Soo...ever since I went to the Summer Fancy Food Show I've been practically swimming in free stuff. Now, I realize this isn't very PC of a food blogger thing for me to say. But it's true! And I am NOT complaining, I'm working with some really cool companies and getting to try some seriously tasty products. The partnership I might be most excited about it with Great Midwest flavored cheeses. You might notice on my sidebar and footer, there are 2 new lovely ads, courtesy of them. On Monday there will be an in depth review (and giveaway!) and news about a super cool grilled cheese contest they're holding!
Anyway, part of what the Great Midwest people wanted from me was to develop an original grilled cheese recipe. Now um...that was a little tough for me to think of at first. Like...how original can grilled cheese be? So I decided I'd start with the bread. I adapted a ciabatta recipe I'd been wanting to try (GREAT CHOICE, more on that later) and grated in cheese-one of Great Midwest's flavored cheese, Morel & Leek Jack. The Morel & Leek Jack cheese has a nice, subtle, smoky herb flavor that I thought would be nice in the bread. (Click here to find where you can buy it.)
And it was. Part of the beauty of the Great Midwest cheeses is how smooth, and silky they are and how wonderfully they melt. Just look at what it did when baked into this ciabatta:
But let's rewind. I was kind of intimidated when I read the instructions for the ciabatta (not about the adding the cheese part, I figured just added the cheese in before you start kneading and it'd work out-and it did), plus you have to make sure not to forget to make the biga (which is sort of like a starter?) the night before. But when I went into the kitchen it actually was much easier than I'd thought and I produced 4 loaves of the best ciabatta I've ever tasted (and maybe my favorite bread recipe I've ever made?)
The outside of the loaves is a gorgeous golden brown, just crisp enough without being hard or tough, and the inside of the bread is so wonderfully soft (Michael couldn't stop exclaiming over how soft they were). The cheese gives you wonderful little bites of salty, smoky flavor.
You can eat this bread plain, with butter, smeared with your favorite spread (roasted garlic, cream cheese, etc.), toasted, it makes great sandwiches, I bet it would be awesome in a savory bread pudding...really the possibilities go on and on!
And you know what? It makes a BEAUTIFUL grilled cheese. But more on that on Monday...
Ciabatta Bread with Morel & Leek Jack Cheese
Adapted from She Makes and Bakes' "Ciabatta"
Makes 4 loaves
-This recipe uses 1 packet of active dry yeast, divided.
-You can sub in your favorite cheese or omit it entirely from the recipe.
-If using a salty cheese you may want to reduce the salt in the dough
- 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup very warm (but not hot) water
- 1 and 3/4 cups (8.7 ounces) bread flour
- 1/2 cup + 2 tsp. cool water
- 2 tsp. active dry yeast
- 1 and 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. (10.5 oz.) very warm-not hot-water
- 1 biga
- 3 cups + 2 tbsp. (14 oz.) bread flour
- 2 and 1/2 tsp. salt
- 8 oz. Morel & Leek Jack cheese (or your favorite cheese), finely shredded
- Add yeast and warm water (for ciabatta portion of the recipe) to a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Sit for 5 minutes, until foamy (pictured above).
- Add biga and flour and mix thoroughly with the foamy mixture (using low speed with the paddle attachment, or just a spoon and some elbow grease!). Sit for 5 minutes. Add salt and cheese. Knead dough until soft and smooth-but still sticky (by hand or with dough hook).
- Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover loosely with a towel, let rise for an hour in a warm place, until doubled in size.
- Once dough has risen, spray a rubber spatula with non-stick cooking spray. Place the spatula under the dough in the bowl, lift it on one side and fold the dough over itself toward the middle. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Do this 8 times (so 2 full rotations) total. Cover the bowl and let rise for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, repeat the lift and fold technique for 8 more turns. Cover and let rise for 30 more minutes.
- Cover two sheet pans with parchment paper/silpain and sprinkle with flour.
- Generously dust work-surface with flour and gently place dough on it (being careful not to deflate it). Flour the top of the dough and divide into 4 equal sized pieces. Take one portion of dough and press it into a 6x3 in. rectangle (doesn't need to be perfect). Fold the shorter ends of the dough towards the middle in thirds, like a business letter. Transfer folded dough to a prepared baking sheet, placing it seam side down. Repeat with each of the additional 3 pieces, having 2 loaves on each baking sheet. Use fingertips to gently dimple the loaves, pressing down like you would on piano keys. Cover and let rise 30 minutes, then dimple again.
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
- Spray loaves lightly with water from a spray bottle (or just use your fingers to lightly flick water on them) and place cookie sheets in the oven. (If both sheets can't fit on the middle rack, the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, switching and rotating the sheets periodically)
- Bake 5 minutes-spraying with water twice more during that time.
- Reduce heat to 475 degrees and bake 10-15 more minutes until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.
- Cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.
Disclaimer: Saputo/ Great Midwest Cheeses provided me with product, and I was under no obligation to review if I so chose. My opinions, as always, are all my own.