Cheese Bread or Paine Au Fromage

Cheese Bread or as the French would call it….

Paine Au Fromage!

A Delicious aromatic cheese bread with a fine crumb and a nutty crust, I like it best with plain butter & marmalade!

I learnt my bread making skills ( about 12 years ago) from a sweet slightly eccentric German Chef who never ate a piece of bread unless it was baked in front of his eyes. He went to the extent of carrying his own bread to restaurants when he went out to eat… that too in a city like NY, which can boast of producing some of the best Breads of the world!!

As he went through the process of bread making with us, he taught us many a trick, which went a long way in improving the final product. We learnt about the texture of the flour, the effect of climate, the impact of gluten, the importance of Autolyse, the resting and rising of dough, the folding and shaping and the final proofing! Last but not the least the baking and testing of the final product! I will be sharing this knowledge,
and hope I will be able to do him justice!

300 gms All purpose flour
About 1 cup water, I used an extra tbsp (the amount of water varies according to climatic conditions)
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
60 gms cheese (you can use cheddar, gruyere, Parmesan…your choice!)
2 tsp dry yeast


Place flour in a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle. Add luke warm water and yeast, form into a loose rough dough as shown in the bottom right pic Now let the dough rest for 15 minutes (the technical term is Autolyse). After 15 minutes, add salt & knead the dough well with well oiled hands for 2-3 minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky as shown in the bottom middle pic. Then slowly add the oil in the dough, few drops at a time. Once all the oil is incorporated. Add all the cheese at once and knead well to mix it in.

Now place dough in a well oiled container. Pat some oil on top too. Cover the dough with plastic wrap in such a way that the plastic clings to the dough. Then cover the entire container with a second layer of plastic wrap. This double plastic wrap helps in slow rising, giving more stable structure and a better final crumb! Keep the container in a warm corner and wait till it doubles in volume.

Next roll out dough on a flat surface that is lightly sprinkled with dough. Punch it down lightly, pat it into an oblong shape bring both ends to the middle and then fold on top of each other so that you now have a roll. Tuck both corners of the roll under the roll and let the dough rest for another 15 minutes (this process is called benchrest) Now using the palm of your hands tuck dough from all sides to form a tight ball! Place dough on a lightly greased Baking tray and let it puff up again(this is called proofing). Now using a knife cut slashes into the dough to let air escape while baking. Sprinkle with any seeds you like, I used sesame.

Now place a bowl of steaming hot water in the bottom rack of a 470F preheated oven. Place the baking tray on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Then lower heat to 400F and bake for another 30 minutes. By this time the bread should be a deep rich golden color. Take out from oven, transfer to wire rack and cool!

Finally to evaluate your bread, feel its weight, it should feel light for its size, observe its crust, it should be a deep rich golden brown! Next turn it upside down and knock on it with your knuckles it should sound hollow!
if you have all these down, most probably you will have a wonderful crumb too

PS : Placing the bowl of hot water under the baking tray helps in giving your bread a robust crust!

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