Cheddar Jalapeno Bread
I have a gazillion cooking magazines. I'm not sure if a gazillion is an official number, but that's the number that J would probably say if you asked him how many Gourmets, Bon Appetites and Food & Wine issues I have. Every time a new issue comes in the mail, I get so excited like a kid on Christmas Day. I'll save it until I know I have enough time to sit and really relish each and every beautiful photograph and carefully read every recipe. Sunday mornings are best spent with a big pot of coffee and one, or even better, two, new cooking magazines.
Now actually trying out each and every recipe is something I have yet to accomplish, and will probably not even live long enough to actually do. Of course when I see the gorgeous layout of daikon cakes and spicy noodles, I daydream of having an Asian-themed dinner party.......until I see the spread on Spring's Most Gorgeous Cakes which takes me to the next fantasy of piping a perfect row of icing onto a cake for a tea party. I've bemoaned this fact before and I'll whine about it once again- but there are simply too many recipes and too little time. Now I'd be dishonest if I didn't admit that yes, I could certainly devote more time to making a dent into my arsenal of recipes......it's a promise I've made to myself again and again but life's distractions often get in the way.
There are some recipes, however, that demand your immediate attention, and I came across one the other day. Cheddar Jalapeno Bread. Let's take a second here. I love cheese. I love jalapenos. I LOVE bread. This is one recipe that had to be tackled now! It also reminded me of all the wonderful savory breads I'd buy at the many lovely bakeries in Japan. You see- here in the U.S. you think of a bakery, you picture cupcakes, donuts and other sweets filling the shelves. In Japan, there are equal rows of savory goodies like kare-pan (deep fried curry bread), rolls filled with ham and mayo (it's GOOD, trust me), shiny hot dog buns filled with warm potato salad and fluffy buns stuffed with yakisoba. Cheese bread comes in various flavors and shapes, and it was always one of my favorites. The crusty cheddar crown in the photo in Gourmet magazine reminded me of that, so I knew I had to make it right away.
This bread was relatively easy to make and requires no kneading. The extra-sticky dough takes a bit of a light touch to handle, but the results are worth it. I started with 3 large jalapenos which I sliced with a mandoline. I wanted to be able to see the round slices of peppers in my bread, although the end result didn't have a strong jalapeno flavor and no heat. Next time I will leave the veins in and slice them a lot thicker. I didn't think about slicing the finished loaf, so I was worried about the bread being too spicy but since you slice the large loaf in order to eat it, you'll never end up with too many jalapenos in your once slice. After grating some cheddar in my Cuisinart, I went ahead and make the dough, added the cheese and peppers and let it rise in a warm place.
I made sure I didn't peek at the dough so it could get it's time to rise......and 90 minutes later it had swelled above the rim of my mixing bowl. I'm going to dork out here for a minute so please forgive me, but there are fewer more satisfying experiences in the kitchen than to see dough that has swelled to double its original size. Why? I can't explain it but it's very exciting. Yup. Me = nerd alert nerd alert!! Anyway, after weeping at the beauty of my puffy dough for a minute, I dumped it out of the bowl, divided it in half (I doubled the recipe to make two loaves) and very gingerly folded each half three times, like a letter. After another rise in the bread pans, the puffy delights were brushed with egg wash, topped with grated cheddar and parmesan and popped in a nice, hot oven.
I don't know if I can even find the words to describe the aromas which floated through the house as the bread baked in the oven. The scent of meat braising in red wine is probably the only other smell that I love as much as that of bread baking. This particular bread warmed the house with scents of rich, sharp cheddar cheese mixed with the yeasty aroma that most breads have. After about 50 minutes, I took the loaves, popped them out of the pans and began the excruciating process of waiting for them to cool. Anyone who's tried to cut into a loaf of bread fresh from the oven knows that your impatience is punished with sticky, doughy and dense slices. You must wait for the bread to cool and dry out a bit before diving in. *sigh*
After a good two hours, I finally cut through the crusty outer layer, revealing a nice, soft bread. After a light toasting and a minimal swipe of butter, I took a bite. It was very cheesy and the olive oil in the recipe really kept the bread nice and moist. There was only a hint of jalapeno, so, as I stated earlier, I will definitely add larger slices to my next batch. I took one loaf to work and sliced the other one up to store in the freezer for J's return this Friday. I think this bread is eaten best by itself with a bit of butter, but I may top a slice with some smoked turkey and tomatoes for a nice tartine. It'd probably be a bit too heavy to make a sandwich with.
Hope you get a chance to try it! I'd highly recommend using a good, sharp cheddar as it will come through in the bread.
You can find the recipe (for a single loaf) here.