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Sundried tomato and cheese bread

January 15, 2009

…It’s like having pesto IN your bread. With bread this flavoursome, you won’t need any dips or sauces, which is a great time and money saver. This bread is slightly adapted from the parmesan and sundried tomato loaf in Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes a Day (sigh…such a great book). If you’re a basil pesto fan, try fresh basil leaves in place of sundried tomatoes, or use basil pesto. Either way, you can imagine how amazing this smells – tangy yet salty, the perfect bread for a picnic if you dont want to take half-opened containers of pesto (ahem…which leak). The recipe below if enough for 3 large-ish loaves, or 4 littler ones, and thanks to the artisan bread technique, it’s easy to have the dough on hand for plenty more, with half the effort.

I have to admit I was tempted to try and make this healthier by adding wholemeal flour, but boy am I glad I didn’t (shhh). This was so heavenly soft, and without melting any butter either.


The crust is nice and crisp, which is so nice for bread that has a cheesy aroma.

Cheese and sundried tomato bread (based on the vermont cheddar bread in Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes a Day)

makes 3 large-ish loaves or 4 smaller ones

2 3/4 c water, at body temp.
1  Tbs salt
1 1/2 Tbs sugar
1 1/2 Tbs yeast
6 1/2 c all purpose or high grade (bread) flour, plus lots more
1 c grated cheese (edam or a mild cheddar or similar)
1/4 c grated parmesan
sundried tomatoes, chopped

Mix first four ingredients in a large bowl, then add flour. Mix flour in without kneading, adding up to about a cup of extra flour if it doesn’t come away from the sides of the bowl at all when the dough is pushed up against the sides of the bowl. Add cheeses, then keep mixing until the dough is uniformly moist. Cover (not airtight), and leave somewhere that’s at least 21 degrees C (room temp), for 2-5 hours, until the dough is doubled in size and the surface of the dough is almost flat.

Divide the dough roughly into 3-4 equal size portions, and put each in a box except one and freeze for up to 2 weeks. Or you can refrigerate a portion if you’ll use it within the next 4 days, but I don’t recommend this as the dough sometimes ferments and tastes a bit yeasty if left for more than 2-3 days.

Using one of your portions, dust it with flour, as well as a board. Knead to incorporate it into a ball, stretching the surface of the dough and feeding it back into itself.

To make it in your loaf pan (thanks to Smitten Kitchen for posting the technique!): Stretch or roll out into a rectangle, and scatter with chopped sundried tomatoes. Roll the rectangle up, stretching and pulling the dough as much as you can without breaking it. Seal the edge with your fingers, and fold the top and bottom ends into the centre of the roll, ensuring the length is approximate to your loaf pan. Drop into a lightly greased metal loaf pan, preferably non stick.

To make it into a round loaf: Seal the bottom, and let the dough ball sit seam side down.

Let rest and rise at room temp. for 40 minutes (1 hour if you’re using defrosted dough). After 20 minutes of resting, preheat your oven to 230C or 450F, with a rack arranged in the centre and bottom. Put a small metal pan (roasting or brownie pan) on the bottom shelf, and a baking stone if you have one on the centre rack (if making a round loaf).

After resting, pop round loaf onto your baking stone or your loaf tin onto the centre rack, and quickly at the same time, add about a cup of water into the empty metal pan on the bottom shelf*. Close the oven door quickly, and let bake for approximately 30-35 minutes, rotating halfway for even browning. If the top of the loaf is already brown 15 minutes in, reduce the temperature to 180 or 160C or 350F. Take out when the top is a darkish golden brown, and sit the loaf on a rack to cool (or in the pan for a few minutes, then pop out onto the rack). Serve warm or cooled.

Note: I don’t recommend salty dips or pesto with this bread, as it’s already relatively salty. If you can’t bear to eat it plain, use unsalted basil butter or cream cheese or something similar.

*This method helps to make the crust nice and crisp, as does using a baking stone/pizza stone.

When using frozen dough: let defrost completely, preferably overnight, then knead on a floured board and continue from there.

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