A fter doing a lot of baking last month, I had given my oven (and myself) a two week baking break. It wasn't easy to ignore the way my oven seemed to be asking me when I was going to get back to keeping it company. So I finally gave in and baked some Grissini, and that was it. However, the looming deadline for Bread Baking Day this month (how could I miss that?) got me back to thinking about this month's BBD theme which is " Bread with Cheese". I chanced on a recipe for Cheddar Cheese Pretzel Bread on a discussion forum and it sounded perfect to me.
There are two ways of making pretzel bread, it seems. One way is to make them like pretzels by making pretzel shaped rolls putting them into boiling water to which baking soda has been added and then taking them out to bake them like bread. The other way, which I have used here, is to shape the dough into a big pretzel and then bake it. It would also be difficult to follow the pretzel making method here because of the size of this bread.
I halved the original recipe and made a few additions and subtractions to suit our tastes. This includes leaving out the egg, adding some crushed black pepper and substituting one and quarter cups of flour with whole wheat flour. I am reproducing the halved recipe below.
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp butter
2 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp dried Italian herbs, crushed
1 1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarse salt or some white sesame seeds (optional)
In a pan, sauté the onions in butter till soft but not brown. Keep aside to cool a bit. Add the sugar and yeast to the warm water, stir and allow to prove. In a mixing bowl (or processor bowl), put the sautéed onion, cheese, flours, Italian herbs and salt. Mix (or pulse) a couple of times and add the yeast mixture.
Knead very well, adding more water if necessary, till a moderately stiff dough which is smooth and elastic is obtained. Shape into a ball and place in a greased bowl, coating the ball with oil by turning it round in the bowl. Cover and allow the dough to double in volume (about an hour or so).
Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, letting it rest for 10 minutes. Roll the dough out into a 24" long smooth rope. Place it on a greased baking sheet and shape into a large pretzel shape. Moisten the ends of the pretzel and tuck them underneath to seal. Cover and allow to rise till almost double (about half an hour). Brush the top of the bread with cold milk and sprinkle coarse salt or white sesame seeds if preferred.
Bake at 190C for about 40 minutes till golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. If the bread is browning too much, cover it loosely with aluminium foil during the last 20 minutes in the oven. Cool completely on a rack. The original recipe says this should make 10 servings. I wasn't counting and all I know is that we finished the bread off between the three of us!
It is important to use a sharp cheddar cheese to make this bread for the flavour of the cheese to really come through in this bread. Baking this bread not only guarantees a bread full of flavour but an added bonus of heavenly aroma of warm cheese and bread baking in your oven.