Yeast #8: Easy no-knead cheese bread

057In January, I committed to making something with yeast every month to get over my phobia of yeast.  This month’s yeast adventure is very much “of” this month.  August is one of the craziest work months for me and I spend most of the month spinning.  As noted elsewhere, I am still cooking as much as I can, but it’s more for survival and to stay away from scary fast foods.  There’s almost no time to do any writing about food or cooking.

Enter this month’s yeast recipe:  no-knead cheese bread.  A couple of months ago I had alluded to wanting to make bread with cornmeal and with cheese.  Last month was the cornmeal which turned out to be harder than it had to be due to my own issues.  This month was the cheese.  The best part of this month’s recipe is that it was the easiest and least time consuming yeast recipe so far.

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The only thing that took a little planning was chopping up and cooking 1/2 cup finely minced onion and 3-4 cloves of minced garlic.  Once tender, you set it aside to cool while you do the rest of the prep.

The whole mess basically mixes up like a quick bread — no heating of the liquid, no proofing of the yeast.  In a big bowl, you mix the dry ingredients.

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 package of instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 c. shredded or diced cheddar, provolone or swiss cheese (I used bagged, pre-shredded cheddar to make my life easier)
  • I put in a bit of thyme and oregano**

044** The original recipe noted something called “pizza dough flavor” and adding 1 tablespoon of it to the dry ingredients.  I did google it later, but in the moment when I didn’t have it and didn’t really want to think to hard on it, I improvised.  When I think of pizza dough flavor, I was thinking herbs so I added in the thyme and oregano just by eye.  I’m guessing it was less than half a teaspoon of each.  I think my choice was delicious, but it would have been fine to leave out the herbs AND not add pizza dough flavor.

In the bowl of dry ingredients, I made a little well.  To this I added the wet ingredients:

  • The slightly cooled onion/garlic mixture
  • 2 large eggs, slightly mixed
  • 1 1/4 c. milk, straight from the carton and the fridge

I suppose things would have worked just a bit better to heat the milk a little or to let it come a bit to room temperature, but the recipe didn’t note that and I was curious to see what would happen.

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And then you mix.  It’s very lumpy and gets pretty thick.  The recipe says to beat well for 2-3 minutes.  I’m guessing I gave it a good stir for about a minute.  It’s just too thick and heavy to do much more mixing by hand.  It’s possible the extra mixing would produce a slightly smoother loaf (a bit of “kneading” in a no-knead bread), but I was happy with my dough’s look.

028Here’s the best part.  No shaping.  You just scoop all of the batter into a pan that has been sprayed with a bit of oil.  The idea is then to let the batter rise in the pan in which it will bake.  In the recipe, the process of rising is estimated at 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  In about an hour, my bread had not done much rising.  I heated my oven just slightly, turned it off and put the loaf into the oven to rise.  When it was almost to the top of the pan (a bit over 2 hours for me), I took it out to preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

045I baked the bread for just 40 minutes but the recipe says 40-50 minutes.  I think it really depends on your oven.  My bread top wasn’t super brown but the sides and bottom of the loaf were brown.  I did a check at 20 minutes just to make sure the top wasn’t burning and tented it with foil as directed in the recipe to keep the top from over browning.

I let the full loaf cool once out of the pan (about 10 minutes of rest from the oven).  It’s a lovely, golden color.  The cheese flavor is present but not overly so and it toasts up 040very nicely.  The quick bread-like top as it goes into the oven leaves a bit of a craggy surface for texture and crunch.  The yeast makes for a firmer bread slice — unlike a quick bread, you can slice pretty thin slices which still hold up in a toaster.

I wonder if this technique might be applied to other quick breads to produce a yeast bread version.  A pumpkin bread, for example, that could hold up to a toaster would be delightful.

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True to form, most of this bread has been eaten as toast.  With butter and honey, the sweet is a nice complement to the cheese and herbs of the bread.  I made the loaf about 2 weeks ago.  I ate half that week and put the other half in the freezer for later.  Later 090turned out to be today.  I started eating on the second half today for breakfast.  Toasted cheese bread, butter, and honey.  Or toasted bread, cream cheese and fresh tomato.  My versions of heaven!

 

Busy schedule, simple cooking

016It never fails.  August hits and it feels to me like the world is on vacation, but due to the nature and timing of my work, I’m in full swing and panic.  It means there’s not a lot of time for cooking.  And even when there is time for cooking, there’s not a lot of time for writing.

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So today, a simple salute to the glory of a summer tomato and the simplest sandwich ever.  It might be my imagination, but I think the ugliest tomatoes make the best sandwiches — something about the weird bits you have to cut out that seems to make what’s left taste even better.

Ingredients:  bread of your choice toasted, lots of mayo on both pieces of bread, salt and pepper on the mayo on both pieces of bread, lovely summer tomatoes.  Put halves together and enjoy as mayo and tomato juice runs down your hands, arms and chin.

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That’s it.  The best and simplest cooking in summer and a perfect way to cope with hot weather.  I’m guessing I’ve had this sandwich at least a half a dozen times this month.  At any time of day for any meal.

011Buen provecho!  Enjoy your meal.