Sunday, March 13, 2011

Good Food: Bleu Cheese Bread

I like to bake.  My favorite things to bake are usually pies, cookies, cakes, muffins, cinnamon rolls, things of that nature.  Homemade bread, well I’ve kind of ignored that in the past.  I did attempt a homemade cinnamon bread that actually turned out pretty good.  But since then, I had left bread making to the bakeries.   Bread making is a bit of a challenge.  If the conditions aren’t just right, your measurements aren’t accurate or if your ingredients aren’t fresh enough, you can end up with a big loaf of disappointment.

There are times, though, when I get the bug to whip out the yeasty beasties and give it a go again.  In this particular case, I had the opportunity (several times) to try a wonderful sandwich called the Blue Babe at The Baldwin Saloon in the Dalles, OR.  It’s a fairly simple and very delicious sandwich with tender sliced prime rib and melted Swiss cheese.  But for me, the bread is what really makes this sandwich.  Out of their kitchen, these folks bake up some of the tastiest sandwich bread I’ve had the pleasure of trying.  A Bleu Cheese bread.  This bread is light and tender, with the wonderful aroma of bleu cheese and green onion.

I approached the owner about the recipe.  He was willing to share some of his information, but noted that the recipe was scaled for a large batch and wouldn’t likely scale well for the home cook.  So, I asked if he would share what he could.  He indicated I should start with an enriched bread dough, but nothing so sweet or dense as brioche.  Next, he simply indicated that I could knead in some bleu cheese and minced green onion just before forming my loaf.  I thanked him for his time, jotted down a few quick notes and went on my way.

Since I’m not a bread baker, I didn’t have an enriched bread recipe to start with.  I began doing some research to see what I could find.  What I found were varying opinions about what a true enriched dough really was.   Ultimately, Chuck from Cookingbread.com came to my rescue and helped to solve the mystery.  He suggested using his recipe for Country White Bread, but making several substitutions, which I’ve noted in the recipe below.

What I ended up with were 2 wonderful loaves of bread.  I added Bleu Cheese to one loaf (but forgot the green onions!) and the other I left as a plain white loaf.  You’ll note in the photo at the beginning of this post that the Bleu Cheese version isn’t what I would call a pretty loaf, but it certainly looks rustic.  And we all know that rustic is a fancy word for ugly but tasty!  The end result was a very tender and flavorful bread that actually kept longer than I normally get with a homemade loaf.

I used some slices of the Bleu Cheese version to try and duplicate the Blue Babe, but I didn’t quite make it.  The bread was very close to their version, and I was very pleased about that.  Mrs. GT agreed.  The roast beef I used, however, just didn’t match up to the prime rib the Baldwin puts in their sandwich.  If you try something like this yourself, just be sure to slice the bread really thick.  This is meant to be a hearty sandwich.

As for the plain white loaf, well it was a bit prettier, heck it looked pretty darn good to me.  That loaf went on to become some mighty fine French toast, if I do say so myself.  I only wish now that I had saved some for bread pudding.  Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to make more.

So, if you’ve been afraid to try making your own homemade bread, give this a try.  The recipe makes 2 loaves so you can experiment a bit.  Maybe do a spicier version with some peppers and Monterey Jack? How about a cheddar/jalapeño loaf?  Just give it a try.  One more note, you’ll notice from my photos that there is no bread machine or stand mixer in site.  I was on vacation when I made this, far from the comfortable appliances of home.  Yep, I made these suckers completely by hand.  Now how’s that for tackling a real homemade recipe? 

Planning to a trip through The Dalles, OR?  Be sure to stop by The Baldwin Saloon

Bleu Cheese Bread
Based on Country White Bread from BakingBread.com
Dough:
·         1 cup water (lukewarm)
·         1 cup whole milk (room temp.)
·         1/4 cup butter, melted
·         5-6 cups bread flour
·         1/2 cup sugar
·         2 large eggs (beaten)
·         1 tablespoon salt
·         4 teaspoons instant yeast
·         ½ pound Bleu Cheese
·         6 green onions, minced
Egg wash:
·    1 egg white
·    3 tablespoons milk
Method
In a large bowl combine the lukewarm water (110 - 115F ),  whole milk and melted butter. Mix together.
Add 1 1/2 cups of flour and mix with a wooden spoon till smooth. Add in the sugar and eggs. Continue to stir together till smooth.
Add in the salt and mix together. Then add in the yeast and stir. Then allow the mixture to sit uncovered for 15 minutes.
Continue to add flour a 1/2 cup at a time. Stir till it becomes to hard to mix.
Place some flour onto the counter and continue to slowly add some of the remaining flour till the dough is just a little bit sticky. (Note: You may not need to add all the flour. That's ok. You want the dough to be a little on the sticky side).
Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes the dough will become smooth and elastic. If you are using a stand mixer, knead for 5-6 minutes with a dough hook.  Gently knead Bleu Cheese and green onions into the dough.  Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Spray the top of the dough with a oil spray or turn the dough over to lightly coat all sides of the dough. This will help the dough from drying out.  (Note:  If you are making 2 loaves, but only want one with Bleu Cheese, divide the dough in two before adding Bleu Cheese and onions to a single loaf.  Let the divided batches of dough rise separately).
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for about 1 hour. After the dough has risen. Pour out onto a lightly floured surface.
Cut dough in half and degas the dough. Shape dough into 2 rectangles the length of a 5x9 loaf pan.
Roll the dough like a jelly roll being sure to lightly press with each rotation of the dough.
Pinch the seam closed with your fingers. Place into two greased 5x9 loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise till double in bulk about 45-60 minutes. After the dough has proofed, make the egg wash and brush the tops of the loafs. Wait 5 minutes then brush again. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. If you place a thermometer into the center of the loaf it should register between 180 degrees or when you tap the bottom of the loaf it sounds hollow. Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack. Makes 2 loaves.


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