The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Christmas Breads

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wally's picture
wally

Christmas Breads


My tradition of Christmas bread baking began by accident back in 1975, when, considerably younger and poorer, I discovered a recipe for cheese bread in Joy of Cooking that yielded a pretty tasty product.  So I decided that Christmas that family and friends would receive a loaf, something I could afford and that was personal.


To my surprise, I started receiving inquiries the following holiday season to the effect of, "So, I'm looking forward to another loaf of that fabulous bread."  So began a tradition (curse in my weaker moments) of baking cheese bread at Christmas time.  This year, that amounted to 30 loaves, baked over two weekends.  A busman's holiday for me I reckon.


I've tweaked the recipe over the years, but the central ingredients remain extra sharp cheddar cheese, butter and milk.  The combination makes for a rich, dense loaf of bread with excellent keeping qualities and a simple set of instructions I send with each loaf: "Cheese Bread - For best results, slice, toast, butter, and enjoy!"  The recipe below is for 5 loaves which is my standard at-a-time bake these days.



While this is an easy, straightforward straight-dough bread, I've found that to achieve a really good loaf requires a fair amount of hand labor.  I hand grate the cheese - about a quarter pound per loaf - because my experience with KA mixer grater attachments is that they produce too coarse a grate, and I then gently rub the cheese into the flour, a bit at a time, to both coat the individual gratings and to gently warm the flour and cheese which makes for better incorporation.   Beyond that, because I mix 9 lbs at a time, there is no way short of using a commercial mixer to do this except by hand.



It's actually a kind of sensual experience, gently rubbing flour and cheese between my palms until the flour itself begins to take on an orange hue.


The second taxing part is that because this is a stiff dough, it requires kneading.  Not so much for the gluten development I think as for the final effect of warm hands on dough in 'melting' the cheese so that it's really incorporated.  After 7 minutes or so of kneading, you are rewarded with a dough that is silky smooth and now very orange-hued.


The milk, butter, salt and sugar are heated in a pan to a scalding temperature to denature the enzymes in the milk, and then cold water is added to reach DDT.  Instant dry yeast is added to the flour and cheese, the liquid is poured in, and then hand mixed until fully kneaded.  Bulk fermentation is 1 - 1 1/2 hours depending on temperature, and then the dough is divided, allowed to rest for 20 minutes, and then shaped and placed in bread pans and covered. 



I braided one up as a challah, and thinking about it, the formulas aren't that far removed excepting the cheese.



Final proof is a short 1 hour, and then the bread is baked, steamed, in a 375° F oven for 45 minutes.


After removing them to racks to cool, they are brushed lightly with melted butter to achieve a soft crust (no hearth bread, this!).


    


    


I've frozen this for several months in frost-free refrigerators after cater-wrapping them in plastic, and they still turn out wonderfully.


Other baking I've done includes some stollen.  I like to marinade my fruit in rum for about 8 weeks prior to making my dough.  Pics are below - sorry no crumb shots as these are all presents.


    


I wish everyone at TFL the best of our Holiday season!


Larry

Comments

MichaelH's picture
MichaelH

I've been looking for a cheese bread recipe for some time and this looks to be the one. I have dozens of recipes bookmarked in my main "Bread" folder, but I have a special sub-folder entitled "Breads to make soon". This is where your post is going.



Thanks for taking the time for such a detailed description of what looks to be a great bread. The loaves are gorgeous.


Michael

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Oh Larry, what a gorgeous bake! The chestnut sheen on the cheese breads is astonishing - like a ripe chestnut - and what a wonderful, airy golden crumb!


I bet the stollen are great too with such well-soaked fruit.


How good to be a recipient of these gifts.


I know too what you mean about the pleasures of hand mixing!


Thank you for this beautiful blog post. Wishing you a good holiday season.


With best wishes, Daisy_A

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

I love cheese breads.  The only one I've made is The Cheese Board Collective recipe, which is much more rustic.  Those are beautiful, Larry.  As are the Challah and Stollen.  


