Among all the levain breads that I made from Jeffrey Hamelman's book Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes, this Cheese Bread was the most successful one so far. I got really good oven spring and oven bloom during the bake and the loaves had a very crisp and crackly crust that they sung!! I'm pretty pleased with the flavor and openness of the crumb as well....it's definitely a must to use really good cheese -- I think any hard cheese like Parmesan, Asiago, and Gruyere would work really well. Given this bread's very good results as well as all the other successful bakes I had from Bread, I might just bake through the entire book! I'm actually (unintentionally) just a few recipes away from completing the chapter on levain breads and the process of creating these loaves in the few months since I started on this book has really helped me understand the complexities of sourdough bread making. Hamelman's book is definitely one of the best if not THE BEST book you can get your hands on if you really want to understand baking with wild yeasts.
I think one of the things that did wonders to the way these loaves sprung and bloomed was my use of both pizza stone and clay pots which I used to cover the loaves the first 20 minutes. I've been using my cast-iron dutch oven for my breads but I'm now finding it waaaay too heavy to handle especially while it's super hot which prompted me to look for other ways to mimic hearth baking without having to use my back-breaking DO. Inspired by La Cloche clay bakers (which I find too darn expensive) I went on a quest to look for similar cheaper clay bakers to no avail. But luckily, while I was at the supermarket, I stumbled upon these Asian pots made out of a thicker and sturdier material (I forget the name) than clay that are actually used in Japanese and Korean cuisines to make stews, soups, etc where they're even placed directly on top of a flame and could withstand very high heat-- as high as 600 C/ 1112 F!! I immediately snagged two of these one slightly bigger than the other and used them for the first time with these loaves. They worked exceptionally well and needless to say that I'm never going back to using my DO for baking bread ever again!
|Crisp and crackly crust!!|
I'm also pretty satisfied with my scoring of the loaves and even got a few "ears."
I only used grated parmesan and not the cubes which I think would've been better as you'll get concentrated bites of cheesy goodness. I also think that it would even be tastier to put grated cheese on top of the loaves a few minutes before the end of the baking time...will definitely do this next time!
This is absolutely delicious eaten alone or as bruschetta where I topped it with chopped tomatoes, onions, anchovies, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toasting the slices also brings out the smoky flavor of the cheese...Highly recommended!!
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