by: Lianna Lee
Pie crust, a loaf of respectable bread, pasta, challah and the perfect cookie are kitchen experiments we have all endeavored to create. Sometimes dough is an elastic beautiful mass to hold, and other times you are stuck with a messy kitchen and a mediocre letdown.
I’m a 20-something, learning how to balance a local diet with the realities of my food budget. This year I have been baking to save money and eat well. The satisfaction of pulling something that is fragrantly comforting out of my oven, be it banana muffins or chili cheese bread rocks my world. Join me as I experiment with dough recipes pulled from cookbooks, blogs, and family recipes. I mess up. I forget to sift and level the flour. I throw in spices on a whim. As the Nike saying goes, ‘Just Do It.’ Just read through the recipe, take a deep breath, and bake something you didn’t think you could.
So now that I’ve given you the pre-kitchen mess pep talk it’s time to tackle something most of us fear: Bread. Even the most competent cooks I’ve known have shied away from this form of dough, citing yeast rise times and kneading as their main worries. Bread is intimidating because people speak of the bread making process in the reverent tones we usually reserve for Yoda and religion. Most of my friends who love making their own meals have never attempted bread and for the longest time I was in this camp. It’s time to make a Chili Cheese loaf that will grant you bread making street cred with your family, friends, and most importantly yourself.
I decided to cross over to the bread-making side with something easy, or as Nany Baggett would say, “Kneadlessly Simple” in her bread book that employs a no knead method. From start to finish her recipes usually call for 14-36 hours of rising, depending on if you refrigerate your dough or leave it out at room temperature. If we’re splitting hairs, there is some kneading involved but it’s quite minimal. Initially I was skeptical because isn’t bread all about the kneading? But then my lazier side took over and I decided if it’s a total flop I’d only have wasted about 25 minutes of active time in my life. The Duxbury Library has a copy of her book if you are interested in learning more.
- 3 1/2 cups (17.5 ounces) unbleached white bread flour, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
- 1 teaspoon instant, fast-rising, or bread machine yeast
- 2 tablespoons corn oil, canola oil, or other flavorless vegetable oil, plus extra for coating dough top and baking pan
- 1 2/3 cups ice water, plus more if needed
- 8 ounces (3 lightly packed cups) coarsely grated very sharp cheddar cheese, preferably white cheddar
- 1/2 cup very well-drained and patted dry chopped canned green chiles
Recipe edits: I added 1 T of red chili flakes into the dough, and used a cup each of Cabot VT sharp cheddar, Cabot jalapeno cheddar, and Stop and Shop’s three cheese blend. I diced the Cabot cheeses into small cubes and this resulted in bread that was filled with pockets of cheesy goodness.
Directions (lengthy, but worth reading!):
First rise: In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. In another bowl or measuring cup, whisk the oil into the water. Thoroughly stir the oil/water mixture into the bowl with the flour, scraping down the sides until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. If the mixture is too dry to incorporate all the flour, stir in, a bit at a time, just enough additional ice water to blend the ingredients; don’t over-moisten, as the dough should be stiff. If necessary, stir in a little more flour to stiffen it. Brush or spray the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. If desired, for best flavor or for convenience, you can refrigerate the dough for 3 to 10 hours. Then let rise at cool room temperature for 15 to 20 hours. IF convenient, stir the dough once partway through the rise.
Second rise: Vigorously stir the dough, gradually sprinkling over and incorporating the cheese and chiles. Fold them in very thoroughly to ensure they are evenly distributed. If necessary, thoroughly stir in a little more flour to yield a very stiff dough. Using a well-oiled rubber spatula, fold the dough in towards the center, working all the way around the bowl. Invert the dough into a well-greased 9×5-inch loaf pan. Evenly brush or spray the dough top with oil. Using well-oiled kitchen shears or a serrated knife, make a 1/4-inch-deep slash lengthwise down the center of the loaf. Cover the pan with nonstick spray-coated plastic wrap.
Let rise using any of these methods: For a 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-hour regular rise, let stand at warm room temperature; for a 1- to 2-hour accelerated rise, let stand in a turned-off microwave along with 1 cup of boiling-hot water; or for an extended rise, refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours, then set out at room temperature. Continue the rise until the dough nears the plastic. Remove it and continue until the dough reached 1/2 inch above the pan rim.
Baking preliminaries: 15 minutes before baking time, place a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 425°F.
Baking: Reduce the heat to 400°F. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is nicely browned; cover the top with foil as needed (I didn’t bother with this step). Continue baking for 20 to 30 minutes longer, or until a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few particles clinging to the bottom (or until the center registers 204 to 206°F Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer). Then bake for 5 minutes more to be sure the center is done. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn out the loaf onto the rack; cool thoroughly.
Baggett recommends baking this in a bread pan but lacking an appropriate pan, I used my big Cuisinart pot and it cooked up nicely. Remember to coat the bottom of your pot with canola oil otherwise removing the bread from the pot will be very difficult.
I’ve made this loaf twice and my second time around chose to cube some of the cheese because if you grate the cheese it imbues the loaf with an intense cheese flavor, but none of the satisfaction of biting into melted cheddar, which is the only logical reason for making a cheese filled bread.
So I encourage you to go forth and make bread, and to conquer any lingering doubts you have about your bread making skills.This loaf will be gone in under 24-hours, I promise.
***If after reading this you’re craving bread but don’t have any interest in making some, excellent loaves of chili cheese bread can be found at Blue Blinds Bakery in Plymouth, and Hearth Wood Fired Bread off of Exit 5.
Lianna Lee is a 20-something graduate of Mount Holyoke College, where she earned a degree in Environmental Studies. Currently she is serving as an AmeriCorps member with the Wildlands Trust as their Outreach Coordinator. Lee’s 2013 food goals include making gelato, successfully growing tomatoes, and eating a sublime bowl of chowdah.