Friday, January 25, 2008

January 25: Quick Cheese Bread

This may not be quick, but it is bread and cheese. Quick is a misleading term when it comes to this recipe; it refers to the fact that the bread contains no yeast and is instead risen with other leaveners--baking powder specifically.

I made two loaves of this for my mother's annual Christmas party this year. I was, frankly, stunned at the reception that it received. I thought it was a humble, albeit very enjoyable loaf of quick bread. I made maybe 10 copies of the recipe before the party ended and handed it out to my mother's friends. It was, surprisingly, the star of the show this year.

This is really a great loaf of bread. If you have leftovers, and I recommend doubling this recipe so that you will have leftovers, you can thick-slice it, smear it with honey mustard, pile it with shaved smoked deli ham, and top it with sliced cheese, then run it under the broiler. It is both delicious and a great cure for a hangover.

Makes one 9-inch loaf.

Quick Cheese Bread

3 ounces parmesan cheese, shredded on the large holes of a box grater (about one cup)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, or mild Asiago cheese, cumbled into 1/4-to-1/2 inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, then sprinkle 1/2 cup of the parmesan evenly over the bottom of the pan.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and black powder to combine. Using a rubber spatula, mix in the cheddar, breaking up clumps, until it is coated with the flour mixture. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, egg, and sour cream. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined (the batter will be heavy and thick). Do not overmix. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan; spread to the sides of the pan and level the surface with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup parmesan evenly over the surface.

Bake until deep golden brown and a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack 5 minutes; invert the loaf onto the rack, turn right-side up, and continue to cool until warm, about 45 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.

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