I don’tknow if I can say I woke up very early or that I didn’t sleep, just nappedduring the first hours of the night. When you go to bed at 1am and wake up at3am and realize that you completely lost your sleep, go downstairs, of coursesit in front of your computer and go about your night like it’s the morning,what definition applies? Probably the one that let’s you all see how crazy mymind is these days, how I’m not kidding when I say I have a parallel lifeduring the night hours. Although that applied to actual sleeping nights, lastnight goes to show my point.
Anyway,let’s say the day started early, very early. By 9am I was ready to have lunchand by 6pm ready to go to bed again. Neither happened. But, I got a lot ofbaking done. In the wee hours of the morning, with no phones ringing, nodeadlines, just silence on a rainy day, a lot can be accomplished in thekitchen.
For thismonth’s 12 Loaves group the ingredient to use was cheese. Bread and cheese.What’s easier and yummier, not to mention bad bad to eat as a regular wholemeal kind of thing?
Sometimes when things are such a no brainer and obvious,like throwing some gruyere in your favorite challah, or making the bestpull-apart bread like Lora did, or a prosciutto stromboli (are you crazy aboutstromboli yet? For starters I’m crazy about how the word sounds) like Lisa, ora bacon focaccia like Jamie, or even a clever waffle sandwich (you heard that right) made by Barb, all including cheese of course, it is on these occasions when I feel the need tobake something different, for diversity.
I first leafed through books and magazineslooking for a sweet bread and found some impressive ones using soft cheese, let me tell you. Butthat didn’t happen. At least not for this edition of 12 Loaves. I decided touse ricotta and chives in a savory bread.
Now, manydon’t like the look and feel of ricotta and maybe they have a point. But it isa good, noble ingredient, especially if you make your own. Which I have manytimes in the past, but didn’t this time. I will get to posting that eventually;now we have a bread to bake.
The cheesegives the bread incredible moisture and a nice crumb. Similar to this otherrelated bread which has some sour cream in the dough. The chives make yourkitchen smell like a pungent heaven where nothing but nice things can happen.
The finalloaf is very soft, especially right after coming out of the oven, so don’tmistake that for being undercooked. Trust your knuckles. I didn’t and kind ofopened it a bit in the middle to peek insisde while it was still hot. That’sthe crack you see in the pictures.
That aside, the bread itself makes anastonishingly good toasted ham and cheese sandwich. So good I had it for lunchand banished every thought of giving the rest of the bread away, like I do withmany of the thing I bake. It will stay in my freezer and make an appearance, but only sporadically since spring and bikini season are here.
This breadis good with soups, as part of a buffet when you need delicious little rolls,or just to snack on something savory during the day.
The recipecomes from one of the bread masters, Peter Reinhart. He has many well knownbooks, but I found this recipe in one of his early works, a little paperback that Ibought many years ago.
RICOTTA CHIVE BREAD
a bit adapted from Brother Juniper’s Bread Book, byPeter Reinhart
Note: this can easily be doubled
4 cups bread flour
¼ cup wheatbran
¼ cup lightbrown sugar
½ teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
½ Tbschopped fresh parsley
¾ cupschopped fresh chives
1 Tbsinstant dry yeast or 1 ¼ Tbs active dry yeast
1 Tbs salt
½ cup freshricotta cheese, strained before measuring if watery
¾ to 1 cupwater
In the bowlof an standing mixer put flour, bran, sugar, pepper, parsley, chives and yeast.Add salt without touching the yeast.
Add ricottaand ¾ cup water and mix on low speed using the dough hook. Once everything iscombined, turn the speed to medium and knead for a few minutes. Check to see ifthe dough needs more water, and add it a Tbs at a time. Keep kneading for 5minutes. The dough will remain somewhat moist, with a bit adhering to thebottom.
Transfer toa bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, anywhere from 1 to2 hours. Transfer to a floured surface and, with the aid of a dough scraper,form into a loose ball. Flatten it with your hands and carefull roll into aloaf.
Place in agreased large loaf pan, cover loosely and let rise until doubled again.
Preheatoven to 350ºF about 15 minutes before baking.
Bake bread for about 45 to 50 mintues, untilgolden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckles.
Unmold on awire rack and let cool before cutting.