I think I finally got it.
Imagine this. You remove the covers from your loaves baking and in a hot oven. As the steam is released you get a preliminary whiff of melting cheese. It’s only a whiff because you need to quickly close the oven door; heat is escaping. A few minutes later, you open the oven again and are greeted by cheese oozing out of golden crusty smiles. As you move these beauties to a cooling rack, you notice there’s a bit of fried cheese remaining on the baking surface. No matter who these loaves are for, this morsel of goodness is yours.
Do I have your attention? Good.
One sure way to know you’ve landed on something good is when people around you become quite interested in it. That’s what happened with this bread. I’ve been making adjustments ever since I wrote part 2 of this series, and some small adjustments to ingredients and process led me to a point I’m comfortable sharing.
One major issue with my previous attempts was the cheese getting lost in the bread. Previously I shredded it and mixed it into the dough during bulk fermentation, but I’ve changed that part of the process. Now I cube it and add it to the dough during shaping. This makes for visually stunning bread as I described above, but it brings the cheese to the front of the flavor where it belongs.
As for ingredients, I pulled back on the semolina and Khorasan. The golden color of the semolina and buttery richness of the Khorasan are still present, though the consistency is better than it was before. I also switched from pickled jalapeños to fresh. You need fewer peppers for the same heat. I don’t find this bread particularly spicy, so there’s room to increase the heat without overburdening the bread.
So, without further ado, I give to you Valentine’s Jalepeño-Cheddar Bread
Valentine’s Jalepeño-Cheddar Bread
Yield: 2 medium, very cheesy loaves
Ingredient List (Total Weight 1400g)
479g Bread Flour (70%)
103g Semolina (15%)
103g Khorasan flour (15%)
411g Water (60%)
48g Butter, melted (7%)
14g Salt (2%)
68g Jalepeños, fresh, diced, ribs and seeds removed (10%) (Clarification: this is the weight after trimming)
Optional: an additional 34g jalepeños and/or 34g habaneros, depending on your preference
34g Sourdough Culture (5%)
3g Yeast (.5%)
137g Cheddar, cut into small cubes, added during shaping (20%)
103g Bread Flour
376g Bread Flour
103g Khorasan flour
48g Butter, melted
Twelve to sixteen hours before you want to build the final dough, assemble the levain, dissolving the sourdough starter in the water before adding the flour.
Once the levain is active, combine the flour and salt (and yeast if using instant), dissolve the levain in the water (reserve some water to activate the yeast if you use active dry), then add to the flour and salt. Mix until you have a shaggy mass of a dough, then fold in the jalapeños. The peppers don’t have to be uniformly distributed.
Bulk rise for 3 hours, folding after 15/30/45/60/120 minutes. After the three hours, divide the dough in two, preshape, and let sit for 10 minutes or so. While bench resting, prepare the cheese. Take one loaf and gently stretch it out into a round disk. Place half the cheese on top of the dough, then shape into a boule as usual. Take some care making the seam; I’ve found mine weaken during the final proof. Repeat with the second loaf. Place them seam-up in a banneton or whatever you use to support the loaves during the final proof. Proof for 60 minutes, score the loaves, then bake at 475F for 30-35 minutes, steaming for the first 25. I love the three-eyed smile cut (pictured left and right below) for this bread.