While it's easy to pick up a loaf of bread at the supermarket, there's just something so rewarding about making it from scratch. It's like being part of a delicious science experiment involving bubbling yeast, fermentation, and starter doughs that magically double in size. The result: a warm, crisp-crusted, cheesy sandwich bread inspired by Panera Bread's beloved Asiago Cheese Focaccia and a kitchen filled with a completely intoxicating scent.
- 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups bread flour
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 package regular or fast-acting dry yeast
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups shredded asiago cheese
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups flour, the sugar, and the yeast until well mixed. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the water until it's 120°F to 130°F. You want to make sure the water is hot enough to activate the yeast, but not so hot that it kills it. Add the warm water to the flour mixture, and beat with a whisk for 1 minute, or until everything has come together. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand for 1 hour or until bubbly.
- Uncover the batter, and stir in olive oil, rosemary, and salt with a wooden spoon. Then add the remaining flour, 1/2 a cup at a time, until the dough is soft and pliable, doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl, and is easy to handle. Cover again with plastic wrap, and let stand for 15 minutes.
- Sprinkle flour lightly on a countertop or large cutting board. Place dough on floured surface, and knead for 5 to 10 minutes. Knead by folding dough in half toward you, and then use the heels of your hands to push the dough away from you with a rocking motion. Move dough a quarter turn and repeat. Sprinkle countertop or cutting board with more flour if dough starts to stick. You're looking for a smooth and springy consistency.
- Knead in 1 cup of asiago cheese. Spray a large, clean bowl with cooking spray, and place dough in the bowl, turning to grease all sides. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for 45 to 60 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Sprinkle flour lightly on your countertop or large cutting board. Gently punch your fist into the dough to deflate it. Place dough on floured surface, and gently shape into a football-shaped loaf, about 12 inches long, by stretching the sides of the dough to make a smooth top. Place loaf on cookie sheet, and generously dust the top with flour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for another 45 to 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size again.
- Move oven racks to the lowest and middle positions. Place an 8-inch or 9-inch square pan on the bottom rack, and fill with hot water until it is about 1/2 inch from the top of the pan. This is to help moisture circulate in the oven while the bread is baking. Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Pour cool water into a clean spray bottle. Uncover your loaf, and spray lightly with water. Using a sharp serrated knife, carefully cut a 1/2-inch-deep pocket lengthwise down the center of the loaf. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of asiago cheese into the slash.
- Bake loaf for 10 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 400°F, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the cookie sheet to a cooling rack, and let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
- Appetizers, Breads/Crackers
- 1 loaf