It can never get cheesier than this! This bread is the ultimate cheese bread, with a hint of heat from the fresh jalapeno pepper. The inside of the bread is soft and fluffy, and stuffed with melted cheddar and mozzarella cheese, slices of jalapeno pepper and more cheese and jalapeno on the top (because why not?). I think I turned into a bread monster with this bread. I simply cannot stop eating it.
I used to buy cheese pull apart bread in a bakery close to our office, but as time goes by, I noticed that the bread just keeps on getting smaller and the cheese stuffing gets lesser and lesser. The bread that used to be great, became just ok to me. It no longer attracts me the way that it attracted me the first time I bought it. Well, if I cannot enjoy it, why buy it? If I don’t want to buy it, why can’t I not make it? You know what happened next, I decided to make my own cheese pull-apart bread and I had been sharing this bread to my friends since then.
I wouldn’t lie to you, bread making is not a quick process. No matter how simple the steps or how basic the ingredients like this recipe, good homemade bread takes time, just like it takes time when they made it in bakery. There are some machinery that could make the steps shorter and easier, but you cannot get away from proofing the bread if you are making a yeast bread. Proofing is what takes most of the time as you give bread time to rest in a warm place to help leaven the dough.
Tips for a Successful Soft Homemade Bread
- Liquid Temperature – Yeast grows in temperature between 105 – 110F, so its important to have the water that you are using to “proof” it in this range. If you go lower or higher, the yeast might not proof properly. That means the bread will not rise as much, resulting to a flat and tough bread.
- Check Yeast Expiry a Date – you might be wondering how come the bread did not rise when you followed exactly the recipe. Well, first thing first, make sure the yeast is not yet expired. Expired yeast is the common reason for flat and dense bread. If your bread did not expand or rise during the rest period, it is most likely that the yeast is not fresh or the water temperature is too hot or cold.
- Amount of Yeast – Just because you want a tall bread doesn’t mean you have to put as much yeast in the mixture. Sometimes adding too much yeast can cause the bread to collapse during the rest period. Just imagine putting more air than what is needed in a balloon, the balloon will explode. The same case with bread.
- Right Type of Yeast – We’ve discussed the 3 types of yeast above. Make sure to use the right one for your recipe, and make necessary adjustments if you want to swap one from another.
- Rest Period – Yeast bread needs time to rise. There are bread that uses less yeast but requires more rest time, the likes of No Knead Bread or Artisan Bread which usually require 8- 16 hours rest period to get the volume and to develop the flavor. There are 1 hour bread like my Rosemary Dinner Rolls which used this same bread dough. The point is, give it time to rest, don’t touch it just leave it in a warm place. The first rest period will normally tell you if your dough is good or not. If it rise and almost double in size, then your on the right track.
- Expiration and Quality of the Flour – The quality of the flour greatly affect the texture of the bread. All-purpose flour could differ from country to country although they are all called as all-purpose flour. Sometimes it depends on the brand too. The closer the flour to expiration date or if it is already expired, the flour could tend to be drier, which means it would require more liquid than mentioned in the recipe. This is a common issue of way sometimes the dough tend to be tough and dry. This is why sometimes you have to add few more tablespoon from the suggested flour measurement to get the right texture. The dough should be soft, smooth and elastic. If it is too wet, add a bit more flour until it is no longer to sticky to handle. If it is too dry, a small amount of liquid helps provide moisture to the dough. A clean side of the bowl, with the dough slightly sticking at the bottom, a soft, smooth and elastic dough is what You are aiming for.
Bread making especially if manually done takes a lot of patience, but the smell of freshly baked bread in my home and the feeling of being able to make my own bread had always been satisfying and rewarding to me. So even if it is more convenient to buy bread in the bakery, I still prefer to make my own from time to time. Let’s get started!
How do I Know if I Made the Bread Dough Correctly?
- Activating the Yeast – This is the first thing that you should get right, otherwise do NOT proceed. After 5 – 10 minutes you should see a foam forms on top of the water, this is an indication that the yeast is alive. If you do not get this, either the yeast is old or the liquid temperature is too hot or cold. The temperature should be 100F, lukewarm but not hot.
- Clean Bowl After Kneading – The sides of the bowl should be clean, while the bottom is slightly sticking to the dough. This means that amount of liquid to the flour is correct. Enough to make a clean bowl and still make a slightly wet dough.
- Soft Dough – Soft dough means the amount of flour to liquid is enough. Too much flour could make the bread dense and heavy, and too much liquid could make it too wet. Both will affect how the bread rise in the rest period. Try to push your fingers in the dough, it should leave a “dimple” on the dough and should gradually disappear.
- Smooth Dough Surface – Again, this is a sign of correct flour to liquid ratio. A “bumpy” surface could mean that the dough is dry and tough.
- Elastic Dough – A soft dough is usually elastic. If your dough is dry and tough, it wouldn’t be as elastic when you pull it apart.