Happy Holidays!!


 


Glenn

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

You've been holding out!  What a wonderful cheese bread and the braiding and crumb are just gorgeous, oh yes and the crust color!  I can tell they must be so delicious!  I've marked this recipe!  The stollen with fruit soaked and to marinated heaven...what wonderful gifts!   Are you sure there's not an easier way to get the cheese grated that fine?...I've got so many processor disks!


Happy Holidays!


Sylvia

yy's picture
yy

those loaves are beautiful, especially the braided one. Any advice on how to get even browning on braided loaves? The crevices on mine always stay pale.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Those look great, Larry.


Happy Holidays to you and yours.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Gosh, Larry, I can almost smell the fragance of that cheese bread!  Beautiful breads; gifts from the heart are always the best.


Great braiding, by the way - and am happy to see your lovely little silver sugar  bowl peeking around the corners.  


Merry Christmas!

Franko's picture
Franko

You're a fine baker Larry. All of these breads show a high degree of skill and attention to the mixing, fermentation, molding, and baking of them. The braiding on the challah is IMO as good as it gets ! Your friends and family are very fortunate indeed to have these gifts under the tree on Christmas day.


Warm Regards to you and yours for the Christmas Season,


Franko

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Wow, Larry, everything looks so, so good (you have expert braiding skills!).

My husband LOVES cheese bread & I wanted to make him a special loaf for Christmas - I will give your recipe a try - thank you!

I'm going to grab my 2011 calendar & note an October reminder to "soak fruits in rum" - for Stollen next year.


Happy holidays to you and thanks again for writing about these beautiful breads.
from breadsong

Mebake's picture
Mebake

merry christmas to you, Larry!


Beautiful Breads, i love how you slash those pan loaves.. they look great!


 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

on me. What you did is absolutely fantastic!

wally's picture
wally

It's great to have a community where so much knowledge gets freely shared.  Recipes in commercial environments try to be closely guarded (not always successfully), but I love being able to come to TFL where everything is available for common use.


@Sylvia - I have a shortage of gadgets, so it's possible there is a grater attachment that would produce a fine grate.  That would certainly be a time and labor saver!


@yy- In this case, because of all the cheese the braids color pretty consistently.  If you aren't already doing it, make sure your challah is fully proofed before coating it with egg wash.  That might give your crevises more color.


@LindyD - The sugar bowl got polished recently, so it's ready for the Holidays.


Happy Holidays all!


Larry

louie brown's picture
louie brown

Larry, your friends are lucky to receive your breads. And we are lucky to have your posts to guide us in trying them. Your patience with the cheese obviously paid off. I've never seen that before.

wally's picture
wally

Thanks louie brown!

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Thanks for the inspiring write-up, Larry. Your friends are fortunate indeed!


Cheers!
Ross

wally's picture
wally

Thanks so much Ross.  Cheers to you as well!


Larry

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Very nice looking loaves Larry. I too have been establishing my Holiday breads as tradition but for not as long as yours. Past years have been done in cranberry walnut raisin but your cheese bread has me drooling.


Are you using AP flour on this?


Wonderful Holiday wishes Larry.


Eric


 

wally's picture
wally

Your bread sounds absolutely delicious and very Holiday-ish!


I'm using KA Sir Galahad.


Best wishes for you and your family at the Holidays!


Larry

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

Did you mean KAF Sir Lancelot?  Super loaves! 

wally's picture
wally

Thanks so much. I meant Sir Galahad.  Lancelot has a much higher protein content - it's really a high gluten flour.


Larry

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

Merry Christmas!  When I type in Galahad at the King Arthur website, the all-purpose flour pops up, but I can't tell if it reads Galahad on it.  Is it their all-purpose flour?


Thanks - my family loves cheese bread!


Mary Clare in MO

wally's picture
wally

What is sold at groceries and retail stores as KA's AP flour is the same as the commercially available 50# bags of Sir Galahad.


