ASIAGO CHEESE BREAD
We used to drive 40 minutes to get Asiago Cheese Bread from Vic’s in Novi. Allen and I would wander around the store in search of specialty foods, deli meats and treats in their store. Even though I made lots of homemade bread, we always ended up bringing home a loaf of one of their wonderful breads. We sampled many kinds of bread but decided the asiago cheese bread was our favorite. We loved the texture and big chunks of asiago cheese in the bread.
After the store closed, I had to start working on making my own version of asiago cheese bread. I tried adding the flavorful, tangy cheese to Italian bread, French bread, baguette, and other favorite recipes. My husband Allen enjoyed trying variations as I tried to replicate what I felt was the best asiago cheese bread I had ever tasted. Finally, I came up with a version using the food processor instead of kneading by hand. I also found that all-purpose flour worked well to get the texture I wanted.
Now this recipe is a staple in my household. I was on FaceTime with my youngest granddaughter one day while making this. I told her that it would be noisy when I started the food processor for my bread. She wanted to know what kind of bread I was making, so I told her it was the Asiago Cheese Bread. She said,”Ooo-oo-ooh, yum! Do you know, Foo Foo, that we are COMPLETELY out of bread?!” Of course, I offered to bring her some. Her mother bakes bread regularly, and even had dough in the fridge, but who am I deny a granddaughter fresh bread with pockets of buttery and tangy asiago cheese?!
I love using the food processor for this recipe; it mixes the dough quickly and easily. After a few whirls in the processor, the simple ingredients come together quickly to make a moist, but not too sticky dough. It literally only takes a minute or two to change from a floury mess to dough. Be sure to remove the blade before letting it rise in the food processor bowl. I used to leave the blade in but found it somewhat precarious to find the sharp edges after the bread puffed up inside the bowl.
In about an hour, scrape the dough out of the bowl, divide it in half and roll each half to a rectangle. Next, sprinkle chunks of the asiago all over and tightly roll it up into a baguette style loaf. Be sure to pinch the long edges together tightly to keep the cheese inside the bread. The dough should be moist enough to make it easy to seal up neatly.
After it rises the second time, slash the tops. Slashing directs the expansion and keeps the bread from bursting out at the seam. Bake it in a hot oven until it is golden brown. If you want the bread to be crusty, add hot water to a pan on a shelf below or next to the loaves. Or, if you like a soft crust, bake the loaves without the water, and brush the tops with olive oil or butter after they are baked. I like it both ways and can’t decide which is best.
ASIAGO CHEESE BREAD
- 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (from a 1/4-oz package)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 2/3 cups warm water (105-115°F)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped pieces asiago cheese
Pulse flour and salt in a food processor to combine.
Stir together yeast, water and sugar in a 2-cup glass measuring cup until yeast is dissolved. Let it stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil to the water mixture, turn on the food processor, and slowly pour it all into the processor. Blend until dough forms a ball and pulls away from side of processor bowl, about 1 minute.
Remove blade, scraping dough off, as you pull it out. Leave the dough in the processor and cover it all with a damp cloth. Let the dough rise until it fills the bowl, about 1 hour.
Generously grease a sheet pan or French bread pan with cooking oil spray.
Scrape dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead a few times to deflate the dough; divide in half (dough will be very soft). Roll one half into a 10- by 8-inch rectangle, sprinkle about 1/2 of the cheese over top, roll up tightly, pinching edges together. Turn over (seam side down), then roll it back and forth to slowly stretch into a long loaf, about 11-12 inches long. Put loaf, seam side down in oiled or well-sprayed perforated French bread pan or sheet pan.
Repeat procedure with remaining dough. Let loaves rise, covered with a dry cloth, in a warm draft-free place 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size.
If you like a crisp crust, put an oven rack in upper third of oven, then put a large roasting pan with 1 inch of water in it on bottom of gas oven or on lowest rack of electric oven. If you prefer a soft crust, you can forgo the pan of water.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make 3 shallow diagonal slashes down length of each loaf with razor blade.
Bake loaves 30-40 minutes. Cool loaves on a rack.