In my family, the men all got the bread-baking gene. When my family moved from New Zealand to America when I was five years old, we couldn’t eat any of the bread we found in the supermarkets (what did they put in it, half a pound of sugar?). Kiwi folk are stubborn, but very resourceful, so my father bought a bread-maker. Each Sunday morning, he faithfully measured flour, milk, dried yeast, butter, and perhaps an egg into the machine, and after church, it was a race to the front door to be the first to burst into the kitchen and breathe in the intoxicating scent of a freshly baked loaf.
Baking bread from scratch is supposed to be one of those inherently terror-inducing things, like public speaking and visiting one’s mother-in-law. Let me tell you, I suffered several memorable Bread Catastrophes when I was learning to cook, including one dramatically underbaked loaf that my mother tried to save from the rubbish bin as I stormed outside in tears. So I understand the seasoned cooks who demur to the no-knead and quick-rise options—many of which are tasty enough in their own right—but it just isn’t the same as the development of flavour and texture you get with kneaded bread.
This friendly loaf, a plays-well-with-others bread, goes to show that kneaded and yeasted bread doesn’t have to be scary, especially with its rock-star texture that is so welcoming to different toppings. Zingy cheddar with thyme and oregano from the garden are a winning combination, as are grated Parmigano and roasted garlic, and we haven’t even scratched the surface of the sweet options, like cinna-bread.
Due to the milk content, the crumb of the loaf is soft enough to work well with sweet flavours, but hearty enough to stand up to herbs, spices, or roasted garlic. Most cheeses work well, but avoid watery cheeses (such as feta and fresh mozzarella) in favour of cheeses that brown well, such as Gruyère, cheddar, and Parmigiano.
Recipe Notes: If the cheese starts to brown on top before the bread is baked, put a tent of foil over the pan and continue cooking.
Swirly Cheese Bread
Makes 1 loaf
3 ¼ cups (400g) bread flour
2 tbsp. sugar
½ cup warm water
½ cup + 1 tbsp. whole milk or buttermilk
¾ tbsp. instant dry yeast
4 tbsp. (50g) melted butter or vegetable oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 ½ cups shredded sharp Cheddar
¼ cup minced herbs, such as oregano and thyme
Freshly ground pepper
One 8 x 4” loaf pan
- In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and water, then sprinkle over the yeast and whisk until well combined.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the yeast mixture and the melted butter, then mix about 2 minutes until combined (your hand is the best tool for this—the dough will start off very sticky and slowly come together as you mix it). Let the dough rest 5 minutes.
- Knead the dough on a floured surface for 3 more minutes, adding a little more water if it gets too dry or flour if the dough is too sticky. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and allow to double in size, about 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the temperature and humidity.
- On a floured surface, roll out dough to a 10 x 16” rectangle. Sprinkle cheese, herbs, and pepper over the dough, then roll it up from the short side like a jelly roll.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the roll lengthwise down the middle, so that you have two long strips of dough. Lay them side by side, cut sides up. (We’re going to twist them together.) Pinch the strips together at one end, then cross the left strip over the right strip, then again and again, so that the bread becomes a twist. It’s okay if it comes out messy—that’s part of its rustic charm. A visual guide can be found on this page.
- Grease your loaf pan and set the bread carefully inside, and sprinkle some extra cheese over the top, if desired. Allow to rise another hour, until the bread has risen about 1 inch higher than the top of the loaf pan. In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake 45 minutes (on humid days, bread may take an extra 5 minutes to bake), covering the top of the bread with aluminum foil if the cheese starts to over-brown before the bread is done. Take out of the oven and allow to cool in pans 2 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan.
Recipe adapted from Seasons and Suppers.