Cheddar and Horseradish Bread
I had an unfortunate learning experience this weekend, and it came in dough form. Specifically, big puffy mounds of misshapen batter which glowered at me like Pol Pot with elephantiasis. Everything started out innocently enough. On Sunday we went over to Mike’s parents’ house to celebrate his sister’s birthday. They had ordered a standing prime rib roast from the butcher, and we offered to make a couple of starchy sides – namely, Yorkshire puds and a cheddar and horseradish loaf.
I’ve never made Yorkshire pudding, but I didn’t imagine that they would be terribly challenging. After all, I knew the basics. You let the batter rest. You get the pans and grease smokin’ hot, pour in the batter and leave them to cook at high heat until they’re puffed and brown. That’s not so hard, right? I had two previously untouched popover pans. I even polled the g.d. internet over Twitter to see if anyone had a particular recipe or trick of the trade that they wanted to share. From what I could gather though, that’s really all there was to it.
Twitter is what it is, and I got some ire-inducing feedback (“What’s so hard about Yorkshires?” Huh. Screw you too) but some very good advice from kindhearted souls as well. The always delightful Spiteful Chef recommended that I use duck fat, and although I would love to tell you that I’m the kind of person who keeps a jar of duck fat in her freezer (because she actually is, and I’m positively wracked with jealousy), well, I’m not. But discount bacon? Bacon I can do. I rendered down a pound of thick cut bacon and hoarded the fat like I was in a courtship for cholesterol. I followed the guidelines for batter, which seemed to be roughly equal amounts of egg, milk and flour. One of the classic Brit-pub recipes that I found for 6 puds looked easy enough – 4 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, pinch of salt. I wanted 12, so I did what one would normally do….I doubled the recipe. Into the bowl went 8 eggs, whisked until frothy. Two cups of milk joined the party, and two cups of flour whisked in a half cup at a time. The batter was pancake like and a perfect representation of what I remember from Prime Rib Sunday with the blue hairs. When the meat came out of the oven I scavenged some of the beefy fat as well, put about 1 tsp in each cup, and let this heat up until it was smoking.
And boy, was it smoking.
After two minutes there was so much smoke in the room that we opened a window. And then we opened every window in the house. People thought they were just coming to a regular ol’ birthday party, but they didn’t know that the theme was Auschwitz. I consider this Failure #1.
Well, what of it. I yanked the smoking hot pans out of the oven and quickly poured a small amount of batter into each. Some of the sage internet advice that I truly thought I heeded was, “Make sure that you only fill the cups up 1/3 of the way.” It’s just…well, the pans are hot and there’s all that oil. As soon as you pour any batter inside it starts to sizzle and seize, bubbling up in the most ominous way. It didn’t seem like that much batter at the time until they started to rise (oh, whee! What delight, what glee!).
And rise (look at them go! Isn’t that just magnificent? Thank heavens I could at least make the yorkies right!).
And riiiiiiiiiissssseeeeee (uhh…okay. So…so maybe there’s too much of a good thing, and OH GOD HOW MUCH BIGGER ARE THEY GOING TO GET?!). Failure #2.
I present to you: Greedy Tina’s Yorkshire Puddings.
These are the puddings that ate New York.
I have never been so horrified by baked goods in my life.
The only saving grace, if I can search to find a silver lining, is that these mutinous and mushrooming popovers were still no match for the roast beef. When Mike’s parents cook a joint, they cook a joint. These people know their meat, to our continual gluttony gustatory delight. This is the home of the 30 pound turkey, after all, and if anything was going to dwarf the Flintstone sized popovers it could only be the roast. I think the last time I was in such close proximity to this much cow it was at the Royal Winter Fair, and at least this time dinner wasn’t blinking lazily at me and chewing it’s cud.
Majestic, isn’t it?
You know how when you were a little kid you wanted to grow up to be a firefighter or an astronaut? Well, I just turned 30 and what I want when I grow up is to one day invite people over for meals like these. On Sunday morning I flopped over, scowled a bit at nothing in particular (as is my morning routine), and then shook Mike awake to say, “Hey! Hey you! Hey, remember last night? The rib roast? The one that we ate? Yeah, you remember how awesome that was? Because it was really good.” It’s truly remarkable that he has never seriously considered kicking me out of the house. (I hope)
Enough of that though. I suppose that since I’m posting about bread I should probably talk about that for a while. Okay, so I knew that we were having a roast beast and I wasn’t particularly confident in my ability to make Yorkshire pudding (self fulfilling prophecy: FULFILLED) so I wanted a fail-stop, or a good guarantee. If there are two things that you can usually rely on to end up in the Will Be Eaten category, they would be bread and anything with cheese. Ergo, I like to combine the two whenever possible.
