The Bread Illustrated cookbook has done it again: another home run of a bread recipe.
When I first sank my teeth into a still-warm slice of this loaf, I knew that the combined flavours reminded me of something I’d had before – but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
A few slices later, I figured it out: fancy macaroni and cheese. Not the kind that comes from a blue box (though that kind, too, can be delicious in the right context) – the kind that you order at a restaurant that also has bison burger and truffle curly fries on the menu. Classy mac n cheese.
Had I known the cheddar and black pepper bread would be so astonishingly delicious, I would have made it a lot sooner. I held off because it seemed less all-purpose than many of the other loaves; for instance, it probably wouldn’t taste very good toasted and topped with jam for breakfast.
(On second thought, that actually sounds amazing.)
I made it to accompany a salad we had for dinner, and Cedric has already requested that we add it to the rotation. It requires making a sponge the day before, which can sit out between 6 and 24 hours. I let it sit for nearly an entire 24 hours, which I like to think helped it taste extra delicious.
The day two directions aren’t necessarily tricky. They’re just a little time consuming. Mix for two minutes; rest for 20. Mix for 5, rise for 30. Fold dough; rest for 30 minutes; repeat three more times, then let it rise for another hour and a half, then an hour more. Whew – that’s a lot of waiting around.
There are two secret ingredients to this bread – actually, given that they’re in the name of the bread, they’re not all that secret. The first is cheddar: one cup is mixed into the dough towards the beginning of the process, and another is rolled in later, kind of like a cinnamon raisin bread. Cracked pepper is added both in the dough and as a final topping before baking. I didn’t measure out my pepper – I just cracked away until it looked about right. I was pretty happy with the flavour.
I was careful with all the resting and rising times because it was quite warm the day I baked it. It didn’t take as long for the dough to rise and double and all that good stuff, so I stuck to the low end of any suggested ranges. You guys – I think I’m finally getting it!
It felt really good for the bread to come out looking as it should and tasting better than I could have imagined. I was planning on using Cedric’s camera to take some photos of the final product, but we couldn’t wait to dive in. Whoops. My phone photos will have to suffice.
Savoury breads, I’m not longer afraid of you.
PS – I’ve made this bread once more since – both times, it hasn’t lasted more than 24 hours. This is a bread for the books.