I’m always on the lookout for unique bread recipes so when I came across Bernard Clayton’s recipe for Tabasco Cheese Bread I knew I had to try it. The promise of cheese baked into a golden loaf was too tempting to resist, especially when I decided to add my favorite hot sauce to the mix.
When I was a kid Cholula Hot Sauce was on the table for nearly every meal. For breakfast we ate it with carne asada and refried beans, for lunch we put a teaspoon in our caldo tlalpeño (chicken soup) and for dinner we sprinkled it on burritos or taquitos. It’s funny how this condiment wove its way to so many of my memories, including a more recent one, when my mother visited back in 2002 and doused my very gourmet, very delicious Baked Rigatoni with Red Wine Vegetables and Creamy Sauce with Cholula. It was a traumatic event, but we laugh about it now.
So… back to this bread. I switched out the Tabasco sauce for Cholula, used olive oil instead of butter and substituted a mix of monterey jack, mild cheddar, queso quesadilla and asadero cheeses for the sharp cheddar called for in the original recipe. The result was a gorgeous round loaf of bread with an unbelievably soft texture and the aroma of slightly toasted cheese. When I sliced it open I was surprised to see that the cheese had completely dissolved into the bread – not what I was expecting after having made rosemary sage bread with goat cheese and mozzarella bread. I think the cheese dissolving like this contributed to the loaf’s texture.
Since it emerged from the oven I’ve enjoyed several toasted slices of this bread with bowls of soup, but the most decadent way I’ve eaten it? As part of a grilled cheese sandwich filled with garlicky greens nestled beneath Italian fontina cheese. Mind-blowing right? Grilled cheese sandwiches made with cheese bread! If you want to recreate this meal you can do so by melting 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium skillet, then sautéing trimmed and quartered cremini mushrooms until they are nicely browned. Add a handful or two of baby spinach and sauté until wilted, then add 2 minced garlic cloves, a teaspoon of minced fresh sage leaves and a dash of pepper, cooking about a minute longer. To finish up, divide the filling between slices of Cholula Cheese Bread, sprinkle with fontina cheese, then cook the sandwiches in a large skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Resist the urge to cook the sandwiches over high heat because then the bread will burn and the cheese won’t melt. Also, press down with your spatula every now and then to ensure a crisp crust. Yum!
Cholula Cheese Bread (Or, Tabasco Cheese Bread)
Adapted from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads, by Bernard Clayton
Ingredients: Makes 1 large round loaf
- 3 to 4 cups bread or all-purpose flour, approximately
- 1 package instant (rapid rise) dry yeast
- 1-2 teaspoons salt, according to taste (I prefer 1 teaspoon worth of saltiness in the bread)
- 1 1/4 cups warm milk
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese mix (Monterey Jack, Mild Cheddar, Queso Quesadilla and Asadero), or 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon Cholula Hot Sauce, Tabasco or another preferred hot sauce
- 1 egg yolk, beaten, mixed with 1 tablespoon milk (for the glaze)
In a mixing or mixer bowl measure 2 cups flour and add the yeast and salt. Pour in the warm milk. Blend well with 50 strokes of a wooden spoon or for 2 minutes with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Add the olive oil and cheese, blend into the batter.
Mix in the hot sauce. Measure in additional flour, 1/4 cup at a time, and stir by hand or with the paddle attachment until the dough is a rough mass and has lost its wetness. It will clean the sides of the bowl. If using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook.
If by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead with a strong push-turn-fold motion. Add sprinkles of flour if the dough is sticky during the early stages of kneading. If using a mixer, add light sprinkles of flour until the dough cleans the bowl and gathers as a ball around the hook. Knead for 10 minutes.
Place the dough in a large bowl greased with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, turning to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until it has doubled in volume, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Punch the dough down into the bowl, knead briefly, and turn out onto the floured work surface. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased 8-inch cake pan. Press into the cake pan, filling out to the edges. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave until the the dough has doubled in bulk, or just begins to peel over the edge of the pan. About 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F 20 minutes before baking.
Brush the bread with the egg glaze. Place in the hot oven for 10 minutes, and then reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. When tapping the bottom of the crust yields a hard, hollow sound, the bread is done.
Remove the bread from the oven. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.