Horseradish is a classic accompaniment to rare beef, and even though I could (and sometimes do) eat horseradish sauce with a spoon I understand that it’s not exactly for everyone. One of my favorite things to do is take an ‘acquired taste’ and find a way to make it more palatable for the faint of heart. Enter horseradish, but all wrapped up in doughy goodness with a sexy spiral of cheddar cheese. All of a sudden the phallic roots and ominous beige spoon sauce aren’t looking so bad, are they?
Finally, I promise you that this isn’t knock you over the head cheddar and horseradish flavor, like the Herr’s potato chips…which are my absolute favorite. And who’s loss due to possible discontinuation I will mourn until my dying day. This bread takes a more subtle approach, with a herbal flavor and rich, dense and chewy crumb. If you’re not a fan of horseradish but you want to start building yourself up to give it a try, this might not be a bad place to start.
Cheddar and Horseradish Bread
Makes 2 loaves
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 cups warm water*
- 1.5 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 5.75 cups flour
- 4-5″ horseradish root (1 cup finely grated)
- 450 g extra old cheddar cheese (4 cups grated)
* Remember that warm does not mean hot. The water should be just about body temperature or slightly higher, so a few degrees warmer than room temperature but definitely not scalding. Water that’s too hot will kill your yeast which means no rise for that luscious cheesy dough.
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the two cups of warm (not hot) water. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes until it’s frothy and bubbly to make sure that the yeast is active. If you trust your yeast and have used it recently then you can always bypass this step, but I’m paranoid at the best of times and sometimes I just need visual proof that if my bread fails I have nobody to blame but myself.
Whisk together the flour, thyme and salt.
Grate the cheese using a box grater and be sure to grate the horseradish on a finer panel. I wouldn’t use the smallest holes to do this, but one size up works particularly well.
Pour the yeast mixture over the dry ingredients and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the flour is moistened and it’s starting to bundle coarsely together into a rough ball. Add 2 cups of the cheese and all of the horseradish to the bowl, stirring to combine.
At this point it’s easier to abandon your wooden spoon and use clean hands to work the dough into a ball and make sure that the cheese and horseradish are evenly incorporated. The dough is sticky, so do your best to start kneading the mound directly in the bowl for 5-7 minutes until it starts to firm up and hold together.
Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured work surface (did I mention that it’s sticky? Because it is. You’ve been warned….) and continue kneading until the texture has changed and the ball is supple and smooth like an infant’s rump. While you’re kneading you will need to lightly flour the board a few more times to make sure that the dough doesn’t stick, but try to use a light hand and add only as much flour as necessary to prevent adhesion. If you add too much flour you’ll dry out the dough and change the finished crumb (read: texture),
Dive the dough ball in two. Pat or roll each half out into a rectangle that’s about 8×12″. The main area that you want to be wary of is the width, because if your dough is much fatter than the loaf pan it will be hard to squeeze it in.
Sprinkle each flat pad of dough with 1 cup of the remaining sharp cheddar cheese.
Roll the bread dough up like a jelly roll, so there is a spiral of cheese wending it’s way through. Carefully lift the dough roll and place it seam side down in a loaf pan which has been well and thoroughly lubed up with a generous amount of butter or lard.
Cover the pans lightly with a clean tea towel (and by “clean” I mean, of course, the one that you were using during the first rise. Hey, it doesn’t need to be new to be clean) and leave them in a warm draft free place to rise for between 45 minutes and an hour. The rolls should have swelled to at least 25-30% larger than when they were first formed.
While the dough is rising you can preheat the oven to 400ºF. Getting your oven piping hot is one more key to getting a good rise out of your bread loaves.
Tuck your loaves into the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until the crust is a rich, dark brown and when you rap on the top of the loaf you hear a vaguely hollow sound.
Let the bread cool for at least 1-3 hours before cutting in.
Sure, that sticky dough was a bit of a pain to work with, wasn’t it? But look at how you’re rewarded – with a chewy texture and fat, regular holes. That, my friends, is what adequate moisture in your dough will bring.
Make no mistakes though, because this dough might appear to be nice and light with it’s pockets and airy crumb, but I promise you that this is a dense and hearty loaf. Dairy fat from the cheese, as fabulous as it is, keeps the bread moist and fairly heavy. This is a great bread for toasting to sop up all those savory beef juices.
On the other hand, it’s equally good cut into fat slabs to make a roast beef sandwich for lunch the next day.
So the Yorkies weren’t quite a success, well, that’s life. But even when things don’t go exactly as planned, there’s always something you can bring to the party!