Cheddar Parmesan Bread — From Scratch!

You’ve heard me say that I’m not much of a baker and I’m petrified by yeast.  Sixteen years ago, I attempted bread from scratch and fell flat on my newlywed face.  A total failure.  My brand-new husband and I laughed it off as we both nearly broke our teeth on the rock solid brick I presented.  And I hung up any further hopes of the irresistible smell of bread baking in my kitchen.  Recently however,  my next door neighbor Fred – who bakes bread for a hobby when he’s not bringing new babies into the world – has inspired me to give it a go again. 

Also, at Thanksgiving I confessed to my sister in law Barb that I was scared of yeast, and she looked at me like I had three heads.  And I felt like a total moron.  Because Barb hasn’t bought a loaf of bread in over 20 years!  I decided then and there that it was time to confront my fears.  And I was very, very afraid.

“Are you a man or a mouse?  Or a woman or a wouse?”

Movie line, anyone?  Anyone?  Buehler?

So, earlier in the week was my first attempt at this bread (vegetable soup night).  Sadly, I flunked again.  It tasted fine (good, even), but it didn’t rise the way it was supposed to.  But I was not discouraged!  Yesterday, I was back in the kitchen to give it another go.

Will you take a gander at what I turned out with my own two hands?!  I baked this bread all by myself and it’s awesome, man!  Golly, I haven’t been this proud of myself since I landed a toe loop in the fourth grade.

This bread is supposed to have three minced jalapenos in it, but in the interest of being family friendly, I left them out.  I’m sure they would be delicious though.  This is wonderful served warm with the vegetable soup (or any soup).  It’s also terrific toasted and buttered for breakfast, as we had it this morning.

Fear not the yeast, my friends!  If I can do it, so can you!

Makes 1 large or 2 smaller loaves

1 t. active dry yeast
¼ t. sugar
1 ¾ c. plus 1 T. warm water (105-115 F)
4 c. all purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
1 ½ t. salt
¼ c. olive oil
5 oz. coarsely grated Cheddar (Sendik’s Brand Cheddar is on sale)
¾ c. finely grated Parmesan (Sendik’s Brand Parmesan is on sale)
1 egg, beaten

Special equipment:  stand mixer with dough hook

Stir together yeast and sugar with 1 tablespoon warm water in a small bowl; let mixture stand for 10 minutes, or until foamy.  If yeast doesn’t foam, discard mixture and start over.

Mix together flour, salt, oil, yeast mixture, and remaining 1+ cups warm water in bowl of mixer at low speed until a soft dough forms.  Increase speed to medium high and beat 3 minutes longer.  Add 1 ½ c. Cheddar and ½ c. Parmesan and mix until combined.

Coat a large mixing bowl with cooking spray.  Scrape dough into mixing bowl and sprinkle lightly with flour.  Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth) to keep a crust from forming and let the dough rise in a draft free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 2 – 2 ½ hours.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and gently form into a roughly 11×8” rectangle with floured hands.

Fold into thirds (like a letter) with floured hands (dough will be sticky), pressing along seam of each fold to seal.

Put dough, seam side down, in an oiled 9×5” loaf pan (or, divide it into 2 smaller loaf pans).  Cover pan(s) with same clean dish towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until dough completely fills pan and rises above it slightly, 1 – 1 ¼ hours.

Preheat oven to 400.  Brush loaf with egg, then sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons Cheddar and remaining ¼ cup Parmesan down center of loaf(ves).

Bake until bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, 50 minutes to 1 hour.  Run a knife around edge of pan to loosen loaf, then remove from pan.  Return bread (not in pan) to oven and turn on its side, them bake 10 minutes longer to crisp crust.  Cool completely on a rack, about an hour.  Slice and serve.

Featured, Fresh, Frugal, Fabulous | January 6th, 2011