Category Archives: Cheese

A Slice of Memories

Sliced Cheese Bread

One of my husband Howard’s best memories is living around the corner from the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley, California back in the eighties.  The primary fixture in that food lovers’ neighborhood was (and still is) The Cheese Board, a cheese store/bakery cooperative that sells an amazing array of cheese and bakes fabulous breads and pastries.  Howard’s favorite thing to come out of the bakery was the cheese bread.  Whenever we pass through the area, we stop for a fix of cheese bread and cheese.

Because we live on the East Coast, stopping by The Cheese Board isn’t a frequent occurrence.  To satisfy the cheese bread craving, I’ve come up with a homemade version that Howard says comes close to what he remembers.  It’s easy enough that I try to make at least once a month.

This time of year, slices of cheese bread are the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup for lunch or dinner.  The crusty outside, speckled with flecks of almost-burnt cheese, contrasts with the soft inside, studded with more pockets of tangy cheese.  The floral aroma of marjoram adds a lovely savory element.

Give it a try.  If you ever visited Berkeley, you might be transported.  If you didn’t, I still guarantee you a bread you’ll want to eat again and again.

Baked Loaf

No-Knead Cheese Bread, inspired by the Cheese Board in Berkeley
Adapted from Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread and The Cheese Board’s cookbook.

(Note that I use a scale, but I’ve included approximate volume measurements.)

400 g (about 3 cups) bread flour
½ – 1 tsp fine sea salt (depending on how salty the cheese is)
¾ tsp yeast
2 tsp dried marjoram
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, diced
200g Asiago cheese, diced into ½-inch pieces
About 360 g (about 1-5/8 cups) water
2 Tbsp sesame seeds (to top the loaf before baking)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, marjoram, and pepper.  Add onion and cheese and stir to evenly distribute them throughout the dry mixture.

Slowly add water, stirring to combine, until you have a fairly wet dough where all the water is incorporated.  You might not need all the water, or you might need a little more.  I stir in about half of the water, then another half of what’s left, then judge how much more I need.

If the bowl is really sticky, transfer to a clean bowl.  Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and set in a draft-free spot.  (I sometimes use my microwave or the oven.)  Let it rise 12-18 hours.  It can go a little longer if that suits your schedule better.  The dough will rise, get bubbly, and remain very sticky.

First Rise Done

After the dough has risen, generously sprinkle the counter with flour.  Also, lay a dish towel (I use the same one that was covering the bowl) across a baking sheet with the ends hanging off the sides.  Sprinkle the center of the towel with corn meal or more flour and gently rub it into the towel.

Turn the dough out onto the floured surface.  Flour your hands, then make two folds.  First, fold the left and right sides towards the center.  Then fold the top and bottom towards the center.  The folding action is similar to folding a letter to put in an envelope.

Transfer the dough, seam side up, on to the dish towel.  Fold the ends of the dish towel over the dough to cover it.  Set it aside to rise for another 1 to 2 hours.

Second Rise Done

Thirty minutes before the end of the rising period, place a large and heavy covered Dutch oven or bread dome or cloche (I use this one) into the oven, and preheat to 475F.  After 30 minutes, carefully remove the hot vessel from the oven and transfer the dough to the pot, keeping the seam side up.  If the dough doesn’t land neatly, using potholders, shake the pot to even it out.  Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.

Replace the cover and put the pot back in the oven for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until very brown.  You don’t want it to burn, but the longer you go, the crisper the crust will be.

Transfer the loaf to a rack to cool.  You should hear it singing as it cools.

 

p.s. Now that I feel like I have my feet under me in 2016, I’m aiming to share one non-cooking-club-related post with you every week.  Let’s see how I do!

Cooling Loaf

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(oops) cheesecake tart(lets) {ffwd}

cheesecake tartlet

We’re all entitled to make mistakes. Even though I helped set the schedule, I went on memory and thought the dessert we were making for French Fridays with Dorie this week was the cheesecake tart. Turns out that it’s Waffles and Cream. Think of this as a preview. I’ll make the waffles when I get chance, but I might wait until the week everyone else is making the cheesecake tart.

We’ve been friends for a while now. So I’m comfortable telling you how it is. I am an adventurous eater, and there is little I won’t eat. There is one food, however, that causes me to have a visceral reaction of revulsion. I only have to think of it, not even actually see this food. Can you guess what it is? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s cottage cheese. I don’t know what it is about it. I think it’s the curds. Ricotta doesn’t bother me, or fresh goat cheese, or farmer’s cheese, but I simply cannot deal with curdy cottage cheese. That’s just the way it is.

This week, I made the cheesecake tart recipe for French Fridays with Dorie. The main ingredient is fromage blanc. Fromage blanc is a fresh low-fat cheese with a soft texture like crumbly cream cheese or farmer’s cheese. It’s not a common grocery item, but knowing that the recommended substitute was cottage cheese, I knew that I had to find the real thing.

I was looking for Vermont Creamery’s version of fromage blanc because I’ve seen it around. Instead, I found one made at Nettle Meadow Farm in the Adirondacks of New York State. (Cher, do you know the farm?) This award-winning fromage blanc is made from goat milk and flavored with honey and lavender. That seemed perfect for a dessert. I love how the package lists the different plants the goats forage on! If you can’t read the label, it says: “This cheese is a sumptuous concentration of the organic grains and wild herbs our goats and sheep eat every day, including wild raspberry leaf, nettle, kelp, comfrey, garlic, barley, goldenrod”.

fromage blanc

I minified this one: one third of the recipe to make 2 mini tarts. One with dried fruit for me, and one without for Howard.

The tart starts with Dorie’s Sweet Tart Dough. This pastry is one of my favorite recipes in Around My French Table. I always press it into the pan, no rolling required. And the result is like a shortbread cookie base for whatever delicious filling you choose.

For the cheesecake tart, the creamy filling is made from processing the fromage blanc and the other ingredients until it’s smooth. A slurry of cornstarch and milk helps thicken it up.

One with fruit, one without

One with fruit, one without

First, you sprinkle a spoonful of dried fruit (I had a medley of golden raisins, cranberries, cherries, and blueberries) on the bottom of the tart (or not, for Howard). Then, you pour in the filling and bake it until it puffs up. Once cooled, all it needs is a sprinkle of powdered sugar before serving.

Filling

When I said I was making a cheesecake tart, Howard stopped listening after I said “cheesecake”. He was imagining a New York Cheesecake, not a French one. Once he got over the initial disappointment, we agreed that it was good, not too sweet or tart or heavy. We both liked It, though next time I’ll surprise him with that New York Cheesecake.

You’ll have to wait until next month to find out how the other Doristas’ cheesecake tarts came out, but if you’re interested in their Waffles and Cream, check out their links here. The cheesecake tart recipe is in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.