Paula Lambert's Umbrian Cheese Bread
Circle B Kitchen
From Paula Lambert's Cheese Lover's Cookbook
This bread was so incredibly scrumptious. It bakes up with a crisp, brown crust and a soft, cheesy interior that's ever so perfect with a glass of wine, a crisp salad or bowl of soup. The recipe calls for 3 1/4 cups of flour, but as I kneaded the bread, I had to add quite a bit more flour (close to 1/2 cup) before I was through, but is still a pretty sticky dough. The recipe begins with a sponge, which is just a yeast starter that gives the dough an extra boost of flavor and texture. To save time and work, just make the sponge in the bowl of your stand mixer and let your mixer do all the kneading for you. Give a final knead on the counter for a minute before setting it out to rise. A final tip... cut your parmesan cheese into little cubes and let your food processor do the grating. Do not use pre-shredded packaged cheese, although a good quality grated parmesan would work fine. One last thing... the recipe calls for a round 9 x 2 inch pan, but I suggest you use a little larger pan, which I will do next time, so that the loaf has more room to rise. I would suggest at least a 10-inch round pan. This bread would also be great cooked in mini loaf pans to serve as an appetizer.
Makes 1 large (almost 3 lbs) loaf or 2 smaller 1 1/2 lb loaves
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1 pkg active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
For the Bread
1/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
5 large eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, or more if needed
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
For the Starter Sponge, place the warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the water. Add the sugar and stir to moisten the yeast. Set aside to proof; if the mixture bubbles and has foam on the surface, the yeast is active. Place the flour in a large bowl, add the proofed yeast and stir to combine. Cover and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
If using a stand mixer, place the warm water in the bowl of the mixer, add the yeast and sugar. After proofing, add the flour to the bowl, mix and let stand to rise for 2 hours.
For the Cheese Bread, place the warm water in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water, add the pinch of sugar and stir to moisten the yeast. Set aside to proof; if the mixture bubbles and has foam on the surface, it is active.
Beat the eggs with the olive oil, Parmigiano, butter, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the proofed yeast and mix well. Stir this mixture into the starter sponge. Add the flour and mix well. If using a stand mixer, knead by machine for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed to create a smooth, soft dough (see headnote). Add in the cubed Gruyere. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for another minute. If kneading by hand, you can go ahead and add the Gruyere cheese before kneading.
Shape the dough into a smooth, flattened ball.
Butter and flour a 9 x 2-inch round pan (at least 2 quarts) and place the dough in the pan (I suggest you use at least a 10-inch round pan). Cover and set aside to rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. If making 2 smaller loaves, place them in two 9 x 5 loaf pans or two 8 x 2-inch round pans.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Beat the egg yolk with a fork and brush on the top of the dough. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 325 degrees F. and continue to bake for 40 to 50 minutes longer, or until the bread has risen high above the sides of the pan (s) and the crust is a deep golden brown. Do not open the oven door during the first hour of baking. Or, if using two smaller pans, bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then at 325 for about 30 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and set on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan(s) to finish cooling.