The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight ~ Mary F K Fisher, an preeminent American food writer.
And as this beautiful wreath bread started to swell up with pride, permeates the kitchen with its luxurious smell of butter, garlic, cheese and herbs, I contemplate how true her words were. There is nothing more pleasurable than baking your own bread and keeping the hearth warm, on cold wintry days. To me baking a bread is an absolute divine experience and I enjoys it more than baking a cake.
Breads are staple in human diet for long and perhaps the very first food that had been invented by the first agrarian society. There are hundreds of ways to make breads and every culture has their own traditional bread. Like in India we prepare roti / paratha everyday. A kind of unleavened flat bread cooked on griddle without any raising agent. Very much like the Mexican tortilla. Ovens are not popular in our culture and hence the yeasted breads are like dreamy affairs.
Having lived in different countries, I had quite a good exposure to many kind of yeasted and unleavened breads and thus how my interest in bread baking piqued and over the years I had learned many things and each time it fascinates me with its complexities.
The ingredients are the prime important factors that can make or break your bread.
And yeast is one such ingredient. The microorganisms responsible for all those beautifully decorated dreamy wreaths and rustic baguette and sourdough. Taming the yeast is definitely a first step in learning towards the finer nuances of bread baking process. Till now I can confidently use only active dry yeast. They are reasonably good and gives beautiful rise to the breads. Plus you can confirm beforehand whether yeasts are live or not.
Second is flour. In many countries, special flours are available for bread baking that goes by name like strong bread flour, unbleached flour and so on. All these are differed by their gluten content, a kind of protein that gives the dough its strength and elasticity and makes the bread rise. Unfortunately in India we don’t have much options with flour. We have just two variety, one is maida (which is finely milled bleached white flour of weak strength) and aata (wheat flour milled from hard wheat varieties and has high gluten content). So for my baking purposes, I had started using a mix of both maida and aata in varied proportions depending upon the kind of bread I am going to make.
Aata or whole wheat is perfect for making whole wheat crusty or thin pizza, but for breads such as these garlic cheese bread, the softer the flour, better it will be.
Before heading directly for the recipe I am listing out few crucial points to remember before you start to bake these beauties –
- Butter – more the better. Be generous with it.
- Sugar – other than feeding sugar to the yeasts, add a teaspoon more in the dough. It will gives you a soft and tender bread by absorbing some of the water and slowing down the formation of gluten strands. And also it aids in browning the crust via caramelization process.
- Garlic – please do not use garlic paste. Make an extra effort to mince the garlic with your chef’s knife. Its totally worth it.
- Yeast – no alternatives here. Yeast is yeast. I use only active dry yeast of my fool-proof favourite brand that had never let me down. In some cases I even had success with its expired product.
- Eggs – optional. But if you are an eggetarian, then please do add an egg here. Eggs acts as a leavening agent and thus aids the dough to rise. A bread dough rich with egg will rise very high, they are both water and fat loving and an excellent emulsifier lecithin, that gives the bread a beautiful soft smooth texture.
- Milk – warm milk always preferable than the water
- Cheese – breads like these demands cheese. A good combination would be of mozzarella and shredded Parmesan. But I don’t stock these two regularly. I am all time big fan of cheddar cheese of all variants and soft cheese. So I had tried with whatever cheese were available to me that time. But if you really looking for that stringy cheesy garlic bread, then by all means use mozzarella and yes, be generous with that.
The basic recipe has been adapted from Seasaltwithfood. I have slightly modified it and also brings a variation in method of shaping the bread in different ways.
Regarding shaping the bread, you can go as you like it. If you are very skillful with the dough, then you are only limited by your imagination in designing beautiful wreaths, else you can shape it as cheese filled dough balls or better make small discs and then clump them together, and filled the crevices with the cheese in loaf pan.
