Saturday, June 9, 2018

Crusty Gruyere-Stuffed Loaves

One issue that I was very concerned with when we decided to move to the mile-high city was how the transition to a higher altitude would affect my baking. Our new home is at 6000 feet and at that elevation wonky things can happen to baked goods. The lower air pressure causes baked goods to rise more quickly and lose moisture at a quicker rate. This can lead to instability in the structure of the cake, bread, muffin, cookies, or what have you, causing overly dense and dry results. I was terrified that all my tried and true recipes would no longer work and I would be in a constant state of experimentation, never able to just make a recipe as written but always having to consider the factors the lower air pressure in my kitchen may impart on the final results. It sounded like way too much work.

After doing a bit more research, the adjustments I have to make haven't been as annoying as I expected them to be and, so far, I have had no disasters and everything has turned out pretty delicious!

Thankfully, yeasted breads are the easiest items to adjust when baking at altitude. Since yeasted goods rise quicker at a higher elevation, I simply cut back on the yeast in order to lengthen the rise times so that the overall flavor of the final product is fully developed. I'm also careful about the hydration levels of my doughs, usually working with a higher liquid to flour ratio than before. When I pulled my first batch of bread out of the oven after the move, I was relieved to find that these slight adjustments produced loaves that were just as flavorful, chewy, and airy as my bread back in Pennsylvania.

Waiting for the yeast to rise

So my girls are obsessed with cheese and bread. Matthew loves bread, but cheese not so much. However, they all could agree that these small loaves of crusty bread overflowing with molten gruyere cheese are pretty incredible. This was a King Arthur Challenge for the month of March and I'm so happy that I decided to bake along because it gave me the perfect excuse to make these. I had been eyeing the recipe for quite some time! The results were as delicious as I expected and the kids kept walking past the spot where they were cooling on the kitchen counter asking me when they would be able to try them. These make a perfect accompaniment to chili or lentil soup, but really I don't think you need an excuse to sink your teeth into a fresh loaf of bread!

The recipe published below is without the altitude adjustments. Also, I used the Rocky Mountain spice blend from Penzey's but the pizza seasoning suggested in the original recipe would also be fabulous. If you don't have pizza seasoning, feel free to leave it out!

Crusty Gruyere-Stuffed Loaves
from King Arthur Flour

For the Starter:
1 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup cool water

For the Dough:
all of the starter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water*
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 tablespoon Pizza Dough Flavor (optional)
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

*Use the greater amount of water in winter, when conditions are dry; and the lesser amount in summer, when the weather is humid.

For the Filling:
2 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese, or the grated/shredded cheese of your choice (sharp cheddar, or a mixture of provolone and mozzarella are tasty)
1 tablespoon garlic oil (optional)
1 tablespoon Pizza Seasoning (I ended up using a seasoning blend from Penzey's)

To make the starter: Mix the 1 1/4 cups flour, salt, yeast, and 1/2 cup water in a medium-sized bowl. Mix until well combined; the starter will be stiff, not soft/liquid. Cover and let rest overnight at room temperature (65°F to 75°F is ideal); it'll become bubbly.

To make the dough: Combine the risen starter with the water, salt, flour, flavor (if you're using it), and yeast. Knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a smooth dough.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise until it's nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Gently deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, or a piece of parchment. Pat and stretch it into a 3/4"-thick rectangle, about 9" x 12". Spritz with water (or brush with garlic oil), and sprinkle with the grated cheese (and Pizza Seasoning, if you're using it).

Starting with a long side, roll the dough into a log, pinching the seam and the ends to seal. The cheese will try to fall out; that's OK, just try to enclose as much as possible, then pack any errant cheese into the ends before sealing.

Place the log, seam-side down, on a lightly floured or lightly oiled surface (or leave it on the parchment and place the parchment on a baking sheet, for easiest transport).

Cover the bread and let it rise until it's puffy though not doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F. If you're baking two loaves, position a rack in the center of the oven. If you're baking four loaves, place two racks towards the center of the oven with just enough room in between to accommodate the rising loaves.

Gently cut the log into four crosswise slices, for mini-breads; or simply cut the dough in half, for two normal-sized loaves. A large sharp knife or serrated knife works well here. If for some reason you fail to cut all the way through the dough at the bottom, simply take a pair of scissors and snip through the dough.

Place the loaves on one (for two loaves) or two (for four mini-loaves) lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, cut side up. Spread them open a bit at the top, if necessary, to more fully expose the cheese. Spritz with warm water. The loaves will have deflated a bit by this point; but if you place them in the preheated oven immediately, they'll pick right up again.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes (for the mini-loaves), or 35 to 40 minutes (for the full-sized loaves), or until the cheese is melted and the loaves are a deep golden brown. If you're baking four loaves on two pans, rotate the pans halfway through the baking time: top to bottom, bottom to top. Remove the pans from the oven, and cool the bread right on the pans. Bread is best served warm.

Store any leftovers, well-wrapped, for a day or so in the refrigerator; freeze for longer storage (up to 4 weeks). Reheat bread before serving; wrap in foil, and warm in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until heated through. Bread that's been frozen can be taken right from the freezer, wrapped in foil (if it's not already), and put into a 350°F oven. It'll be nicely warmed in 45 to 50 minutes.

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