Not Your Usual Cheese Bread

The nippy atmosphere bids a hearty autumn welcome to the presentation of yummy soup in the diet. Appetites of Dearly Beloved and Miss NiNi have already greeted that fine fare into our home. Has it been so at your dining room table too, Dear Readers?

Preparing soup can be as easy as opening a can, applying heat, grabbing a spoon, and satisfying hunger pangs.

On the other hand Dear Readers, this ample liquid dish made with a broth or cream base can include a list of ingredients as long as a gift list mailed to Santa by every good little boy and girl.

The standard by which most soups are served includes crunchy saltines. However, Miss NiNi suggests changing up those thin crisp savory crackers with a handcrafted accompaniment that will add wonderful flavor, great soup dippability, and distinguished appeal to a simple soup-er meal. Quick Cheese Bread is that perfect substitute.

Miss NiNi has many favorite recipe sources—one of which is Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Published by America’s Test Kitchen, Brookline, MA, the conglomeration of recipes included within their pages is not only user friendly, but chefs and bakers share with readers the evolution of the recipe in story form. Inquiring minds learn what ideas work and which ones do not as the creation of the recipe unfolds to produce “thumbs up” test-tasting-panel results.

Cheese bread is more than just bread dough and cheese. According to Rebecca Hays, recipe developer, “a true cheese bread involves a more intimate relationship, going well beyond the quick blind date in which the two ingredients are merely thrown together and then heated.”

This is a quick bread recipe and requires no yeast and no proofing time. Alas, the traditional ‘Mmmm, I smell bread baking’ aroma is altered.

However, Dear Readers, by using one tablespoon of baking powder as the leavening agent, the bread rises to the top of the loaf pan superbly. And might Miss NiNi say that the golden color of this baked loaf is eye-poppingly inviting!

Oh yes, the recipe has been Miss NiNi-ized with the addition of Cajun seasoning. It’s a spice I keep in my pantry all year round in order to give a little added pep to cooking or savory baking. Look for it in your grocery store spice section.

‘Why add sour cream,’ you might ask? It adds a “nip” of tartness to the bread and also gives the bread a moist crumb.

In addition to the resplendently rich color and maximum flavor of the finished loaf, a tasting highlight for Miss NiNi was
the lovely crunchy bottom crust. Ms. Hays added shredded Parmesan cheese to both the top and bottom crusts. Brilliant! Every bite was packed with flavor with an added textural chew of the deep bronze bottom crust.

Really, Dear Readers, the idea of this recipe might sound time consuming to you. However, as with most quick breads, it takes very little time to prepare.

Quick Cheese Bread—not the quotidian dry, greasy cheese bread that made lasting memories in your cheese-bread loving mind. It’s rich. It’s moist. Its top and bottom showcase heroic cheesy crusts.

Dear Readers, you will love it! Now, grab a loaf pan and get started. Then, cut a thick slice of this yum, find your favorite flavor of soup, and enjoy!

Miss NiNi

Quick Cheese Bread—adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, May & June 2004

3 ounces Parmesan cheese, about 1 cup shredded
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
¼ t. to ½ t. Cajun seasoning
1 t. salt
1/8 t. ground black pepper
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
1-1/4 c. whole milk
3 T. butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten lightly
¾ c. sour cream

Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, sprinkle ½ c. Parmesan evenly in bottom of pan.

In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper to combine. Using rubber spatula, mix in cheddar until cheese is coated with flour. In medium bowl, whisk together milk, melted butter, egg, and sour cream. Using rubber spatula, gently fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined (batter will be heavy and thick). Do not overmix.

Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan; spread to sides of pan and level surface with rubber spatula. Sprinkle remaining ½ c. Parmesan evenly over surface.

Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick or skewer inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. (When testing the bread for doneness, if the toothpick comes out with what looks like uncooked batter clinging to it, try again in a different—but still central—spot; if the toothpick hits a pocket of cheese, it may give a false indication.)

Cool in pan on wire rack 5 minutes; invert loaf from pan. Turn loaf right side up on cooling rack. Continue to cool until warm, about 45 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.

Yields: About 8-10 slices