The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Christmas Breads

wally's picture

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!



MichaelH's picture

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.


GSnyde's picture

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!!



SylviaH's picture

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!


yy's picture

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

Those look great, Larry.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.

LindyD's picture

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

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,


breadsong's picture

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

merry christmas to you, Larry!

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


nicodvb's picture

on me. What you did is absolutely fantastic!

wally's picture

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!


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

Thanks louie brown!

rossnroller's picture

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


wally's picture

Thanks so much Ross.  Cheers to you as well!


ehanner's picture

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.



wally's picture

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!


Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

Did you mean KAF Sir Lancelot?  Super loaves! 

wally's picture

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


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

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.


Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

Thanks for letting me know!

Mary Clare in MO

rayel's picture

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.


wally's picture

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!


Jo_Jo_'s picture

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!


wally's picture

Enjoy Joanne!

Jo_Jo_'s picture

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

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.