My sister and I, equally food obsessed thanks in no small part to my mom’s devotion to cooking and entertaining throughout our childhood years, often plan a “quiet” Saturday night in and cook dinner for my parents on my weekend trips home to Ashland. However, our version of low key often looks different than the norm.
Naturally, we must first identify a theme – tacos al pastor with a fixins’ bar? paella with chorizo, mussels and shrimp in Ash’s new pan? should I lug home my ice cream maker for gelato? We research recipes for inspiration, gather ingredients and fire off menu ideas to my mom who these days rarely has time to respond but as the best moms do, indulges our obsession and kindly feigns interest. What started out as a low maintenance and relaxing night in, quickly morphs into an all day prep session, my stepfather groaning as the dirty pots and pans, mixing bowls and spatulas pile up in the sink.
Most people think we are crazy, my husband Zach included and honestly, we’re pretty okay with that. He points to the hours I spend standing over the stove or fretting over the bread rising and doubts just how relaxing these all day cooking fests can possibly be. Exhaustion is an inevitable side effect, but I find great joy and solitude in the synchronized and choreographed movements of my sister and I as we busy ourselves with to do lists, give advice on salt needed here, or a bit of acid there.
As children we possessed more differences than similarities, fighting often and unsure how best to know and relate to one another. But as adults, food brought us together and our differences complement each other well in the kitchen. Ash, the more spontaneous but organized half, loves the creativity and unpredictable nature of cooking. While I, the chocoholic, type-A and perfectionist half, adore sugary, pretty desserts and the earnestly simple formulas of bread baking. Maybe we are crazy, but it’s a badge I wear proudly and at least when Ash is around, my version of crazy is in good company.
To many non-bakers out there, like Ash, I know bread often seems a daunting task. And while I have featured a few bread recipes in this space, thus far they have been relatively time consuming involving starters, repeated rises and kneading. But I would hazard a guess that most of us, including myself, other than on holidays or lazy rainy weekends seldom have the time or the foresight to make a 2 day bread recipe.
Enter the Easy Cheddar and Green Onion Bread. This recipe is a spin-off on one of my mom’s go-to bread recipes and makes for a great add in to one of my sister and I’s weekend cooking marathons as it can be made with little advance notice or effort but packs a lot of personality. The original recipe calls for mozzarella but I prefer the sharper flavor of white cheddar paired with the flecks of green onion that permeate the bread. Feel free to substitute in cheese of your choice here. I’ve also bumped up the quantity of cheese in the dough as I prefer it to have a starring role rather than a subtle supporting one.
Cheddar & Green Onion Bread
1 package (0.25 ounces) instant yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
4 oz white cheddar cheese, cubed
3 green onions, roughly chopped
3 cups bread flour
2 Tb dry milk
1 tsp kosher salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into the warm water and whisk gently with a fork to combine. Let the yeast mixture stand until bubbly, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor lightly pulse the green onions and cheddar cheese to chop. Add the flour, dry milk, and salt and pulse a few times to combine.
2. Add half the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and pulse 3 times. Add the rest of the yeast mixture and pulse just until a ball forms and making sure not to chop up the cheese and onions too much. Remove the ball of dough onto a work surface and knead 2-3 times to combine. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise until double, approximately 1-1.5 hours.
3. Gently punch down the dough and shape however you like, though I prefer a french loaf but a boule will also work here. Place on a lightly floured sheetpan, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double, approximately 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place a sheetpan on the center rack to pre-heat. Brush the bread all over with the lightly beaten egg and then with a very sharp knife or razor blade, quickly make six diagonal slashes (aka score) the top of the bread. Gently slide, or using your hands carefully pick up the dough, and place it on the hot sheetpan in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes until nicely golden brown. Allow bread to cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.