A gift of jalapeños led to the development of this bread. We had just made a big batch of cornbread for a special event at the market, for which one of the vendors had given me a boatload of fresh jalapeños. After the cornbread was made there were still jalapeños everywhere, and no time to can them, so we chopped up a few and added them to our Anadama dough. Mmmm, tasty, but not quite right. Next time we added them to the cornmeal mush when we cooked it. That infused more flavor into the dough but it still needed something. The addition of shredded cheese as we formed the loaf was that something. The baked loaf had a spiral of melty cheese, the cornmeal made a tender crumb, the peppers a surprise bite. This became one of the seasonal specialties that rotated into our market breads in late summer when it seems everybody has underestimated the number of jalapeños that will grow on one plant.
Since you can buy fresh jalapeños any time of year these days you can make this bread anytime. Canned peppers will work too. Adjust the quantity to suit your tastes and the heat of the pepper, which can vary considerably. No jalapeños? Try another variety, maybe a serrano, Hungarian wax or chile. Just don’t forget to take the amount of heat into account, and wear some rubber gloves when working with them. Use whatever cheese you like. We use a shredded blend of cheddar and jack.
This bread is great all by itself, dipped in pizza sauce, or used for a French dip with caramelized onions and au jus. It’s best if eaten within a day.
— Joan, 17 March 2016
JALAPEÑO CHEESE BREAD
- 1½ cups (342 grams) warm water
- 3 tablespoons (90 grams) yellow cornmeal
- 1-2 jalapeños or other hot peppers to taste, chopped (seeded or not, as you prefer)
- 1½ teaspoons (11 grams) honey
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) butter
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1¾ cups (245 grams) bread flour
- ½ cup (70 grams) whole wheat flour
- 1 cup (90 grams) shredded cheese
Add chopped peppers and cornmeal to the warm water and stir. Microwave for 3 minutes, then stir well and microwave for another 3 minutes. 6 minutes total is all it takes in my microwave. You’ll have to adjust for yours but you want the cooked mush to be thick like the picture on the left below. Add the butter and honey and stir till butter is melted. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
When the mush has cooled, scrape it into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix the yeast and salt into the flour and add it to the mush about ½ cup at a time, mixing between additions till most of the flour is incorporated. When all the flour is incorporated (third picture above) the dough may look clumpy. Feel the dough with your fingers. If it feels dry add a tablespoon of water and mix it in completely. Turn speed to medium and knead for 5-7 minutes. Some of the water in the mush will release as it mixes so be very careful about adding water or you’ll find yourself in an endless cycle of adding water and then more flour to soak up that water. You may have to make this recipe a couple of times before you get the feel of the dough right. At the end of the kneading it will still stick to the mixing bowl, as shown in the picture above on the right. Scrape it all out into a greased container and cover. Turn it out and fold in quarters after 20 minutes, return to the container, fold again after 20 more minutes, then put it back in the container and cover. Set it in a warm spot (70-75°F is ideal) till it’s doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on temperature of the proofing environment.
Divide the fully proofed dough into two pieces. After proofing it should feel light and not so sticky. Pat each piece into a rough rectangle about 6″x8″ and evenly sprinkle ½ cup of cheese over each piece. Beginning at the edge farthest from you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Turn the ends under, place on a greased pan and cover. Set aside to rise again.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut 3-4 slashes diagonally in the top of each loaf. Bake until golden brown and cheese is bubbly, about 30-40 minutes. Cool at least 45 minutes before slicing.