Cheese and Chili No Knead Bread

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.
Chili cheese bread
The lumps visible in the picture are bits of cheese that was mixed into the dough.
  • 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.

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  • 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.
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Bread after 30 minutes in a closed pot. This may look pretty and golden but it’s underbaked, and would be gummy inside. Bread should be dark golden brown when it is done (or use a probe thermometer and bake it to minimum internal temperature of 93C/200F).
  • 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.

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Try to not eat the entire loaf by stuffing it in your mouth with two hands. Just saying.

 

11 thoughts on “Cheese and Chili No Knead Bread

    1. Hey there and thanks! I hope your mother likes the recipe, and if she or you have any questions, by all means don’t hesitate to contact me or drop a comment here!

      Your cheesecake looks awesome! I usually prefer the really tall NY-style cheesecakes based on cream cheese and mascarpone, but if I happen across ricotta (which is not a staple here in Norway, so it’s normally fairly pricey), I may give it a try!

  1. Looks great. I made an almost identical loaf over the holidays but with cheddar and some fresh, ripe, home-grown habanero peppers that were still on the plants (indoors, of course). It was spicy and decadent and made for some interesting toast the next morning.

    1. I envy you the habanero chilies still on the plants – most of my chili plants barely survived the dark rental apartment and then the move, so no homegrown chilies for me at the moment. My Aji Limos and one of my habanero plants have started setting some buds since we moved and I placed them on sunny windows, so here’s hoping for some at some point in the future!

      I am curious about the pairing of habanero with cheddar. My instinct would have been to pair cheddar with jalapenos or something else fresh and green, and habaneros with some Swiss-type variety, but evidently it works! Was the cheddar very strong, or a milder variant?

      1. Cheddar was all I had available at the moment, and it was a typical American “sharp” cheddar: unremarkable, mass-produced, gummy more than flaky, but it worked well in bread. I got the idea to pair it with habanero pepper from a somewhat better commercial cheddar cheese available here (Cabot brand) that makes a delicious pepper cheese with cheddar and habanero.

        I have in my cellar pantry three jars of sun-dried habaneros from my last two harvests, so maybe I’ll try another loaf, this time with a “Swiss”-type cheese. I’m still having trouble getting a good “spring” with this no-knead method once I plop it into the preheated cast iron Dutch oven I use. The resulting loaf is good but somewhat flat. I’m wondering if I’m letting it rise too long initially and secondarily. I typically go 18 hours, fold and short rest, then two hours. I’ll try it your (shorter) way next time. (I’ve also made this no-knead bread in a loaf pan, which I let rise and put — pan and all — into the preheated Dutch oven. It just fits. The loaf pan prevents the dough from spreading out, of course, and it’s pretty good, but not quite the same.)

      2. The cheddar doesn’t have to be fancy – the stuff I used in my bread is in no way flaky, it’s just a ‘general-purpose’ household cheese. Fair enough, they tend to be nicer in Europe than USA, but it’s not a huge difference, and probably none once baked. Regarding the chilies – I would go for pickled or fresh rather than the sun-dried, unless they are oil-packed, because the sun-dried would be too concentrated if crushed into dough, and not give the same ‘spread’ of flavor.

        Regarding floppy no-knead bread. As you might have read, my first attempt didn’t even make it to the Dutch oven (it leaked off the board and onto the counter and at that point I said f**k it), and I have corrected it since to lower hydration % because I never had good luck with no-knead bread based on the original Lahey recipe – in my opinion, it specifies way too much water for what’s involved (not to mention that I abhor bread recipes given in volume measures since I learned to do it the right way, that being weighing the flour and the liquids). Bread going too flat is, as you suspect, either the problem of way too-long rise – 18+2 is beyond all necessity or reason for non-sourdough, and even for sourdough I’d not do that without retarding for such a high hydration. The other possible problem is that unless you are using a really nice flour, the ‘all purpose’ or other general purpose flours in the States tends to be, frankly, not so awesome for bread-making (especially if they are bleached). I used to buy King Arthur bread flour when I lived there, and they are still around, but I’m not sure what else is available and not priced stupidly (you probably know). For holding that much water, you really want a hard spring wheat-based flour with 11+ % protein, which absorbs more water. Another thing to help a bread get and hold better shape is the bread basket (which I use for most of my breads), but that wouldn’t help with oven spring as much as with general height and shape of the loaf (and puts pretty stripes on it as a bonus).

      3. I weigh everything, even the water, right down to the gram, and use whatever bread flour I can find, so I suspect (as you do) too-long rise and too much water. I’ll cut back on the water and the rise next time and let you know. (I’m not a dedicated enough baker to seek out the pricey flour, so tweaking the details might be just good enough, not that the previous attempts were all that bad.)

      4. Ah! I actually remembered the American tweak which you may already know – you can easily buy gluten powder aka ‘vital wheat gluten’ there (it’s less common outside professional stores here), and a teaspoon (flat or heaped) of that per loaf of bread mixed into the flour does wonders for bread! Other than that, yep, lower water and shorter fermentation may well solve it even without the gluten!

    1. Mandy, hi and thank you for the comment! If you have just started looking into no-knead bread, by all means, feel free to read my original horrible failure – it, and subsequent post, explain why I don’t use the ‘standard’ Lahey recipe, but adjusted it based on a Swedish baker’s one to make it easier to handle.

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