Braided Cheddar Loaf

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8

Enriched with cheddar and Parmesan, this beautiful loaf is easier to make than it looks. Just sprinkle the dough with grated cheese, roll into a log and cut in half. Then cross one half over the other to create a braided look. Finish the baked loaf with a garnish of fresh herbs and serve alongside your favorite soups or salads.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) plus 2 Tbs. warm milk (112°F/44°C)
  • 1 package (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 5 Tbs. (2 1/2 oz./75 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 3 cups (12 3/4 oz./360 g) bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 3 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • Canola oil for greasing
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz./180 g) grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh herb leaves, such as thyme, oregano or basil, for garnish

Directions:

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the warm milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Fit the mixer with the flat beater and add the melted butter, egg, 1 cup (4 1/4 oz./120 g) of the flour, the salt and pepper. Beat on low speed just until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on medium speed for 30 seconds more. Switch to the dough hook, add the remaining flour and beat on medium speed until the dough comes together and then becomes elastic and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 7 minutes.

Lightly grease a large bowl with canola oil. Transfer the dough to the prepared bowl and turn to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let stand in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Lightly grease a 9-by-5-inch (23-by-13-cm) loaf pan with canola oil.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently punch it down to release some of the air. Roll out the dough into a 15-by-9-inch (38-by-23-cm) rectangle, with a long side facing you. Sprinkle the dough evenly with the cheddar and Parmesan, leaving a 1/2-inch (12-mm) border at the top. Tightly roll the dough away from you into a log and pinch the seam to seal. Place the log seam side down; using a serrated knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise.

Cross one half over the other to form an X shape, then cross the ends and tuck them underneath, keeping the cut sides up as much as possible. Some cheese will spill out but that’s okay. Transfer the loaf to the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with any cheese that had spilled out. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand in a warm spot until the dough has risen just over the edges of the pan, 30 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C).

Remove the towel and place the loaf pan on a baking sheet. Bake until the top of the bread is deep golden brown, the cheese is bubbling and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, 45 to 55 minutes.

Transfer the loaf pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes, then turn the bread out onto the rack and garnish with herbs. Cut into slices and serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.
 
Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen