Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Your guide to eating cheap including tips, recipes and techniques

Archives for Bread

[ Currently Eating: Homemade Bread n Stuff ]

Cheeseybread - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Hi hi hi. I’m on a Cheesebread Mission.

I’ve been like this for several months now. Baking up Bread and Cheese. And Bread. And Cheese. And Bread. And a few Jalapeño peppers thrown in. More Cheese and Bread.

It all started about 25 years ago. Ever since I was a young cheap eats brat, my parents had been taking us on trips from Los Angeles north to the Mammoth / Yosemite area for camping nearly every year. This is a 400 mile or so drive. For you east coasters – that’s probably going through at least 3 or 4 states, but here in California it’s just a long drive through the same state.

Anyhow, one of our favorite stops along the way has always been Erick Schat’s Bakkerÿ up in Bishop, CA. We would always pick up some of their Original Sheepherder Bread (introduced into the Owens Valley area during the Gold Rush), and my absolute favorite was the Jalapeño Cheese Bread variety.

The bread is fairly dense but has a chewy quality. It’s not made up of air like a lot of other artisnal breads. The cheese is not distributed through the bread evenly. Rather, there are enormous clumps of orange cheese and peppers in the middle. In fact, there is a gigantic cavity in the center of each flat loaf of bread where all the cheese has accumulated. The entire loaf is extremely heavy because of all the cheese inside of it.

For years now, I’ve been wanting to try and make this type of bread at home because it was too long to wait an entire year to get some. The key came within the past few years or so when I discovered “No-Knead Bread” which was made (in)famous by Jim Lahey in a NY Times article. As I got more confident with bread, I decided to go on a mission.

That mission is to make cheesebread similar to Schat’s.

Now, it’s no big deal to make a cheesebread. I see Vermont Cheese Bread this and Hong Kong style Cheese Topped Buns that.

No, no, no.

I want the cheese to be a big fricken block inside the bread. Crowd Cheer: When I say “bread”, you say “cheese”. I want a big ass cavity (oh, the jokes) inside the bread with the cheese and jalapeños sticking to the walls. I don’t want the cheese integrated into the bread like most recipes insist on.

Needless to say, I’ve had a difficult time. But through experiments, I’ve got it almost right. I think the problem is that not too many people actually WANT a bread to turn out like this. Thus, I haven’t seen many recipes for the cheesebread I’m trying to make. The other problem is that I’m not a very good baker to start with.

I’ve gotten close – but I’m still on my Cheesebread Mission. What I’ve got in my favor is that I’m an obstinate, stubborn SOB.

I have a feeling that a huge part of the failures so far have to do with trying to do this at home where my oven is just passable at best. The other part may be that I’m not adding in the correct percentages of everything (or even have the wrong ingredients), and also, I’ve resigned myself to using a Silpat on a cookie baking sheet. No pizza stone, etc.

Cheeseybread - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Here’s one of the latest incarnations of the Faux-Schat’s Cheese Jalapeño Bread. It actually looks pretty good – this is the closest I’ve gotten. The top of my bread is more smooth, while I know the Schat’s one is rugged looking. The melted cheese has caused a large cavity or two to open up inside the bread. I gave up using an egg-based type of bread for now. I’ve been sticking to a really basic boule type recipe. For the record, here is what I’ve done so far.

Jalapeño Cheese Bread

3 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1.5 – 2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup cold milk
1-2 tbsp melted butter, plus more for brushing
1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheese (your choice)
2-3 sliced fresh sliced Jalapeños

I’ve been using either sharp cheddar or jack cheese since I believe that’s what Schat’s uses. I also use fresh Jalapeños, but I think you may be able to use those pickled slices in jars that go on nachos.

Get a large bowl, with a plastic loose fitting lid. Add hot water, milk, melted butter into the bowl and mix. Then add the yeast. Let it sit for awhile, it should foam a bit. IMPORTANT – you’ll kill the yeast if the liquid is too hot. It should be lukewarm, a little above body temp. If it’s too hot, wait awhile to add the yeast.

