I love bread. I’m one of those that will eat the bread on the way home from the supermarket until there’s only a lonely, crusty end left. I find that bread that I get from a bakery, or better yet bake at home, is so much more satisfying than the kind you can find at the big box stores. It somehow satisfies with less and doesn’t have that strange aftertaste you become accustomed to, unless you eat fresh bread often enough.
We almost never buy bread anymore. I cook bread at least once a week, sometimes four times a week. My husband and I were including bread in our CSA boxes and that meant baking thirty loaves every week. It’s like gardening- therapeutic and satisfying to see and enjoy the finished project.
Baking bread is one of the most wholesome things you can do for your family. True, it is time consuming, but most of the time spent is inactive.
I have a secret weapon, and his name is Paul Hollywood. If you’ve ever seen The Great British Baking Show (and if you haven’t, you MUST!), you know Paul. My husband bought me one of his bread baking cookbooks, and it was revolutionary. Every loaf is a homerun. I have had to adjust every recipe – because apparently the hot, humid conditions of the South Texas coast are slightly different than Paul’s home in Scotland – but they are all delicious, no fail breads.
Here’s one of his recipes that I added dried fruit to. It combines all of my favorite parts of a good cheese board: 1) a hearty bread, 2) nuts, 3) fruit, and 4) cheese. This bread is so complex and wonderful, it’s great with a slathering of butter, jelly, or toasted with olive oil.
Cheese Board Bread
Makes 1 loaf
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 35-40 minutes
2/3 cup bread flour
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 1/4 cup water
3 oz bleu cheese (Gorgonzola or Stilton)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup dried cranberries, blueberries, and/or cherries
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add in butter and water until a soft dough is formed. The dough should be slightly wet, as whole-wheat requires more water. Knead the dough in the bowl or on a floured surface for about five minutes, until smooth. Cover dough with a tea towel and let rise in a warm area for an hour.
Add the cheese, nuts, and dried fruit to the risen dough and knead well, until all the mix-ins are well-incorporated. Form a baton or batard shape (us lay folks may think of it as a sausage shape) and place on a baking sheet. Cut slits 1/4″ deep using a sharp knife, and sprinkle with a light dusting of bread flour. Let rise for one hour.
Preheat oven to 450F. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when thumped, the bread is a nice golden color, and the cheese is bubbling and golden. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool for at least ten minutes.
*Note: If you’re not a fan of bleu cheese, this loaf might pleasantly surprise you. Heating the cheese at this temperature mellows out the flavor considerably, leaving only a salty finish.