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The Jewish New Year has not begun well. The barbaric attack on unarmed Israeli civilians and guest workers by Hamas has shocked most civilized people in its level of brutality. For the Jewish People, the rising anti-Semitism coupled with this massacre is something that we never hoped to see again and has left many of us feeling vulnerable – and angry.
In this divisive world filled with so much hate, what makes me feel safe? When I am anxious, a large pot of soup on my stove and fresh bread in my oven calms me – at least for a time. Right now I have a large pot of my Split Pea Soup on the stove and this Cheese Bread is in the oven. It won’t solve the world’s problems. However, it warms the chills in my body that are only partly from the damp, autumn weather.
The act of chopping vegetables is very therapeutic as is kneading bread dough. And my house smells warm, comforting and inviting. So when so much is beyond my control, I can take at least take command of a small piece of my world. Feeding my family well is my love language.
The original recipe for this Cheese Bread comes from Beard on Bread, with a few tweaks by me. This bread toasts wonderfully and is perfect for sandwiches or to accompany the soup of your choice. As you can see, I’m no professional when it comes to forming the loaves, but it doesn’t prevent us from gobbling up this delicious bread.
Yield: Two 8 x 4-inch loaves
1 package (2.25 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar (I actually used Demerara since it was already out on my counter)
1.75 cups warm water (Tap water that is just warm to your fingers is perfect.)
5 + cups of Artisan Bread Flour (I like Bob’s Mill), although all-purpose or regular bread flour will also work
1 scant Tablespoon kosher salt
4 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted, softened butter
1 teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce
1 cup of freshly grated cheese (You can use cheddar, Emmenthaler, Compte, Parmesan etc. – a combination OR any one cheese.)
This can all be done by hand, but I used a standing mixer.
Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of the warm water along with the sugar. Set aside and allow to proof for about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl or the bowl of your mixer, add 5 cups of the flour and the salt. Stir through and then add the softened butter, the remaining 1.5 cups of warm water, the hot sauce and the yeast mixture.
If you are using a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix everything on the lowest speed. Once you have a shaggy dough (1 or 2 minutes) turn the speed up to the second level and knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Don’t add any water or flour yet! It takes a minute or two for the dough to really start to come together. Depending on the kind of flour used, you may not need to add any additional flour or water. I did not. If you feel that the dough is really too wet, then add flour, a little at a time. If the dough REALLY seems too dry after a few minutes of kneading, then add water, one Tablespoon at a time. Scrape down the sides if necessary. As soon as the dough looks supple and smooth, stop the kneading and remove the dough from the dough hook. Place it on the counter and form it into a smooth ball.
If you are doing this by hand, mix with a wooden spoon or dough whisk until a shaggy dough begins to form. Then turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 to 12 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Depending on the kind of flour used, you may not need to add any flour.
Using about 1 Tablespoon of a neutral oil, coat a large bowl. I use the same bowl I mixed the dough in because who wants to wash more dishes!? Then take your dough ball and roll it in the oil.
Cover the bowl with a towel or silicone lid and place in a warm, draft-free place. I usually use my microwave, but I’ve seen people use their dryer or in a corner on their stove. Allow the dough to rise for about 1.5 to 2 hours until doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and turn it onto a floured surface. Knead in the grated cheese, until thoroughly incorporated. Then cut the dough into 2 equal pieces and allow the pieces to rest, for about 10 minutes. This allows the dough to relax, which makes it easier to roll out.
Now roll out each piece of the dough into an 11 x 6-inch rectangle and allow these to rest for about 3 minutes. Starting with the short end of the dough, tightly roll each rectangle up, pinching the edges as you go. Then tuck under the ends so that you end up with a loaf that measures 4.5 x 7.5- inches.
Place the dough into two well-buttered or oiled baking tins. Place the tins in a warm, draft-free spot. Allow the loaves to rise to the top of the tin or even slightly above. Depending on how warm your place is, this will take about 30 to 45 minutes or a bit longer.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F with a rack in the middle of the oven. When the loaves have risen, bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when you rap on the tops and bottoms with your knuckles or a wooden spoon. Take the loaves and place them directly (out of the tins) onto the oven rack and continue baking for 3 to 5 minutes more to firm up the crusts. Cool the breads completely before cutting.