- First Rest Period – The dough should almost double in size. This is a sign that the activation of the yeast work which is crucial to making a soft and fluffy bread. This also means the yeast is alive (not yet expired) and the liquid temperature is correct. I always use baking thermometer to check the temperature of the liquid.
- Second Rest Period – The bread dough should be really puff up. This is crucial and the final state of the bread before baking. If you are able to make it puff-up, that is a good sign that there are air trapped inside which will make the bread fluffy.
Why is My Dough too Wet or too Dry?
Don’t get frustrated if your dough did not turn out immediately as what you see in the photo or video. Most likely It is not because you did not follow the recipe. When it comes to bread making, the amount of flour and liquid is not always 100% precise. This is why often times you will encounter recipes that says, if your dough is dry, add a bit more liquid. If your dough is too wet, add a little bit more flour. This instructions are not meant to confuse you, they are meant to guide you on how to adjust as you work through your dough. The reason for this is that although the measurement of water and flour are specified in the recipe, it still could slightly vary depending on many factors. For instance, all-purpose flour could very from country to country, or even from brand to brand. Don’t be surprise if you find that some brand tends to require a bit more liquid as the others. On top of this, the amount of liquid is also affected by the state of your flour. How old is the flour that you are using? Older flour nearing expiry tends to be drier and this requires more liquid. Humidity also affects baking. The more humid it is, the more likely the dough will be sticky and wet. Bread making requires patience, and practice. Once you learn how to feel the right texture of the dough, everything will be quick and easy. You can instantly tell if you need to add more water or flour to get the dough in right state.
- 1/4 cup warm Water (110F) microwave for 15 seconds
- 1 1/4 teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
- 2 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon Sugar, divided (1/2 tsp for yeast, remaining for flour mixture)
- 2 tablespoon flavorless Oil (I used Canola Oil)
- 4 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Milk (80F) – microwave for 20 seconds
- 1 large Egg – room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour + 1/4 cup on the side ONLY as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning – optional
- 200-300g Cheddar Cheese (more or less, can be adjusted to preference)
- 1/3 cup Pickled Jalapeno (more or less, can be adjusted to preference)
NO STAND-MIXER: This recipe can be made without a stand mixer. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and using your hand, manually mix and knead the dough in a flat surface.
- Activate the Yeast: In a bowl, whisk together yeast with water and 1/2 tsp of the granulated sugar. Rest 10 minutes until mixture is foamy.
- Add Wet Ingredients: Set mixer with paddle attachment and mix in remaining sugar, egg, and oil to the yeast mixture. Mix on low-speed just to combine.
- Add Dry Ingredients: to the wet ingredients, add salt, Italian seasoning (if using) and 1 cup flour and mix on low-speed until combined, then switch to a hook attachment. Set mixer on low-speed and slowly add in remaining 1/2 cup flour while gradually adding the milk. You may or may not use all the milk depending on the moisture of your flour. Allow mixture to knead on medium-low speed (setting 2 in kitchenAid mixer) until smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed, about 15 minute. Pay close attention to the texture of the dough. If the dough is still too sticky after 15 – 20 minutes of kneading, add 1 tbsp of flour at a time (but not more than 1/4 cup) until the dough starts to form, dough should be slightly sticky and not too dry. Do not add additional flour too early as you could end up with a tough bread. Again, this is because it takes time for flour to absorb the liquid, it is normal that the dough is still sticky first 10 minutes. If too much flour is added, the bread will be dense and heavy. A good measure of correct texture is a clean mixing bowl with slightly sticky bottom.
Let Rest 1st Time: Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or warm towel, and then let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled. (Rising time is dependent on the temperature of the room; let rise until the dough is doubled).
Trick: Pre-heat the oven to 110F then turn it OFF. Put the covered dough inside for 1 hour.
Shape the Dough: Punch the dough down very well and add shredded cheese in the dough. Divide the cheese into 3 portions, use the 1st portion to mix with the dough. Knead the dough just to incorporate the cheese. Roll-out the dough again and spread it to about 7-inch square (it doesn’t have to be a perfect square). Use the pan as the guide to measure the flatten dough. Scatter 2nd portion of cheese on top, plus 3/4 of the sliced jalapeno peppers. Tightly roll the bread into a log shape. With a sharp knife, cut the rolled dough into 8 portions then lift the bread and transfer in a 7-inch loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Leave excess parchment paper so that it will be easier to lift when you remove the bread. Sprinkle remaining cheese and jalapeno on top.
Second Rest Time: Cover with plastic wrap or warm, damp towel. Let rise for another 1 hour. (It is best to let the dough rise in a warmer area of your kitchen).
Oven: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F in the last 10 minutes of 2nd rest time. If you are using the oven to rest the dough, do NOT forget to take the dough out before pre-heating the oven.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the top turns brown and the cheese are melted. Rotate the bread halfway through baking for even baking.
Serve: Brush top with butter as soon as it come out of the oven.
Let Cool: Remove from the pan and let cool for about 30 minutes, this is very important as the remaining heat will continue to bake the bread. If you skip the cooling, you will end up with a slightly wet bread. So be patient, it is worth the wait.
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