I’ve recently discovered the PBS America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country half-hour cooking shows and have been sucked in by the wonderful recipes they make. The recipes are tested over and over until they get what they think is the perfect version of a recipe and then show you step-by-step how to make it and why it works. I saw this Spicy Cheese Bread and knew I had to make it.
The result was a crusty loaf of bread with a soft, pepper-flaked, cheesy inside.
The Cook’s Country recipe facts said that they had tested 60 different versions before they came up with this loaf. It’s interesting that they use provolone and Monterey Jack cheese – I probably would’ve chosen mozzarella – but it works beautifully. They emphasize to make sure the cubed cheese is at room temperature so it won’t slow the rising process. The provolone is fairly, uh, fragrant when at room temperature and I was worried my bread would be stinky (who wants stinky bread?), but not to worry; both cheeses melted and blended and the result was a (non-stinky) wonderful loaf of perfect cheese bread!
I followed the recipe exactly, including the full amount of red pepper flakes. Surprisingly, it doesn’t make the bread too hot – just a kick from the sprinkle on the crust, and it adds a great layer of flavor to the bread.
When you make this, put aside most of the day. After making the dough, it has to rise about 1 1/2 hours, then you work with it and create the spiral (easier than you think). It goes into a pan for a final rise, then it bakes for 45 to 50 minutes. It is very worth it though. If you are making this for a dinner, make it the same day and serve warm – it’s best the first day. To warm it up, lightly butter the slices and put under the broiler or in a toaster oven for a minute or two.
****Wonderfully cheesy yeast bread with a little kick from the red pepper flakes. Outstanding.
- 3 1/4 C all-purpose flour (16 1/4 oz)
- 1/4 C sugar (1 3/4 oz)
- 1 tbsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 C warm water (about 110°)
- 2 large eggs plus 1 extra yolk
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 6 oz Monterey Jack cheese cut into 1/2" cubes, room temp.
- 6 oz provolone cheese cut into 1/2" cubes, room temp.
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter softened
Bread: Whisk the flour, sugar, yeast, pepper flakes, and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a separate bowl, whisk together water, eggs and yolk, and melted butter. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Fit dough hook to mixer and knead on medium speed for about 8 minutes. Dough will have cleared the bottom and sides of the bowl.
Transfer dough to unfloured counter, shape into a ball, and transfer to a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Grease a 9" round cake pan very well. Transfer the dough to unfloured counter and press to deflate. Roll dough into 18x12" rectangle with long side parallel to counter's edge. Distribute the cheese cubes evenly over the dough, leaving about a 1" border around the edges. Starting with edge closest to you, roll dough rather tightly into a log. Pinch seam and ends to seal, then roll log so seam is side down. Roll log back and forth on counter, applying gentle, even pressure until log reaches 30 inches in length. If any tears occur, pinch to seal.
Starting at one end, wind the log into a coil; tuck the ends underneath the coil. Place loaf into prepared cake pan (seam down if possible) and cover loosely with clean dish towel. Let rise in warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350°.
For the topping: Brush top of the loaf with egg, then sprinkle with pepper flakes. Place cake pan on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until loaf is golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Rotate the loaf, tent with aluminum foil, and continue to bake until loaf registers 190°, 25-30 minutes longer.
Transfer pan to wire rack and brush bread with butter. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the bread. Gently lift the bread out of the pan and onto a rack, using a spatula to help it out and support it. Let cool for about 30 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.
Tips and Stuff:
I stuck very closely to the recipe. Please note that the yeast is a little more than one packet! Measure the tablespoon out carefully.
I did find that after the rise in the pan, the dough was a bit thin in some places, so I tucked it in so the cheese wouldn't spill out.
Do use the rimmed pan (cookie sheet) under the cake pan while baking because the cheese does spill over the edges a little.
My cooking times were 20 minutes, then tented with aluminum foil, then 25 minutes longer and it was done.
Do use the pepper flakes. Surprisingly, it doesn't make the bread real spicy and adds a good flavor.
After using the knife to loosen around the edges, I used a spatula and scooted it under the bread all the way around before lifting it out. Even then, a bit stuck, but not too badly.