Next dump the flour and salt into the mixture. You can use your hands, but I like to use a rubber spatula to mix to start, then switch to wet hands. Get it all mixed, it should be kinda wet and sticky. If not, add more water. If too wet, add flour. Cover it, let it rise for about 2 to 2.5 hours in a warm place.

Sprinkle the top lightly with flour. Get some flour on your hands, it helps. Take out the dough (you may need to use more or less dough depending on the size you want) and cloak it. What the fricking hell is cloaking? While holding the dough in your hands, take the top of the dough and stretch the surface down to the bottom, rotate it a quarter turn and do it again. The idea is to have a smoother top surface while the bottom is more bunched up. I think that’s the idea anyhow.

Ok, then place on a wooden cutting board that has some flour on it. Get a rolling pin with some flour on it. Roll out the dough into a sort of oval. Or, you may just be able to stretch it with your hands instead. You might need to wait a bit because the dough will return to its normal shape. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the dough – you want good coverage but not an excess of cheese. Then evenly distribute the peppers over the cheese. Roll up the dough gently, and tuck the ends in underneath.

Put it on a Siplat (or other silicone type baking sheet) on top of a cookie sheet. Dust the top with flour, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for about 1.5 – 2 hours.

Twenty minutes before you’re ready to bake, get the oven to about 400 degrees. I’ve had trouble with the temp and time, so you’re going to have to play around with it. Basically, put the cheese bread on the cookie sheet into the oven and bake for about 25-40 minutes. Around 5 minutes before you’re done (whenever that is), take some remaining shredded cheese and sprinkle it on top of the loaf.

When the loaf is done, take it out and brush it with melted butter. Let it cool, for an hour at least. When completely cool, store it in a ziploc bag.

Problems I’ve had so far are many. Early on, I found that cutting cheese up into cubes and incorporating it into the dough is not the way to go. You end up with tiny pockets of cheese, which is nice, but not a large cavity of cheese and peppers. You should shred the cheese and layer it on top, then roll the dough up. This creates a sort of spiral of cheese cavity in the middle. I believe having all that cheese clumped together is important in cavitation – the steam from all the cheese and peppers makes the large hole in the middle.

Egg based cheesebread have not worked as well for me, though I’m not entirely sure if Schat’s uses eggs in theirs. You may have to vary the amount of yeast and water as well to get a good rise.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone has tried to make this exact type of bread before. Remember, I’m not interested in cheese interspersed within bread – it HAS to be a big gigantic hole in the loaf with cheese and peppers in it.

One last thing – OMG do NOT touch your eyes while handling Jalapeños. It is TEH Painful…

[ Currently Eating: Sausage Stromboli ]

Stromboli?? - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

And a Happy Stuffed Sausage Bread New Year to you too.

I had a nice little dollar store Cheap Eats post all ready to go today. But that’s gotten preempted (much like all my favorite shows are preempted by stupid American Football nowadays) by some crazy Stromboli action.

I know it’s hard to believe, what with my dumblefingery baking skills, but I actually made a practical approximation of a Sausage Stromboli just an hour ago in the oven. I couldn’t believe it either. I hope this is a harbinger of Cheap Eats Baking to come for 2009.

Stromboli?? - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

I know you’re supposed to use a pizza stone for this kind of stuff, but I was able to make one using just a Silpat on top of a cookie baking sheet. I think because the dough was thin, it didn’t matter as much. It didn’t have as crunchy a crust as a real pizza, and the cheese leaked out of the bottom, but the end result was pretty amazing. I did use a broiler tray for steam this time, so maybe that helped the crust. This one had canned tomatoes, jack cheese and cooked Italian sausage in it.

It’s about this point that I need to confess that the recipe for the stromboli comes straight outta Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (abbreviated as AB5MD from now on) which I got for Xmas. I really think they should’ve taken out the word “Artisan” – it tends to scare non-bakers like me away. At first I thought it was some frou-frou book written by a poofy-hatted chef in Limoges. They should’ve just said Amazing Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.