- Garlic minced : 2 tbsp +
- Butter, salted : ¼ cup butter +
- Herbs, fresh and dried : Parsley, finely chopped and Indian Kasuri methi (dried)
- Spices : black pepper, oregano
- Sea Salt / rock salt
- Maida / bleached or unbleached plain flour : 11/2 cup
- Aata : ½ cup
- Warm milk :1 cup
- Egg : 1
- Salt : ½ tsp
- Sugar : 1 tsp
- Olive oil : 1 tbsp
- Active dry yeast – 1¼ tsp
- Sugar to feed : 1 tsp
- Warm water : ¼ cup
- Variety of shredded cheese like Mozzarella, hard cheese of your choice or Parmesan, cubed soft cheese or whatever you have
- Preheat the oven to 200 degree C.
- Warm (lukewarm) the water and dissolve the required amount of yeast with the help of spoon. Do this very gently.
- Temperature of the water is very crucial. Slightly hotter temperature can kill the yeast.
- Add 1tsp sugar, stir it gently.
- Keep the solution in closed and cozy area. I keep the solution inside my microwave. You can also use your dark drought free cupboards too.
- Aim is to keep the solution in drought free area.
- After 10 minutes, the yeast will rise to the brim of the container, has sufficiently foamed up which indicates that yeasts are live and ready to use in the bread.
- Use the yeast solution immediately in the dough.
- Sift both the flours together with salt. Do this twice at least. For better results, use a dough sifter.
- Make a well in the center, add the beaten eggs (eggs should be at room temperature) , sugar, olive oil and yeast solution.
- Draw in the flour as you mix it and slowly add the warm milk in batches. Add it as you go.
- Temperature of the milk should be lukewarm. Hot milk will prohibit growth of yeast.
- Knead the flour till smooth. This will take around 10 minutes.
- Dough should be elastic and smooth.
- If the dough is very sticky, feel free to dust it with flour and continue with the kneading process.
- Cover and let the dough rest in a oiled container for an hour or so, till it becomes double in volume.
- In a small bowl, whip the softened butter. Stir in the minced garlic, herbs and spices.
- Keep it ready.
- After an hour or so, dough should be double in volume. Deflate it gently with your fingers. Dust it with the flour and let it rest for 5 minutes.
- On a well flour-dusted board, knead the dough for another 2-3 minutes.
- Divide the dough in portions, depending upon the size of your baking pan.
- Take one portion of the dough, roll it out thin.
- Apply generously the herb-ed garlic butter on it with the help of spatula.
- Take handful of your choice of cheese, spread them evenly.
- Start folding the dough from one side and rolled as you reached the end, fuse the ends by pinching the end together,
- Gently rolled once again with your hand to even out the dough shapes.
- Bring the two ends of dough together to form a circle.
- With the help of very sharp knife, cut the dough in equal intervals all the way through just leaving small inch from the base so that it still remain a single unit.
- Lift the dough carefully and place it in greased round baking tin.
- Adjust the shape.
- Cover and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- Spread garlic butter evenly on top of the bread and add shredded cheese between the crevices of the bread folds.
- Bake in the oven for straight 20 minute or till well risen and browned.
- Cut the remaining dough in small individual portions.
- Smear the portions well with garlic butter. Stuff them with cheese. Soft cubed cheese goes very well here.
- Fold in to make bun shapes. Repeat the same process with rest of the dough.
- Place them cozily in your greased loaf pan.
- Cover and let it sit for another 10 minute.
- Fill the crevices with the shredded cheese. Brush the top generously the garlic butter.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minute or until well risen and browned.
- Once the breads are baked, it should sound hollow at the base, take it out from the oven and brush them with more butter.
- You can freeze the dough also. Keep it in a ziplock and use with in a week.
- Baked breads can be stored in room temperature (in temperate climates), cover with cling wrapper and sealed in ziplock. Will stay fresh for a day.
- Reheat the bread for 10 minutes in convection oven.
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Feel free to share your views, will be back with more winter and holiday favorites