Badass: seriously scary or seriously impressive. Words related to badass: epic, beast, Chuck Norris.
This bread doesn’t make me think of Chuck Norris. Though Chuck may like eating this bread* – a hefty, moist wholemeal affair, laced with parmesan and slathered in a spicy-smoky-sweet-salty sauce. There are browned crusty bits from the parmesan, and caramelised savoury bits from the smoky-chilli sauce. It’s not your average bread roll, this is chilli, smoky, cheesy, surprising goodness. And, you know, beer bread!
* Actually, I don’t know, what does Chuck Norris like to eat?
After an eventful two weeks, this bread celebrated being back in the kitchen with time to play with food. It started with mild food poisoning, a few work dinners (ironically…), then a short trip to Singapore, baking cakes for friends who are moving away, and maybe taking on a new job at work (eeeeeep).
Crazy times, calls for crazy bread. Oui?
The sauce features Korean red pepper paste, gochujang, which looks like a brilliant red version of miso. Sure, it’s spicy, but gochujang also has gorgeous sweet, salty, sour, umami flavours. Traditionally made by fermentation in large earthenware jars, the lingering, complex flavours develop as as hot chlli / pepper powder is fermented with glutinous rice, soy beans, salt and maybe some sweetener (honey, rice syrup).
While gochujang is traditionally used for soups, stews and rice cake dishes, it’s also used in ketchup and aioli, and jazzing up grilled cheese, tacos and quesadillas. So, I thought, why not use it in bread?
I cribbed a few recipes for gochujang ketchup or gochujang aioli. My version included gochujang, smoked paprika, garlic and pureed persimmons. Bold flavours complemented by honey-sweet persimmon, to match wholemeal bread and parmesan.
The bread was closely based on a beer dough from Smitten Kitchen, except I swapped some of the flour and beer for Patrick the sourdough starter. This gave the bread a richer flavour without having to proof the dough overnight in the fridge, goooood Patrick!
I made two mini loaves. First, the pullapart made of pieces of dough stacked together, a la Flo Baker and Smitten Kitchen. Second, the open braid that is borrowed from Estonian kringle bread and Ottolenghi’s well known Krantz cake. Both gave me gorgeous patterns, and more importantly, fiery-smoky-cheesy bites.
Having used the highly seasonal persimmon in this bread, I’m sending this to Fromage Homage’s Cheese Please! challenge… Also sending to Yeast Spotting. And if you’re up for more yeast baking, head over to Angie’s Fiesta Friday Challenge (which I sadly missed, due to aforementioned crazy two weeks).
Smoky chilli cheese bread
4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter
110 ml beer, I used a golden ale – not too dark, not too light
90 grams sourdough starter with 50% hydration (ie, 60 grams of flour and 30 grams of water)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about 150 grams) plain/AP flour
1 cup (about 130 grams) wholemeal flour
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons (1/4 ounce or 7 grams) instant yeast
1 teaspoon or a fat pinch (6 grams) salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2-4 tablespoons gochujang (depending on your tolerance for spicy food)
1 ripe persimmon flesh (if using the fuyu or oval variety, the fruit should be so ripe it is bursting and you can scoop out the flesh with a spoon)
2 tablespoons smoky paprika, or to taste
1 large clove garlic, finely minced or chopped in a food processor
approximately 1 1/2 cups (170 grams) grated hard-ish cheese, such as cheddar, parmesan, pecorino. We didn’t like the loaf with goat cheese – too many flavours clashing and competing, but it may be your thing.
1. Dough: Heat the butter and about half of the beer together, just until the butter has melted. Remove from heat and add the remaining beer. Set aside to cool until it’s warm to the touch, about 110F/40C (the liquid shouldn’t make you pull your fingers away quickly). Stir in the sourdough starter until there are only a few lumps.
2. Mix together the plain and wholemeal flours. Stir together 1.5 cups flour, and all of the sugar, yeast and salt. If using a stand mixer, pour in the butter-beer-sourdough starter mixture, mix on low just until the flour is moistened. If mixing by hand, stir the ingredients together until flour is just moistened.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. The batter looked a bit shaggy and lumpy at this point. Add the remaining flour, and mix until combined. If using a stand mixer, knead with your dough hook on low for 3 to 4 minutes. If mixing by hand, this is the time to imagine you are playing with mud pies at school, pour/push/coax the dough onto a well floured bench and knead energetically for about 10 minutes – everything will be sticky, shaggy, and despairing. Persevere, and all will be well, eventually. The dough will come together, though it will remain soft.
4. Transfer the dough to an oiled medium/large bowl. Cover and set aside for about 60 minutes, or until doubled (mine took a bit longer).
5. Filling: Add the first four filling ingredients to a food processor, and mix until well combined to an orange-red paste. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed, ie, if you prefer more paprika or gochujang. I found the persimmon added enough sweetness, but you could add sugar if you like. Then, mix the paste with the grated cheese and leave in the fridge until using.
6. Assemble: Lightly oil one loaf pan or two mini loaf pans. Punch down the dough and divide it in half if making two mini loaves. Preheat the oven to 350F / 175C.
7. Pullapart: If making mini loaves, turn half of the dough out onto a well-floured counter and roll the dough into a rectangle, maybe 15×8 inches, re-flouring the counter as needed. Sprinkle just under half of the filling mixture over the rectangle, right up to the edge. Cut the dough crosswise into 3 strips, then cut into squares/rectangles that will fit into the loaf pan. Place the loaf pan on its short side so you can stack the squares/rectangles, and begin stacking. If you have too little bread, don’t worry as the slices will expand when proofing. If you have too many slices, just tap the loaf pan and squeeze another few. Sprinkle another tablespoonful of filling over the top. Set aside, cover loosely and let it rise for 30-40 minutes.
8. Braid: Roll out the dough as above, spread the filling over the dough rectangle, leaving an edge. Roll up the dough, then, with your best chef’s knife, cut the roll in half lengthwise, leaving one end in tact. Braid the two strands together by placing one over the other. Pick this up and haphazardly place it in the loaf pan. Also set aside, cover and let rise for about 30 minutes.
9. Place loaf pans in the oven. If baking one large loaf, bake for 25-35 minutes; if making two small loaves, I found 15-20 minutes was sufficient. The loaves should be golden on top, with darker bits where the gochujang filling has caramelised. Cool and serve.
Tagged: beer bread, braided bread, bread, cheese please challenge, fromage homage, gochujang, Korean red pepper paste, parmesan, persimmon, pullapart bread, smoky paprika, sourdough starter, Yeast, Yeastspotting