I didn't think I'd have time to bake bread this weekend, but we were having guests over for appetizers in the afternoon and I wanted to serve something I'd baked. When I ran across this recipe, it seemed perfect: it looked pretty fast and easy, and so full of flavor that it wouldn't much much matter that it hadn't had a long, slow rise for subtle flavor development. With 2 teaspoons black pepper and 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, this was not, I predicted, going to be a subtle bread! Nor was it. But it was very good in it unsubtle, but tasty, way.
Even after being kneaded by machine for five minutes, the dough was still too sticky, so I kneaded in more flour by hand,
and then flattened it out and sprinkled half the cheese on top.
This cheese is so orange it looks like grated carrots, but it's not.
More kneading, more flattening, more cheese.
You can see the little bits of cheese that have already been mixed in. It takes only about 45 minutes for the dough to double in size--ready to be shaped into a ball.
Another 45 minutes for it to be nice and puffy,
And ready for the slash-and-brush treatment.
I'm crazy about the shine you get with an egg glaze. Sometimes I wish I could brush an egg glaze on everything I make, but I don't because I'm a conformist at heart. Also, I suppose it would get a little monotonous.
I was just a bit worried about serving this bread to our friends because I just wasn't sure how the three teaspoons of pepper were going to play out in a loaf of bread. I pictured Bill and MaryAnn taking a bite of bread and spitting it out. Then I pictured myself getting angry because they spit out my bread, and pictured Jim trying to make peace. Fortunately, none of that picturing actually happened. The bread had a lovely peppery bite, but it wasn't at all overpowering and went very well with the tangy bits of cheddar.
I tried it the next day, toasted, as the base for a fried egg sandwich, and that was an inspired combination. All you have to do is have the courage to toss in a full tablespoon of peppers into a standard white bread dough, and you end up with a nice accompaniment to appetizers, a way to upgrade a plain dinner, or a surprisingly good piece of toast.
PEPPERED CHEESE BREAD
--from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison
1 1/3 cups milk
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 beaten egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1. Mix milk, yeast, salt, peppers, flour, and all but one tablespoon of the beaten egg into the bowl of a stand mixer.
2. Knead on medium speed for about five minutes. If it is still sticky, turn the dough out onto a floured counter and finish kneading until dough is smooth and workable.
3. Flatten dough and scatter half the cheese over it. Knead dough until cheese is mixed in, then flatten again, and add the rest of the cheese. Knead until all cheese is incorporated. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Turn once, then cover and set aside until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes to an hour.
4. Push the dough down, then turn it out onto the counter. Shape it into a tight ball. Cover and set aside until doubled in bulk again, about 45 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 375. (Optional: put baking stone on shelf in lower third of oven and let the stone preheat as well).
6. Slash an X in the top of the bread and brush with the reserved beaten egg.
7. Bake about 45 minutes, and turn onto a rack to cool.