Cheddar Jalapeno Bread
Happy Wednesday!! This might be our last post for a couple of days, because we’re moving this afternoon (eeeeep!!!) and frankly I don’t believe those sneaky cable/internet people who say that they’ll be there at a given time, and they say that things will be hooked up with pas des problems, but we all know better. In fact, I’m starting to panic at the thought of being away from the internet for more than 8 hours. Isn’t that a type of recently diagnosed psychosis? Interweb Dependency? Anyway, I have limited time here so I should still my blathering heart and get down to business.
Sometimes, just for a lark, I consider going on a low-carb diet for more than an hour or two. HA HA HA HAHA!! Oh jeez, let me wipe the tears out of my eyes and keep writing. I wouldn’t last, folks. Nope. Not a chance, especially when I know that there are things like Cheddar Jalapeno Bread out there in the world, just waiting to be enjoyed. I decided to make this the other day because I think the A/C was actually working, the day outside was quite enjoyable, and the temperature inside the house for once was quite stable and -dare I say it?- MODERATE! Truths! Well, let me tell ya, I got rid of THAT non-problem after an hour and a half of the oven being on…..
There are a lot of pictures and a lot of explanations in this post because people seem to think that baking bread is a difficult process. It’s not. It can be time consuming if you think of it on a top-to-tail basis, but in actual working time it doesn’t take much longer than the average appetizer, and at the end people give you standing ovations and laurel wreaths to wear on your head because you even baked the bread. Oh yeaaaah…that’s what it’s all about. So this post is long, admittedly, but hopefully it will take some of the mystery out of an otherwise straight forward procedure.
Cheddar Jalapeno Bread
- 1 tbsp yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup water + 1 1/2 cups water
- 4 cups flour + a fair bit more to dust
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups + 2 tbsp sharp, old, pungent cheddar cheese
- 5 small jalapeno peppers, or 3-4 medium large ones
- 1 egg
We need to start with the yeast. I love that when yeast reacts and starts to populate it’s called ‘blooming’. There is something innately satisfying about watching your yeast ‘bloom’, not in the least because it happens so rapidly. I’m quite the fan of instant gratification, and good yeast never lets me down. In a smallish bowl put your yeast and sugar.
Add water which is warm, but not hot. I like to test the water on my wrist, the way that you always saw people do with baby bottles in the 1980’s. Do they still do that anymore? Does it even make sense? Is it obvious that I have no children?
After about 5 minutes, your yeast will have bloomed! Ooh, the excitement! The titillation! I’m telling you, yeast pays forward the love.
In your mixer, sift (hahaha! Like I do that! I suggest these things purely to see if you’ll do them, but I totally just dump it in there without a second glance) the flour and salt. Add in the olive oil, additional warm water, and your bloomin’ yeast. Get the mixer going on a low setting and in a few minutes you’ll see it start to come together. In the mean time, you can work on your cheese.
I went to grate my cheese, and I realized that I had been tricked. How could I possibly be so careless? How am I so obtuse?! My cheese was so…so SOFT, and so unlike REAL cheese!! Yet it was called ‘Old Nippy’ so I assumed it was a nippy old cheddar! Oh, ho, ho…was I ever wrong!
Don’t misunderstand – I don’t hate processed cheese….a lot. I only hate it a little bit. To be fair, there is a time and a place for processed cheese. Say, for example, that you have the stomach flu and you want a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup. That’s where processed cheese is a VIKING!!! French Onion Soup? Maybe not so much. I was so indignant about the Old Nippy, I marched into the living room waving it above my head and proclaiming to Michael about how the food gods had abandoned me, and what a sorrowful state the world was in when processed cheese can be mistaken for old cheddar. He looked at me, confused, and said, “But..that’s….Old Nippy.” I answered, as icily as possible, that I UNDERSTOOD that it was Old Nippy, and that I had been FOOLED and WRONGED by the grocery store. Poor, poor Mike. He barely managed to get out a couple of words about “cracker cheese” and “spreadable” before he was quelled by my best look of, “Do you also eat Christian babies in your spare time?”…So, lesson learned by me. Old Nippy is counterfeit cheese, and that’s $7.99 that I will never get back.
($8 for processed cheese INDEED)
(Fooling poor innocent shoppers. SHAME on them!)
(Stupid Old Nippy)
Below you will see the replacement cheese that I had to run out and buy from the convenience store where they charge you $5 just to breathe the air upon entering. Can you read the price on that? Almost $11.00. A piece of my soul just died.
The diatribe is over, I promise. Please grate up slightly over 2 cups of your cheese. The REAL cheese. The kind that isn’t processed.
These jalapenos are from my plants outside, so they aren’t huge. I used 5 of them, seeds and ribs mostly removed, cut up into a very small dice. If 5 sounds like a lot to you, it isn’t. While the bread bakes the jalapenos like to mellow down easy and they lose the majority of their heat. However, there is still a lot of flavor which shines through at the end.
Into the mixer with your jalapenos and cheese! Please remember to save some of the cheese (about 2 tbsp) to sprinkle on top of the loaf before you bake it.
I love baking bread, and I can say with all honesty that at this point my cheesy bread dough always starts to make me nervous because it’s very….moist. Most bread doughs aren’t quite so sticky. That said, you will need to be able to work it so make sure that your countertop is liberally floured, and sprinkle some flour on top of the dough ball as well.
Knead the dough for a good 8 – 10 minutes. Just think about the worthwhile catharsis of driving the heels of your hands, over and over again, into the soft dough (“I said TAKE IT!!”) and after a few minutes you’re so in the zone that you won’t care about the time. As you knead, the dough may start to feel a bit too sticky. Keep an extra 1/4 cup of flour on hand to sprinkle as needed and keep your dough elastic and not gluey.
When the texture of your bread dough is smooth and elastic, lightly coat a large bowl with oil, turn the dough ball inside it to coat it completely with oil, and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Leave this somewhere warm and not too drafty as it rises for the next 2 hours.
It’s been two hours, and hallelujah the bread has RISEN!
Butter a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
Have you heard of ‘punching down’ the dough? It’s not as aggressive as it sounds. Basically, you want to take your dough and knead it again for another 5 minutes. No actual punching is necessary, unless you didn’t get your aggressions out in the first kneading process. Start to flatten and lengthen the dough so it’s less of a ball and more of a rectangle. Use whatever technique you like to do so, I usually just stretch it from the center out, and turn it as I go. The rectangle should be double the length and width of the loaf pan.
Fold the dough lengthwise into thirds, pressing down each seam as you go, like a letter.
Fold that widthwise in half.