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.

Drop your loaf seam-side down into the buttered loaf pan.  Leave this to rise for about another hour, or until it has increased in size by about 25%.
Preheat your oven to 400 C.  Whisk your egg, and brush the egg mixture evenly all over the top of your bread.  Sprinkle the remaining 2 tbsp shredded cheddar on top.  It will adhere because of the egg.
Bake your bread loaf in the center of a 400 C oven for 1 – 1.25 hours.  If you want to tell when it’s done, take it out and give it a quick tap on the top.  It should sound hollow.  The top will be golden brown, and the bread should have just started to come away from the edges of the pan.  Leave this on a rack to cool for at least an hour before cutting into it.
It has been two hours.  I’m hungry, and I want my bread.  Look at that, though!  Isn’t it a thing of beauty? So easy to make, it just needs a bit of love and an afternoon when you’re not out and about running errands all day.  The bread is moist, dense, slightly chewy and full of cheesy peppery flavor.
Alright.  So…there is something that we need to talk about.  I can’t keep secrets, even though sometimes I should.  The thing is, well, it’s just…..oh boy, this is hard.  Okay, fine.  I’m not perfect.  I’m guessing (hoping, really) that you aren’t perfect either.  Sometimes things turn out just how they’re supposed to.  Other times, maybe not so much.  This cheese bread is one of those times.  When my beautiful and symmetrical loaf went into the oven, it decided to channel Quasimodo harder than an out of work Community Theater performer.  The next thing you know, my perfectly formed and delicious looking loaf was stricken with a rampant case of Elephantiasis.  Case in point, below.
I bemoaned the fate of my poor, undeserving bread.  I railed, once again, at the food gods for smiting me TWICE in one day.  Then I cut into the loaf.  On the Jean Chretien side it was delightfully curved like a jester’s hat. I loved the sibilant curl, the cheeky little smirk that the bread was giving me. The texture was perfect – somehow light even though it was dense, and the flavors of the cheese and jalapeno really came through.  A quick smatter of cold butter and I’m in heaven.
I feel like I just got schooled on the lessons that life teaches us time and time again.
1.  It doesn’t matter how you look on the outside, it’s what’s inside that counts.
2.  The whole world is beauty.  There is no greater gift than being able to appreciate that fact.
3.  We don’t always get what we want.  But we always, ALWAYS, get what we need.
Music:  You Can’t Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones.  Because you get what you knead……….oh yeah, I went there.
Pairing:  This bread made a delightful steak sandwich with grilled onions and mushroom last Superbowl. It pairs perfectly with a rich, mellow and slightly sweet premium lager like Creemore Springs or a malty ale like Boddingtons.
  • http://anyacooks.blogspot.com Anya

    I just wanted to compliment you on your writing style. Very amusing.

  • Hellcat13

    I made this recently and DAMN IT WAS TASTY. Word to the wise – chop those peppers with gloves. I didn’t. And suffered.

    Mine went all Quasimodo too, for the record.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Hellcat, I’m so glad that you liked this recipe!!! Chopping peppers with gloves on is always a good idea. I don’t know why I’m such a cowboy and I never bother……and often wish I had. I have had more than one….uhhhh……REALLY UNFORTUNATE experience (note: bathrooms + chili hands DON’T mix).

    It makes me giggle that your bread was a bit lopsided too. Maybe I should rename this “Hunchback Jalapeno Bread”.

  • dOUG

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me that this bread doesn’t require a mixer! It looks amazing, but I don’t yet have one. Can I make this by hand, and if I do will it turn out as tasty?

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Doug – yes, you can absolutely make this bread without a mixer! What you will need, however, is a strong arm and a firm wooden spoon! You’ll need some elbow grease to work the cheese and jalapeno into the dough ball. Once it looks like they’re fairly incorporated, start by kneading the dough in the oiled bowl. It’s going to be sticky….quite sticky. Just do your best and knead it for a good long time (7-10 minutes if you can manage). It will still be quite sticky but should start to seem more elastic. The reason that you don’t want to start kneading the dough on your well floured board right away is that it will suck up the powder like you wouldn’t believe and that dries out the dough. You need the extra moisture to keep this dough tender with a nice crust.

      Good luck, and please let us know how it turns out!

      • M

        Making by hand DOES work – the trick is to make sure you’ve got perfect yeast and
        that you do knead the bread without adding flour

        • dOUG

          Well, a couple of years and about 10 of these loaves of bread later, I figured I’d write back and label your recipe a success. My friends frequently beg me to make it again.

          I just got around to mixing another batch (by hand…still no mixer), but this time I’m going to keep the dough rolled out in a rectangle and do the second rise in a glass casserole. Then I’ll bake it and tear off pieces to eat with vegetarian chili. I think it will be a winner.

          • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

            Awww, Doug, you just made my day 🙂
            Thank you so much for taking the time to come back and comment, and we are just THRILLED that you liked the bread enough to make it again and again!!!

            Mmm….with veg chili, I think that has “Winter Warmer” written all over it. Or, possibly, “Superbowl”….

            Thank you again!

  • Madhu

    Can I skip the egg in the bread or substitute it with something else? pls suggest!!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Madhu – the egg is not in the bread, it’s only used as a wash to make the top glossy and browned. If you did not want to use egg you could brush milk or cream on top of the bread or just omit it altogether. Without the egg wash your bread won’t have a sheen and the crust will be a bit coarser, but it will still be delicious.

      Good luck!

  • Madhu

    Thanks a lot Tina. I did make this bread y’day and it turned out to be a great success. Everyone loved it at home. Its definitely something that I’ll be making quite often :).

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Madhu – so glad that you and your family enjoyed this recipe!! Thank you kindly for letting us know!!!

  • Vee

    Okay, so I might be a little late to the party here, but jeeeeeze, I just made this bread and I cannot wait for it to cool.

    MUST. HAVE. SELF. CONTROL.

    Thanks for the wonderful, easy to follow recipe. As a college student foodie, it is people like you two who help keep me away from ramen noodles every single day. =D

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Vee – thank you so much for your comment!!! I hope that the cooled bread was worth the anticipation! I’m so glad that you enjoyed this recipe. You know, when I was in University my meals tended to center around cans of chickpeas, chicken marinated in Italian dressing, and cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. Maybe some beef jerky and Sour Patch Kids thrown in to spice things up. Anyway, that’s just my way of passing on kudos, because if anybody had suggested that I bake bread between classes I would have looked at them like the horns and hoofs were pulsating.

  • Greg

    Is this dough stiff enough to be used for a bread bowl? I’m wanting to serve chili in it. Some bread recipes I’ve tried in the past “spread” too much ad I end up with brad plates.

  • Lisa

    Wow! What a great loaf of bread!!! Made Buffalo Chicken grilled Cheese sandwiches with it!! A new favorite with the family and my husband’s co-workers!!!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      OMG. Buffalo chicken grilled cheese on this bread sounds…just…yeah. Your lucky, lucky family!!