If you’ve ever met me in person, even once, you’re almost guaranteed to know at least one thing about me: I love cheese.
With autumn coming, I’m starting to swing into baking mode. It’s something that I look forward to every year.
This cheese bread is moist and dense, and packed with cheese-y flavor.
The wreath shape is really festive, and is an easy way to dress up any fall meal or celebration.
Sam’s Club & The Hungry Mouse
Before I get to the bread, I’m really excited to announce that The Hungry Mouse is working on a few special projects with Sam’s Club!
I’ll be doing some special recipe development, as well as hosting a bunch of awesome giveaways over the coming months. They’re even paying me for my time. (Thanks, guys!! Here’s to keeping The Hungry Mouse in cheese all year round…)
Stay tuned for more info. I’m so excited!
On to the cheese!
Sam’s Club recently sent me about 600 different kinds of of cheese and asked me to use some of them to develop a recipe. (Alright, I’m exaggerating. They sent me 14 big pieces of cheese, which is still an epic amount of cheese, especially for a mouse…)
If you don’t think that Sam’s Club is a place to buy cheese, think again.
I’m fussy (as in, really fussy) about my cheese, and I was beyond blown away by the quality of the stuff they sent me to test. I’ll definitely be heading there to pick up cheese when I need bigger blocks.
Have your cheese and eat it, too…in France!
Sam’s Club is running a contest right now, and the grand prize is a trip to France!
Meet the three cheeses
So, out of all the cheeses Sam’s sent me, I picked the Parmesan, the asiago fresco, and the herbed gouda for this recipe. I wanted to use stronger cheeses to be sure my bread had really good flavor.
This asiago is actually asiago fresco, which means it’s not aged, so it’s softer and creamier.
The Parmesan is salty and nutty.
And the gouda is flecked with herbs, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic.
To the ovens!
Harvest Cheese Bread Wreath
1 Tbls. yeast
1 Tbls. white sugar
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2 cups grated cheese for dough (I used equal parts asiago, gouda, & parm)
1 cup grated cheeese for topping (I used the gouda)
Serves about 10
Proof the yeast
Take the time to do this. By proofing the yeast (i.e. mixing it with warm water and a little sugar), you’re confirming that your yeast is happy, healthy, and (most importantly) alive.
Put the yeast in the bowl of your mixer (or a large mixing bowl if making by hand).
Toss in the sugar.
Add the warm water. (You want warm water, not hot. Hot water will kill the yeast. Basically, use water warm enough to wash your hands comfortably in.)
Mix them up and let the bowl sit on the counter for about 10 minutes. After about 10 minutes, you should see that a “raft” of yeast has formed on the top. It will be opaque and creamy looking. That means your yeast is alive and happy.
(If for some reason you don’t see this, toss the mixture and try again. Either your water was too hot, or your yeast was already dead to begin with, in which case you’ll need to purchase fresh yeast.)
While the yeast is proofing, grate up the cheese.
Make the dough
When the yeast is proofed, toss the flour and salt into the bowl. (The cheese has some salt, too, so if you’re sensitive about salt intake, leave this bit out.)
Slap the bowl on your stand mixer and mix with your dough hook until you have a rough dough.
With the mixer running on low, sprinkle the cheese into the dough.
When you’ve added all the cheese, crank up the speed for a minute or two, and knead the dough until it’s fairly elastic.
Round the dough up into a ball with your hands. (If there are crumbs of sorts in the bottom of the bowl, just smoosh them into the dough by hand.)
The first rise
Cover the bowl with a few damp towels. Set it in a warm place to rise for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
My dough looked like this after about an hour:
Roll out the dough
Sprinkle a little flour on a board or your counter.
Punch down the dough to smoosh all the air out of it. Round it up into a neat ball on the board.
Whack the dough into three relatively even pieces with a bencher or a large, sharp knife.
Take one piece. Roll it into a tube between your palms, just like you used to when you played with Play-D’oh when you were a kid.
Now, normally, I’m not one for weights and measures, but the thickness (and hence, length) of the dough affects how long the bread will have to bake. Roll the tube out until it’s about 2 feet long.
Yep, I said 2 feet.
Repeat with the other two pieces of dough.
Make sure they’re about even in width.
Braid the dough
Line a sheet pan or a pizza pan with parchment paper and set it aside.
If you know how to braid hair, you know how to braid bread dough. If you don’t, here’s a quick walk through.
Grab the three ends of the dough.
Put them together like this and smoosh them so they stick together.
You braid from the outside in. Take the piece on the left and cross it over the center piece.
Take the piece on the right and cross it over the piece that’s now in the center.
Keep going like this until you get to the end of the dough.
Gather the ends together. Press them together and tuck them under, so they stick together.
And…voila! You should have one massively long dough braid.
And now (wait for it), curl both ends up together until they meet in a circle.
Transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Take a look now at the place where the two dough ends meet. Smoosh them together so they stick. Don’t make yourself nuts with this. Just get them to stick together. As the dough rises, the circle will become more secure, as long as the ends were loosely connected to begin with.
Let the wreath rise like this, uncovered, in a warm place for about an hour, or until it’s doubled in size.
About 15 minutes before you think it’ll be done, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
After about an hour, you should be looking at a nice, plump wreath.
Brush the dough with egg wash
Beat up one egg in a medium-sized bowl.
With your hand or a pastry brush, gently brush the dough with beaten egg. Be careful not to press too hard, because you’ll squeeze the air out of the dough.
Don’t be fussy…just cover the whole braid with beaten egg. The great thing about bread is that, no matter how messy it looks before you bake it, it almost always looks beautiful when it comes out of the oven.
Sprinkle the top of the bread with 1 cup of grated cheese (I used the gouda).
Bake the bread
Pop the pan into your preheated, 350-degree oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned on top.
When it’s done, yank it out of the oven.
Let it cool on the pan for about 5 minutes, then slide it off onto a rack to finish cooling.
Slice. Serve. Inhale.
Enjoy! Happy fall, everyone!
*Please note that Sam’s Club compensated me for my participation in this campaign.