Recipe 45: Cheese and Herb Bread

At this time of year when winter has us by the short and curlies a nice hearty loaf of bread with a steaming bowl of hot soup or stew certainly hits the spot. On the agenda this evening is a Chicken and Barley Soup with Cheese and Herb Bread. Now I’m a bit of a cheater. I own a bread machine and I love it. It is the most delightful appliance for creating luscious breads and pastries without all the work. I NEVER actually use it for baking the bread. I find you get a much superior loaf by removing it and allowing it to rise a second time in a pizza or loaf pan. It is the most wondrous thing for cutting out all the arduous kneading and proofing involved when hand making bread. The machine does it all in an hour and a half which I love and YES it is easy to make your own bread. Simple and wholesome. So get out your ingredients, put on that apron and GO all grandma in the kitchen!

Earliest archaeological evidence of cheesemaking has been found in Egyptian tomb murals, dating back to somewhere around 2000 BCE. The earliest cheeses are believed to have been quite sour and salty, similar to rustic cottage cheese or feta. In the Late Bronze Age Minoan-Mycenaean Crete, Linear B tablets have revealed the inventorying of cheese, as well as flocks and shepherds.

Cheeses produced in cooler climates require less salt for preservation then those produced in places such as the Middle East. With less salt and acidity, the cheese became a suitable environment for useful microbes and molds, giving aged cheeses their pronounced and interesting flavors. Cheese such Roquefort are not produced in these areas.

Prep Time: 2 hours, 35 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp olive oil (any vegetable oil will work)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 cups of unbleached flour (you can substitute 1 cup of white flour for wholewheat flour or oatmeal)
1 cup old cheddar, grated
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp yeast (bread machine yeast if you are using machine)
1/4 old cheddar, Parmesan or other sharp cheese for garnish
1 tbsp melted butter for glaze

Directions

Add ingredients to bread machine in order above. Set machine to dough setting and allow to process until complete. Remove dough from machine and turn onto lightly floured board. Gently knead into an egg shape.  Brush melted butter over surface of bread then sprinkle additional cheese on top of loaf and press down lightly so cheese sticks to top.

Allow to rise until almost double in size then bake in oven at 400 F until top is golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Yields 12 servings

FOOTNOTE: If hand making bread add yeast to warm water and milk mixture, set aside and allow to activate.  Mix together all dry ingredients including cheese. Once the liquid starts to foam yeast is activated. Slowly add liquid to dry and incorporate well. Turn dough onto well floured board and knead until smooth and elastic.  Cover and allow to rise. Once dough has risen punch it down, knead again and form into egg shape. Set aside and allow to double in size. Follow the directions above to finish and bake loaf.


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