Great Minds Eat Alike: Jessy’s Jalepeno-Cheddar Bread
We started our Great Minds Eat Alike series in order to mix up the usual BGSK offerings with interviews and submissions by cooks and eaters whose mentality towards cooking and eating meshes with ours. Today we are incredibly excited to bring you like the most amazing loaf of bread you’ll ever make or eat made by one of our best friends from high school, Jessy.
As you know, we like to co-host potlucks with our group of buddies from high school. We’ve all loved to cook for a while–we like to say we were early foodies–and so there’s little better on a weekend night than getting together over a vast array of homemade food and a decent supply of booze. Last year, at a potluck at Carolyn’s, Jessy arrived with this bread, warm from the oven. We each took small slices. Then we took more small slices. Before anything else on the table had been touched, Jessy’s two loaves were gone. Since, we’ve requested this bread whenever there’s a potluck, and Jessy, a great quarter-life cook in her own right, has mostly obliged. In August, we begged her to share her recipe and tips and we could tell you all about this bread. And look! She said yes!
Seriously, don’t miss this bread.
–Cara and Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS
**Jessy on Bread**
Though my mom was not the cook of the family, I did learn one important life lesson from her in the eating department: the amazingness of fresh bread. We never had sliced, refrigerated bread growing up, it was always fresh and it was always my comfort food. On those rare occasions when I have an afternoon free and crave the warmth of freshly baked bread, I bake it myself. It sounds impressive, but it’s really not.
All it takes is a block of time, thus why bread making is normally my vacation or weekend activity. My absolute favorite bread to make is this Jalapeno Cheddar Bread. After a few times in the kitchen baking plain bread recipes, I decided to kick it up a notch and play around. I knew I wanted to make a Jalapeno Cheddar Bread, and, within seconds, I found a recipe on this blog: All That Splatters. One look at those pictures and I could not resist.
Since then it has been my go-to recipe to impress my boyfriend or friends. I changed the recipe slightly, the main alteration being that I do everything by hand. Not because I am some purist, but because I am not so fancy to have a food processor big enough for so many ingredients. But, the food processor is really not necessary, I swear. I also add a ton more cheese – because you can never really have enough cheese. The bread is perfect on its own fresh out of the oven, toasted with some butter, I even use it for a decadent breakfast and/or lunch sandwich.
Makes 2 loaves
Adapted from this recipe.
3 1/2 cups white flour
1 packet yeast
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/3 cups cold water
2 cups of extra sharp cheddar cheese (about 1/2 pound aka a block of cheese)
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, remove seeds, and mince (*make sure to where gloves otherwise you will agonize over the remnants of chili seeds under your fingernails and in your eyes for hours)
Place the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and mix together. Stir in 1-1/3 cups of water bit by bit starting with a large wooden spoon then using your hand until the dough comes together. The dough should feel soft but not stick to your fingers. If too sticky, just add in more flour, if too dry, add in a little more water. Its not a perfect science so don’t fret too much. Once you have a good consistency place the ball of dough on a floured work surface with a mound of flour in the corner to sprinkle on the dough and your hands whenever needed.
Fold the dough over itself in different directions about 30 times. Let the dough rest for 2 minutes, covered under a towel. Then knead the dough for approximately 5 minutes. This is a great way to get some aggression out – I do a variety of techniques, punching, pushing, squeezing. Just moving it around roughly will do the trick. The final dough should not stick to your hands as you knead and feel smooth.
Do the 1st rise – this takes about 1 hour. Place the dough into a clean dry bowl, (do not grease the bowl), cover with kitchen towel and set in a warm place free from drafts. I usually use the oven. This first rise is done when the dough is about 1-1/2 times its original volume.
Put the dough onto your lightly floured work surface and firmly push it out into about a 14-inch rectangle. Fold one of the long sides over toward the middle, and the other long side over to cover it, like folding a letter. Repeat this step. This important step redistributes the yeast throughout the dough, for a strong second rise.
Now do the 2nd rise – Return the dough smooth side up into the bowl; cover with kitchen towel and let rise again for 1.5 hours or longer. The bread should be 2-1/2 to 3 times its original size. The size is more important than time.
Once dough has risen again, take out of bowl and cut the dough in half. Set one piece aside and cover with a towel. On a lightly floured work surface pat the dough into a 14-inch rectangle, squaring it up as evenly as you can. Distribute 3/4 cups of shredded cheese and half the jalapenos and press lightly into dough. Lengthwise, roll dough up into a long log, pinching to seal the ends. Squeeze the log outwards so it lengthens. Curl the dough around itself, snail-like, pinching the end of the dough to the loaf. You can use a little warm water to get the end to stick if needed. Flatten slightly. Repeat with other half of dough.
Cover with a towel and let rise to more than double again for about 1 more hour.
Place baking stone (or baking pan) in oven and preheat oven to 500 F. Take remaining shredded cheddar and sprinkle on top of each loaf as much as you like. Once the oven is ready, place the loafs on the hot stone/pan. Then toss a handful of ice cubes onto the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake until bread is golden brown, around 25 minutes.