Larry

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

Thanks for letting me know!


Mary Clare in MO

rayel's picture
rayel

Larry, this must be attempt 9,999. How do you make it look so easy? Really perfect loaves, and pictures. Often when I see a painting or sculpture that I like I say, I think I can do this. It's a fleeting thought. When I see your breads I again think, I can do this. Another fleeting thought. It's the apparent ease with which you put these out, that fosters the thought. Masterful breads, and true art... Happy Holidays.


Ray

wally's picture
wally

But the truth is, there are a lot of failures too, I just don't post them as often.  I'm a baker's apprentice, and one of the benefits is that I get to practice my craft daily.  And the repetition from this allows me to gain confidence and competence.


It's much more challenging for the occasional baker.  That said, keep at it and you'll be rewarded!


Larry

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Larry,


Made your cheese bread. It was super-delicious!


The evidence - we decided to have 'just a half a slice each' while it was still warm to try the taste and ended up with just the heel of the loaf it was that good...



I was pleased as it is the first time I've made a loaf like this. Thanks for the clear instructions


Had some today as toast, also lovely as you say.


Thanks for putting this in baker's percentages. I was able to work up 300g of organic flour to a 600g loaf that fitted my small loaf tin. 


I see you have the baking out well down. I was really glad with the way the loaf rose and bloomed around the top score and with the chestnut crust. I found it easier to get the bloom that with sourdough and the dough itself was lovely.


I will have to learn how to bake it out in my gas oven. I put it on the middle shelf with preheat in a metal loaf tin but even with tenting the top was well baked before the sides were set. May move it down and cook slightly longer next time. Just need to deal with the idiosyncrasies of my oven. Formula was fantastic! 


Just off to bake it again with the rest of the cheese!


Thanks for sharing this.


Very best wishes, Daisy_A


 

wally's picture
wally

Thanks for sharing with me Daisy_A.  The loaf looks great and it's one bread that never lasts long enough to stale in my experience.  I have at times resorted to tenting to keep the top of the loaf from over-darkening, but I like your idea of lowering the rack first to see if that works.


Nice bake!


Larry

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Larry,


Well tenting earlier and baking on a lower rack worked a treat for my oven.


Was bouncing around with joy when I saw this loaf...


I can see why they make such great presents. Might well have to try this on my friends and family also.


Thank you so much for sharing this! 


Very best wishes, Daisy_A



   

 

wally's picture
wally

Beautiful bake Daisy_A!  Watch out, you'll be on the hook with both family and friends forever.


Larry

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A


Hi Larry,


Was just unpacking the groceries when I came across a lovely lump of award-winning, mature cheddar that had somehow flung itself in the basket!


Pointed this out to my husband and he began to express what I can only call 'more cheese bread hope'...


Best wishes, Daisy_A


Jo_Jo_'s picture
Jo_Jo_

This looks totally awesome!  I am now adding this one to my list of need to bakes. I adore breads that are not really sweet, but to add sharp cheddar to one that just sends me over the edge.  Thanks for such an awesome looking recipe!


Joanne

wally's picture
wally

Enjoy Joanne!

Jo_Jo_'s picture
Jo_Jo_

I have been wanting to make this bread since the first time I saw it, and today I am making it for my husband to take to work for a gathering tomorrow.  I will be making one change, by adding a can of green chili's to the mix, so I will probably have to adjust the flour slighty although the hydration is low enough it might not effect it to much.  Definitely thinking about making an extra couple pounds of just cheese for us though!  Looks like such an awesome recipe.  Thanks again for sharing!

Jo_Jo_'s picture
Jo_Jo_

I am debating on whether this bread will have fat cook out of the cheese, like when I bake a Casatiello.  I have a wonderful perferated baguette pan, but really don't want a bunch of grease to go onto the oven floor. Your's don't look greasy at all, so maybe it was just the salami that was producing it.