Last month, I taught a bread class to a bunch of eager students. Often, I’m given a menu and then develop the recipes myself because well, that’s how I like to do it. For this particular class, one item was a mustard cheese bread. That’s all it said. No details, no specifications. Just “mustard cheese bread.” With a whole class of loaf breads, I was looking for something different, something interesting. What about a pull apart type of thing, like a monkey bread? Are you familiar with monkey bread? The title origins are a little fuzzy but I’ve also heard it called bubble loaf or pull apart bread. Anyway, at it’s simplest, you take a can of biscuits, pinch off pieces of dough and roll them into balls. Dip each ball into melted butter then cinnamon sugar and place in a bundt pan. When baked, warm and gooey, the little balls pull apart and are utterly delicious.
So what if I did a savory version? The Bristol does something similar, sans cheese, with a dill butter for dipping. I thought I’d take that idea up a notch and add something oniony to the dough, maybe some mustard and a little cayenne zip. And cheese. Definitely some cheese.
In theory, yes it should work. In practice, the damn cheese was giving me problems. When it was incorporated into the dough, the flavor didn’t come through. When I sprinkled cheese in between the layers, it fused itself to the side of the pan creating a big fat mess when I unmolded the concoction. Unmolding is used very loosely here – the bread stuck terribly and came out in bits. It even took pieces of the Teflon right off my non-stick pan. Tasty but ugly as hell and as I ingested flecks of Teflon, god only knows what I’ve done to myself. Awesome. Next up – cheese in the dough, but chunks this time.
Third time’s a charm – this worked beautifully. The dough kept the cheese contained and prevented it from fusing to the pan. It also concentrated the flavor. To boost the mustardy-ness, each ball is dipped in a mixture of butter/mustard/salt/cayenne before going into the pan. This creates a delicious tangy coating on each piece of dough that sort of crusts up during baking. In the future, I just may roll those cheese chunks IN the mustard mix as well to get some of that zinginess inside the dough. It’s all rather tasty I must say – especially, most especially, when warm and gooey.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: UP THERE. It’s gooey cheese encased in soft bread dough. It’s good for the soul, as in “let me sit on the couch and watch Glee reruns while I polish off this whole warm, crusty, gooey loaf because it’s winter and I need to stay warm and carbo-load so I have enough energy to shovel my car out of the snow.” Ah, look at that. I figured it all out for you.
CHEDDAR MUSTARD MONKEY BREAD
Makes one loaf – so here’s the one downside to this recipe. It doesn’t hold all that well. It really is it’s best right out of the oven when it’s all crispy and warm and gooey. Not that I’m encouraging overeating, but it’s true. Grab a bunch of people and eat the whole thing right away. If you have any leftovers, wrap them in a damp paper towel and zap in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to re-warm.
Bake in a bundt, tube or two standard loaf pans but grease the pans WELL. This bread has a nasty tendency to stick.
For the dough:
2 ½ Tablespoons warm water (about 110-115°F)
1 package quick-rise yeast (2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup whole milk
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
4 green onions, finely chopped (green and white parts)
for the pan:
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
for the filling/topping:
6 ounces extra sharp cheddar, cut into ¼” cubes
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- For the sponge: In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix yeast, sugar, and warm water until combined.
- Set aside for five minutes to allow yeast to proof (bubbles will form at the surface).
- For the dough: meanwhile, in a small saucepan melt the Tablespoon of butter then add the milk just to warm up a bit (the warm milk will cut the rise time.)
- To the yeast mixture, add the flour, mustard powder, cayenne and salt to and fit mixer with the dough hook attachment.
- With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the milk/butter and the egg. Add the chopped green onions.
- Mix on medium speed just until the dough releases from the side of the bowl, about 6-to-8 minutes. Turn out onto work surface and knead dough together lightly with your hands.
- First rise: Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place.
- Allow dough to rise for 25-30 minutes until nearly double in bulk.
- Grease a 10” tube or bundt pan with the 2 Tablespoons of softened butter and set aside.
- Whisk the 4 Tablespoons of melted butter, Dijon mustard, cayenne and salt together and set aside while shaping the dough.
- If you haven’t already, cut the cheese into ¼” chunks and set aside.
- Shaping: Once approximately doubled in bulk, turn the dough out onto a work surface and pinch off pieces roughly the size of a ping pong ball and roll into a ball about about 1” in diameter.
- Tuck a chunk of cheese into the center of each dough ball and pinch the edges shut, roll into a ball making sure it’s completely enclosed in the dough.
- Dip one side of the dough ball into the butter/mustard mixture and arrange in greased bundt/tube plan mustard side up. Stack the balls as you go.
- Pour any excess butter/mustard mixture on top of the dough balls.
- Second rise: Cover the pan with plastic wrap and allow loaves to rise once more in a warm spot for 20-25 minutes until risen slightly.
- Meanwhile, place a rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 375°F.
- Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown.
- Let pan rest on a wire rack for 5 minutes then run a knife around the pan edge to loosen any escaped cheese and turn out onto a serving platter. Best served warm.