I hate to be one of those “book boosters”, but this bread tome is pretty damn good. I started off before this book going down the Jim Lahey No-Knead route (google it, for the NY times article, since the bastards prevent hotlinking). That recipe was the revelation, and this book extended it by letting you keep batches of pre-mixed dough in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Earlier, I’d experimented with making your own yeast – but I’ll save that topic for another day. Plus, it’s a little more inconvenient and requires more time. I just used the standard yeast packets.

I’m only on the basic master recipe in AB5MD which uses water, salt, unbleached white flour and storebought yeast. But it’s been good enough for most everything – however, I was surprised it worked well for the Stromboli because I didn’t have a pizza stone. Also, I’ve been using a combination of the Lahey method and AB5MD method for all the bread. Basically, I said forget the pizza stone and used a non-stick cast iron pot like Lahey recommended. Use the cover for 1/2 the cooking time and you don’t really need to use a steam tray. The bread comes out pretty good, though not perfect. The dough recipe is just an ordinary 6-3-3-13. That’s 6 cups lukewarm water, 3 tbsp yeast, 3 tbsp kosher salt, 13 cups flour. Mix it, cover and let it stand for 2 hours and put it in the fridge. That is all – enough dough for 8 1lb loaves. Halve the recipe if it’s too much to store.

I’ll try get a full recipe up for the stromboli, maybe an AB5MD book review as well, when I get to the other enriched doughs of later chapters. For now, it’s pretty darn good and cheap eats. It’s great to be able to make larger batches in advance instead of just one at a time like the Lahey method I was using.

[ Currently Eating: Bacon Egg Sandwich ]

Make Your Own Bread - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Anybody up for some failed bread?

I’m not even going to include the recipe because this didn’t turn out very well. It was a series of unfortunate events, and not the lemony kind. First off, I’ve never really baked bread before (unless you count Irish Soda Bread). Second, I decided to try out this Pyrex Bake-A-Round tube thingy I got at the thrift store instead of going the traditional route.

Third, I used the recipe in the box for French Bread, which was written back in the 70s (the recipe did use standard active dry yeast and most of the same ingredients found in bread recipes). I was thinking of a baguette or something – they obviously weren’t. The recipe called for FOUR cups flour to about one cup of water. I knew that wasn’t right, but I tried it anyway. It is awfully hard to mix in four cups of flour into a cup of water or so by hand. Oh yes, that’s Fourth: even though we have a perfectly good mixer with a dough hook, I “forgot” and decided to mix the bastard by hand. Actually, I suspect this is keeping with the Cheap Eats tradition since I’d be unwise to assume everyone has a mixer on hand.

So, it’s not a big surprise that the bread didn’t win best of show. Maybe it was the extra salt added in from the sweat rolling off my head as I tried to knead the dough. Old-time readers will also remember I have a nagging shoulder injury – that was not fun.

Make Your Own Bread - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

The bread itself came out just “edible”. That’s pretty much all the praise I can muster for several hours of effort. I wasn’t surprised it was very dense and almost cake-like. The crust actually came out decent, though not browned. Someone told me that industrial type ovens blast it with so much heat in a short time which is how they can get a better crust? Actually, if it wasn’t for the bake-a-round tube, it probably would have came out even worse.

However, a good Cheap Eater is willing to experiment and fail for the overall good of the wallet. Home-baked Bread definitely seemed like something that should be tried out. So, instead of moaning about this unlovable loaf, I’ll probably be trying it again sometime later in the year. I probably won’t be using the bake-a-round again, although it was sort of neat that when you cut slices they were perfectly round – that might be fun for hamburger sandwiches or something.

Also, I’m sure there are tons of excellent bread bakers out there – if you have a good recipe or technique to share, please do. I’m going to also say that I KNOW you can just use a bread machine to make it. But I’d like to hear from those who don’t use a machine, and possibly not even a mixer. I’m still not 100% convinced that making your own bread from scratch is worth the time and effort – I think the price of bread would knead (haha) to go up considerably to get more people to start trying to make their own.

Make Your Own Bread - Cheap Eats at Bloglander



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