....we appreciate it. Carey, South Africa.