I don't know what I was thinking on Friday but I decided to bake bread. I've only attempted to bake bread with a bread machine that a friend gave me. I say "attempted" because the end result was a total failure! The bread didn't rise and it ended up super dense and hard. I probably used water that was way too hot, thus killing my poor yeast. So I approached this mini project with some trepidation but I think I was just bored enough to foolishly continue.
I first saw the recipe for cheddar jalapeno bread in the March issue of Gourmet magazine. The magazine described it as "a delicious variation on a grilled cheese sandwich" and how "it fills the kitchen with an overwhelmingly wonderful cheesy aroma". Seriously, who can resist that? So I bought jalapenos and the cheeses that are required in the recipe. The only "specialty" ingredients required are jalapenos and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if you even consider it to be specialty. I don't have these in my pantry because I rarely use them. Who can afford Parmigiano-Reggiano all the time at $17 per pound?
I started by assembling all the ingredients, which is what I don't usually do. This is an extra special occasion because it's my virgin bread!
(Left to Right, Top to Bottom): AP flour, warm water, olive oil, egg, Parmigiano-Reggiano, jalapenos, Cheddar cheese and yeast.
The most nerve-wrecking part, I thought, was the first step: proofing the damn yeast. This time, I used the "wrist test" where I dipped the water with a finger and splashed it a bit on my wrist. If its temperature is about what one would feed a baby, then we can proceed. I know it doesn't sound very scientific, especially coming from a science graduate student (God knows how I was admitted into grad school), but that was how I did it. I wasn't sure that it foamed but there were some pretty small bubbles and it looked creamy after 10 minutes so I proceeded with it anyway. The next step was to mix the dissolved yeast with olive oil, the rest of the water and the flour. And for this, I used my lovely KitchenAid mixer with the special dough hook that basically did all the work.
I poured in the cheeses and jalapeno before it was mixed further and left at room temperature for the first rising of the batter.
This is what it looked like after rising, all puffy and smooth. My baby is growing! Mwahahaha!
After rolling the dough out into a rectangle, I folded it into thirds and plopped it into a greased loaf pan for the second rising.
God, isn't it friggin' big or what?
I sprinkled leftover Parmigiano and shredded cheddar on top before putting it in the oven for extra crispness and cheesy goodness.
And look at my perfectly browned cheddar jalapeno baby!
Even though it was already 2.30am by the time this baby was done, I cooled it for an hour on the wire rack before slicing a piece of it to taste it. The bread was evenly studded with cheese and jalapeno.
It didn't disappoint! It tasted like a spiced grilled cheese without the gooey-ness of the cheese (which is a shame). If I do this again, I will probably add more jalapeno because even though th bread had a kick to it, it wasn't nearly spicy enough for me. Also, I'd probably make this a weekend day project instead of starting it on Friday evening after work. Nevertheless, even though it was close to 4am Saturday morning by the time I was finished up with my mini project, there's nothing like the taste and texture of freshly-baked bread! The bread lasted for about 10 days primarily because the boyf was a bit freaked by it and didn't favor it too much. My favorite way to have it is to pile on a slice of cheese (one can never have too much cheese!) and some cold cuts like the turkey pastrami on this baby, before toasting it.