Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cheddar French Bread

Prepared by Debbie

This is a variation of All That Splatter's Cheddar Jalapeno Bread...basically I prepared the recipe the same as hers except I eliminated the Jalapeno peppers and added a bit more cheddar cheese than what the recipe calls for.

Note: Don't let the preparation steps intimidate you - it looks more complicated than what it really is ... making bread is quite easy.

3-1/2 cups bread flour
2-1/2 teaspoons (note: 1 packet of yeast is usually 2-1/4 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons salt
1-1/3 cups cold water, plus additional 1/3 cup cold water
4 ounces cheddar cheese
optional: 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, minced, or 4 tablespoons pickled jalapeno peppers, minced

Place the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of the food process (I used my kitchen aid). Pulse to mix. Add 1-1/3 cups of water and process until the dough comes together. If the dough doesn't form a ball, add a little of the extra water. Process for about 60 seconds, turn off machine and let dough rest for 5 minutes.

Turn on the machine again and rotate the dough about 30 times under the cover, and then remove it to a lightly floured work surface. it should be fairly smooth and quite firm.

Let the dough rest for 2 minutes and then knead roughly and vigorously. The final dough should not stick to your hands as you knead (although it will stick if you pinch and hold a piece); it should be smooth and elastic and, when you hold it up between your hands and stretch it down, it should hold together smoothly.

Preliminary rise - 40 to 60 minutes at around 75°F. Place the dough into a clean dry bowl, (do not grease the bowl), cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place free from drafts. (Note the French do not grease the bowl because they believe the dough needs a seat to push up from.) This first rise is sufficient when the dough has definitely started to rise and is about 1-1/2 times its original volume.

Turn the dough onto your lightly floured work surface roughly and firmly pat and push it out into a 14-inch rectangle. Fold one of the long sides over toward the middle, and the other long side over to cover it, making a 3 layer cushion. Repeat the operation. This important step redistributes the yeast throughout the dough, for a strong second rise. Return the dough smooth side up the bowl; cover with plastic wrap and again set to rise.

Second rise in the bowl - about 1 to 1-1/2 hours or longer. The bread should be 2-1/2 to 3 times its original bulk. It is the amount of rise that is important here, not the timing. (very important step...this step took longer than the time indicated...about 2 hours..it depends on how warm your house is, etc.)

Cut the dough in half. Set one piece aside and cover with a towel. On a lightly floured work surface pat the dough into a 14-inch rectangle, squaring it up as evenly as you can. Distribute half of the cheese and the jalapenos (if using) and press lightly into dough. Lengthwise, roll dough up, pinching to seal the long edge and the ends. Curl the dough around itself, snail-like, pinching the end of the dough to the loaf. Flatten slightly. Repeat with other half of dough.

Last rise - Cover dough with plastic wrap or loosely with a towel and let rise to more than double again at about 75°f.

Place baking stone in oven and preheat oven to 500 F. Place on the hot stone. Immediately toss a number of ice cubes on to the bottom on the oven to create steam. Bake until bread is golden brown and has an interior temp of 200°F. Takes about 20 - 30 minutes.

Note on baking: I baked mine at 350 degrees for the first 10 minutes then turned the oven to 500 degrees and baked 15 more minutes. (I did this to prevent burning)


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