Thursday, August 09, 2007

Kevin: Quick Breads - Cheese Bread

This month we’re doing quick breads. A quick bread is one that uses something other than yeast for leavening, typically a chemical leavener. Biscuits are quickbreads — unless they’re sour-dough biscuits. Muffins are quick breads. Cornbread is a quick bread. Even popovers are quick breads, although they rely on eggs for leavening.

The chemical leaveners are baking soda and baking powder and they work by producing CO2 gas, which is the same way yeast works. Yeast, however, digests sugars and produces CO2 as part of its metabolism, while baking soda and baking powder work by combining an alkali ingredient (the baking soda) with an produce CO2. If your recipe contains an acid ingredient such as buttermilk, lemon juice, or sour cream then baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, an alkali) will react with that acid to create the gas.

Chemical leavening is a recent invention in the history of bread. Or, perhaps more accurately, their deliberate use is a recent invention with baking powder being the real breakthrough. Various combinations of chemicals were used in the early 19th century, but in 1856 a chemist named Eben Horsford developed a powder he named in honor of Count Rumford — yes, that Rumford Baking Powder. But it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century, when a German pharmacist named August Oetker started selling it to housewives, that chemical leavening entered the culinary mainstream.

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and an acid such as monosodium phosphate, thus providing both ingredients in a single ingredient. Baking powder usually includes cornstarch to absorb water vapor and keep the acid and alkali from interacting in the box. Adding a liquid when making something like biscuits or muffins overwhelms the cornstarch and the active ingredients combine and produce CO2. But, over time, even the ambient humidity (the water vapor in the air) will saturate the corn starch and the active chemicals will begin interacting. This is why baking powder has a limited shelf life.

Another option is to fry five strips of bacon cut into 1/2" pieces. Drain the bacon and add 1/2 of an onion, minced and sauté it for about three minutes. Make the bread according to the directions at left but leaving out the butter, substituting gruyere for the cheddar. Fold in the bacon and onion, then cook according to the recipe.

Double-acting baking soda includes an additional acid ingredient (usually sodium aluminum sulphate) that kicks in when heated. Without the heat it’s inert and so double-acting baking powder works the first time by combining the bicarbonate of soda and monosodium phosphate in the presence of water, and then, when heated up by the interaction between the soda and aluminum sulphate.

The following is a recipe I’ve been meaning to try since 2004 when Cooks Illustrated published it. This seemed like a perfect opportunity and I decided to match it up with a stuffed tomato for a late summer supper.

Cheese Bread
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, May/June 2004.

Ingredient | US Volume | Metric Volume | US Weight | Metric weight
parmesan — coarsely shredded ~ 1 c | ~ 235 ml | 3 oz | 85 g
all-purpose flour 3 c | 710 ml | 15 1/2 oz | 440 g
baking powder 1 tbsp | 15 ml | 5/8 oz | 18 g
cayenne 1/4 tsp | 1.2 ml | -- | --
salt 1 tsp | 5 ml | 1/4 oz | 7 g
black pepper 1/8 tsp | .6 ml | -- | --
sharp cheddar -- | -- | 4 oz | 113 g
whole milk 1 1/4 c | 296 ml | 10 oz | 283 g
butter — melted 3 tbsp | 45 ml | 1 1/2 oz | 43 g
large egg — lightly beaten 1 ea
sour cream 3/4 c | 177 ml | 6 oz | 170 g

Heat oven to 350F (177C). Spray a 9" x 5" (20cm x 12cm) loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread half of parmesan on the bottom of the pan.

Cut cheddar into 1/2" (1.25cm) dice.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cayenne, salt, and black pepper. Add cheddar and toss to coat.

In a medium bowl, mix together milk, butter, egg, and sour cream. Combine liquid and dry ingredients folding together with a spatula until just mixed.

Pour into the loaf pan and top with remaining parmesan. Bake in center of oven 45 to 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Note, because you may hit a pocket of cheese, use the toothpick test in two or three spots.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn bread out and continue cooling for 45 minutes.

It's hrad to beat cheese bread, and this version, with the chunks of melted cheese in it is fun to eat. The sour cream keeps it pleasantly moist and the cayenne adds a great touch of spiciness. I've just been sticking it in the toaster oven to warm up and then eating it plain.

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Blogger Beth said...

the bread looks good, cheese makes everything better! just wanted to point out that you're missing the end of a sentence or maybe more at the end of the paragraph where you're talking about double-acting baking soda.

8/09/2007 10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah...i noticed the incomplete sentence too...

but what really bothered me is all the talk about chemical leaveners and NO talk about how the bread turned out :(

was it good? mediocre? great? horrible? don't leave us hanging!

8/10/2007 12:56 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Fixed, thanks.


8/10/2007 8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as you are fixing things, Cheddar and coarsely are spelled wrong.

8/10/2007 9:00 AM  
Blogger Chilebrown said...

The addition of sliced jalapenos to this recipe would kick it up a notch. Good Stuff!

8/10/2007 11:16 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Yes it would.

8/10/2007 11:29 AM  
Anonymous courtney said...

Okay, so I have about 5 ayb recipes bookmarked to make. However, I was just sitting here thinking I should have started a loaf of bread when I first got up this morning so I could have a sandwich for lunch.

Then I come here, and see this, and know that I was meant to make it. I went to the store last night, and bought gruyer, sour cream, and bacon, for a couple different recipes. However I bought double sour cream and cheese compared to what the recipe called for, and was not sure why.

And the bacon well, yes I don't need as much as I bought, but really is there a thing as too much bacon? Especially with it's long shelf life.

8/10/2007 1:08 PM  
Blogger s'kat said...

That would be the perfect bread to consume along with a bowl o' chili.

8/10/2007 2:56 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Nope. No such thing as too much bacon.

It is. But it was really good with the stuffed tomato too.

8/10/2007 3:32 PM  
Anonymous susaninoz said...

Yum. I made this yesterday. I was a bit concerned when I put it in the oven as I had a batter so stiff I could hardly fold through the bacon and onion but it rose beautifully. I won't put the parmesan on the bottom again as it really stuck and I had to use a knife to get the loaf out but it's quick, easy and delicious.

8/11/2007 9:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Excellent as toast and perfect with light summer salad dinners. Makes the meal feel more rounded. Thank Kevin, this is a keeper - Robin

8/13/2007 9:16 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Yup, a perfect salad bread.

8/13/2007 10:35 AM  
Blogger Terri Peters said...

I just made this and it was amazing! Thanks for the great recipe!

10/01/2009 6:12 PM  

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