Peanut Butter and Purple Onions

Sounds crazy until you try it.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Leisurely Autumn

Sometimes, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, all you want to do is bake. The challenge for me is to rein in my impulse to bake more loaves, muffins, or whatever than we can eat, freeze, or give away. Forbearance is not a noted virtue of mine, but I'm working on it.

Dimples requested corn chowder earlier in the week, and he so rarely asks for a particular recipe that I always try to comply. (The less said about the Great Brownie Caper, the better.) Plus, I adore making vegetable stock. Adore. I always feel so triumphant for making something out of those odds and ends that might otherwise get tossed out.

But sometimes corn chowder can veer into bland territory, so I wanted to make something with a little zing as its sidekick. I love cheddar in bread, and of course anything with red pepper is a friend of mine, so Peppered-Cheese Bread it would be.

I'll be honest: this dough resisted coming together. I don't know if it was the humidity in the kitchen or just the general laziness of a rainy Sunday, but I spent much more time fussing with it on the counter than in the past. Still, when I pulled it from the oven, I did the Dance of Gorgeous Shiny Bread in the kitchen. Without dropping the baking sheet! Double points.

This bread is flavorful without being overpowering, and stands up well to soaking in soup. It also makes killer grilled cheese sandwiches, although the shape will be a little weird.

Peppered-Cheese Bread

Adopted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1 1/3 c. warm nonfat milk
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. coarsely-ground black pepper (sometimes I add 3)
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (I almost always add 2)
1 egg, beaten
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. grated extra-sharp Cheddar

Pour the milk into a large bowl and add the yeast. Let it stand until foamy, about ten minutes. Whisk in the salt, pepper, pepper flakes, all but one T of the beaten egg, and 1 c. flour. Whem smooth, start adding the rest of the flour. When the dough fights taking any more flour with the spoon, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.

Flatten the dough with your hands into a rectangle, then scatter half the cheese over the dough. Knead it into the dough -- this will take longer than you think it should, and the cheese may not evenly distribute itself. That's okay; it'll sort out in the end. Repeat with the rest of the cheese. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turn once, then cover and set aside until doubled in bulk. That should take between 45 and 60 minutes.

Push the dough down gently, then shape it into a tight ball and place it on a baking sheet. Cover and set aside until doubled in bulk again, about 45 minutes. Heat the oven to 375. Slash an X in the top of the loaf, then brush it with the rest of the beaten egg. Bake 45 minutes, then turn onto a rack to cool.


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