Sunday, February 28, 2010

Parmesan Cheese Bread

This makes the best grilled cheese and ham sandwich (accompanied by a bowl of cream of tomato soup, of course).

3 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour, plus more as needed
1 T (1 package) active dry yeast (preferably SAF or Engedura)
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/3 cups warm water
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
extra virgin olive oil for brushing

Preparing the dough:
In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, combine the 3 3/4 cups flour, the yeast and salt. Add the warm water and stir with a wooden spoon until just mixed together. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese over the dough. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and begin mixing and kneading on very low speed. When the mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 12 to 15 minutes, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead by hand for 1 to 2 minutes. [If making the dough by hand, stir together the ingredients in a bowl and then knead the dough on a lightly floured board until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes.]

Form the dough into a ball, brush it with a little olive oil and return it to the bowl. Cover with a towel and let rest in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Position a rack in the lower part of an oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Brush a 9-inch round pan with olive oil.

Place the remaining 1/4 cup cheese on a plate. Punch down the dough. Return it to the floured work surface and knead a few times. If making rolls, use your palms and roll the dough to form a log about 12 inches long. Cut the log in half crosswise, then cut each half crosswise into 6 equal pieces. Knead each dough piece a couple of times, roll it between the palms of your hands into a ball, and then roll it in the cheese to coat lightly and evenly, shaking off any excess. As each ball is coated, place it in the prepared pan, resting it against the rim and pressing down slightly to form a 2-inch disk. Arrange 9 balls around the rim and 3 balls in the center. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise again in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes.

Sprinkle the top with the cheese remaining on the plate. Using a razor blade or sharp knife, cut a slash 1/4 inch deep in the top of each ball. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and continue baking until brown and crusty, 20 to 30 minutes more. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the rolls rest in the pan for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove them from the pan. The rolls will come out in a single loaf.

Serve warm.

Makes 12 rolls or 2 loaves of bread.

Note: Reheat it in a 300 degrees F oven.


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