No-knead bread method and I haven’t always been friends. When I have originally tried it, there was a case of horrid gloop that didn’t only have to be thrown out, but necessitated a clean up of half the kitchen, and it was all terrible. But as I am stubborn where it comes to ideas I think ought to work, we’ve gotten along better since then. And anyone who knows me, knows well of my love for both, cheese and anything spicy hot (read that as containing copious amounts of chili of some variety or another). So it’s surprising, really, that I haven’t tried to combine this with the no-knead recipe – until I have, and the result was awesome enough that I need to both, show you the pictures, and also write all about it.
We’ve eaten it sliced as a base for sandwiches, or just buttered alongside a meal, and to be quite honest, I’d eat it just as it is for a snack, because it’s cheesy, it’s satisfying, and really all-round wonderful.
As I wrote previously, we are still in our somewhat-short-budget month, and I also hate wasting food in general. So when I found a slightly-sad block of drying out cheese (it was plain Norvegia which is a fairly generic Scandinavian block cheese, with a bit more flavor than Hushållsost, but less interesting than most sandwich cheeses), I immediately wondered what I can do with it that’d use it up to good advantage. And ‘good advantage’ where it comes to slightly dried out (or even pretty dry) cheese is easy – use it in anything baked, be it on roasted vegetables, on pizza, in cheese-based savory cookies such as sables – or in bread. And, since I was more than a little tired (I am often tired these days because unpacking and various new-to-us house-projects), bread it was – the simplest variation of bread at that.
Because Norvegia isn’t a cheese of much character on its own (cheese gods save me from the hate of Norvegia-fans if such exist!), I figured that a finely chopped red chili (nothing fancy, just a stronger variant of Dutch red chilies you can buy all over the Nordics, and which I tend to keep on hand in my fridge because chili is love!) would liven it up. And it did, and the results – both in terms of ease of handling the dough, and the flavor – were so wonderful that I had to write this up. Because if you like cheese, and you like bread, and you like chili (but of course you do!), you will want to make it. It’s simple, it’s easy, it has (again) no expensive ingredients, and it’ll help you use up the old lingering block of cheese that has been accusingly staring at you from the side of the fridge shelf for a week…
What? Your cheese doesn’t give you aging-cheese guilt? Either you are a better cheesemaster than I am, or else you are lying, and for cheeses’ sake, I hope it’s the former.
So what do you need to make this?
An oven, a large mixing bowl, and preferably a cast iron pot or bottom of one, plus a stainless steel bowl to cover the bread for baking. You can probably just bake it straight up on a sheet, but the results are so much better if you use the cast iron baking method.
Ingredients (makes 1 loaf):
- 500g bread flour (11-14% protein is the range of those in the Nordics, the one I had on hand was 13%).
- 375g (or ml) cold tap water
- 7-12g dry yeast of any sort (this recipe is forgiving, any will do provided it’s alive)
- 10g salt (I use fine, iodized)
- 1 large hot red chili or several hot red chilies if you like to eat fire, or half a chili if you don’t like much heat in your food. As always, with chilies, heat and your mileage will vary. Chili or chilies should be washed and chopped finely. I did not seed mine and mixed the seeds in with everything.
- 3-4dl coarsely shredded cheese, which can be any mild cheese, or stronger-flavored cheese for that matter, but you need a sort that will melt. Edam, Swiss, Gouda, Jarlsberg, or really any of the Nordic cheese varieties, whatever is sitting in your fridge and looking sad.
What you do:
- Mix flour, yeas and salt. Add cheese and mix to coat the shreds in flour so it’s not clumped. Add the chopped chili and mix it in.
- Add the flour, and stir to combine. The dough will be wet and shaggy and not pretty. It’s normal. Make sure all dry bits of flour are incorporated to avoid dry clumps, and that’s it. Cover the bowl with a non-vented lid or plastic wrap, and leave overnight in a cool place (my kitchen counter next to the window is about +17C which is good) to slowly rise. I realize ‘overnight’ isn’t precise, but this isn’t exact science. If it’s bubbly and puffed up when you are awake and ready to deal with it, it’s good. Letting it sit longer than 18 hours is at your own peril, and I usually aim for 10-12 hours.
- Dump the dough onto a floured surface and fold a few times. Cover with its bowl and go have coffee, brush teeth, whatever. I did both.
- Come back, flour a banneton (bread basket) if you have one, make a couche out of a floured towel (always struck me as too much mess but professional bakers swear by those), or else prepare a piece of baking parchment (baking paper).
- Pick up the dough, form it into a ball, and put it seam-side up if using a banneton or a couche, or seam-side down onto baking parchment. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave be for 40-60 minutes to rise.
- In the last 10-20 minutes of proofing, when the dough has puffed up a bit (as in photo above), preheat your oven with your cast iron dish+its lid, or a baking stone, or a baking sheet, to 230C. Do not preheat your steel bowl with the baking stone or shallow casserole dish, because it has no handles and so is not possible to easily handle when heated.
- Once the oven and baking surface or pot have preheated, tip the bread out of banneton or couche onto baking parchment (unless it’s already rising on said parchment), and slash the top of it in whatever pattern you like. I use a serrated bread knife to slash, but I hear a small sharp paring knife works, as does the professional razor-blade-on-a-stick.
- Depending on what your are using to bake, take the pot out of oven onto a heat-proof surface, or put the bread+parchment on a peel, and deposit the bread on/in the hot dish. I used a Le Creuset Marmite pot, so I simply lowered the bread into it by the parchment, and covered it with the preheated lid.
- Lower heat to 200C, and bake covered for 30 minutes.
- Remove lid or steel bowl if you used that to cover the bread on a baking stone or similar. Note: lid or bowl will be terribly hot, so handle those with caution and have a spot prepared where you can rest those without burning yourself on them by accident. To remove the handle-less steel bowl, I usually slide a metal spatula under one edge, and tip it up a bit, then grab the bowl by the edge with an oven-mitted hand.
- Put the dish back in, close the oven, and bake for a further 20-30 minutes until the surface is beautifully golden brown, and/or internal temperature indicates it is done. Remove from oven, and then from the hot pot, and allow to cool on a rack for at least an hour, preferably 2-3 hours before cutting.
Try to not eat the entire loaf by stuffing it in your mouth with two hands. Just saying.