Apple Cheddar Sandwich Bread

I’d like to file this one in the better late than never category, with apologies to Laura, Barb, and Jamie, of the Twelve Loaves baking challenge. The ladies of the Twelve Loaves post a new theme every month, and the challenge is to bake a bread, any kind of bread, that fits the theme. September’s challenge was bread with cheese, and I swear, I did make this in September, honest.

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Back before my children were born I made bread regularly, all kinds of bread: Sourdough, rye, brioche, baguette, pizza dough, fancy European peasant loaves that required three-day ferments. I even made my own tortillas.

Then, when they were infants and toddlers, came a period of store-bought bread. It was a sad, dark time. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive to get a decent loaf. Most of the time we made due with cheap supermarket bread. I did not eat much bread.

A few years ago I hauled out the yeast and made a couple of loaves of white sandwich bread. My children went wild, especially the youngest, who declared that he never wanted to eat store-bought bread again. With this goal in mind I began baking bread more regularly again, mostly sandwich bread, alternating between white and whole wheat.

The day I baked my September loaves I was making white bread. I used my standard go to recipe, Craig Kominiak’s from Baking with Julia, which is the best I have ever found. After the first rise, I rolled the dough out into two rectangles, sprinkled it liberally with 1/2 inch cubes of apples from my back yard and aged cheddar cheese, rolled it up into loaves, and set it in the prepared pans for the second rise. All in all I used about 4 cups of diced apples and a pound of cheese.

I’m not sure I ever actually made any sandwiches with this bread. I think we wound up eating all of it straight up, slice by slice.

Here’s the recipe.

Apple Cheddar Sandwich Bread (adapted from Baking with Julia)

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 T. instant yeast
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 7 cups white bread flour
  • 1 T. salt
  • 2 oz. butter, room temperature
  • 1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 inch dice
  • 4 cups peeled and cored apples, 1/2 inch dice
  1. Add the first four ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer. Attach the dough hook and mix, on low speed, until the ingredients are combined.
  2. Add the salt, increase the speed to medium, and continue kneading in the mixer for about 10 minutes. The dough should be soft, but not sticky. Add flour or water as necessary.
  3. With the mixer still running, toss in the butter, a tablespoon at a time, and continue kneading until it is incorporated. The dough may look like it is falling apart at first. Keep going. It will come back together.
  4. Roll the dough into a ball. Place it back in the bowl, cover it, and set it in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes to an hour, until it doubles in bulk.
  5. Divide the dough in two and roll it out into rectangles, about 1/2 inch thick.
  6. Scatter the cheese and apples over the two rectangles. It will seem like far too  much to ever fit. Don’t worry, it will.
  7. Roll each rectangle up and place it in a buttered, 8-inch bread pan.
  8. Let the loaves rise for 45 minutes, until they double in size again and have grown over the tops of the pans.
  9. About 30 minutes into the rise, preheat the oven to 375.
  10. Bake the loaves for 45 minutes, or until they are a dark honey brown on top.
  11. Remove the pans from the oven, remove the bread from the pans, and let the loaves cool before slicing.
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Brown Butter Hand Tarts with Gingered Autumn Fruit

It’s time for my version of the September #baketogether recipe. Check out the original version here: brown butter apple hand tarts.

I got excited about this dough the moment I saw the recipe. Once I made it, and tasted it I knew it was true love. It is so good. It was a wonder any of it lasted long enough to be baked. I kept sneaking pieces.

For this go around I made the recipe exactly as Abby posted it, but it did give me ideas, and I look forward to playing around with it a bit and trying them out.

With four trees in my back yard, I have no shortage of apples a the moment, but I didn’t want to replicate the entire recipe as written, so I mixed up the fruit a bit. Instead of two apples, I used one, plus three Italian plums, a handful of grapes, and 1/3 of a cup of chopped, candied ginger. Otherwise I followed the recipe as written.

Well, almost as written. I pulled out a cookie cutter and opted to make round tarts instead of rectangular ones.

The fruits were ones I happened to have on hand, and the ginger was a special nod to Abby, who loves ginger, and this recipe just seemed to cry out for it.

Given that I made so few changes to Abby’s recipe, I won’t retype it, but you can find it here. To make my version all you need to do is follow the fruit substitutions above.

The Secret of Apple Pie

I have four apple trees in my back yard. they are all different varieties. I have no idea which ones. The house is over 100 years old. Odds are good the trees are too. All I know is that these apples are really, really good. They all ripen at slightly different times. I missed two of them this year, from having to be out of town, but I arrived back home in time to get apples from the last two. It was a pretty good harvest this year, though not as good as my neighbor, whose tree is so full of apples the branches bend nearly all the way to the ground.

Needless to say, I have been making a lot of apple-related dishes, including my famous-within-the-family apple pie. There are a lot of recipes claiming to produce the best apple pie. I don’t claim this is the absolute best. It is, however, much requested, and my favourite. It’s also very simple. Many apple pie recipes are, to my lazy self, overly complicated. Pie should be simple. Apple pie should be simplest of all.

I have three basic rules for creating my ideal apple pie:

  1. Use an all-butter crust, with extra butter, and aim for maximum flakiness. The tenderness will suffer a bit, but that’s OK. Fruit pies taste best with a more toothsome crust.
  2. Use more than one variety of apple. It will lend a fuller, more complex flavor to your pie.
  3. Add a pear. That’s right. A pear. In your apple pie. Just one per pie, mixed with the apples. The pear takes an otherwise good pie and makes it transcendent. And nobody will ever guess it’s in there.

Now you know the secret to great apple pie. How great is it? Let’s just say this was all that was left by the time I could get a photo.

The Secret of Apple Pie

For the crust:

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 8 oz. butter, cold
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water
  1. Blend the flour with the salt.
  2. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces and scatter it over the flour.
  3. Using you hands, and working quickly, mix the butter into the flour by smearing it between your thumb and fingers. Continue doing this until only pa-sized pieces of butter remain and the mixture has the consistency of coarse corn meal.
  4. Drizzle in the ice water, and blend it into the flour/butter mixture, again using your hands.
  5. When the water has been blended just enough to form a dough that holds together, divide it in two. Shape each half into a disc.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling:

  • 7 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 T. flour
  1. Blend all ingredients in a large bowl. (I usually use the one I just made the dough in – no need to clean it first).
  2. Let them sit while you roll out the crust.

To assemble the pie:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Remove one disc of dough from the refrigerator.
  3. Roll it out, on a lightly floured surface, until large enough to line a 9-inch pie pan.
  4. Place the dough in the pan.
  5. Pour the filling into the dough-filled pan.
  6. Remove the other disc from the refrigerator and roll it out until large enough to cover the top of the pie.
  7. Place the second round of dough on top of the filling.
  8. There will be a decent amount of dough hanging out over the edge from both crusts. Roll the edges of the top and bottom crusts together and crimp them with your fingers to join them and make the rim of the pie.
  9. Using  knife, cut a dozen or so vent in the top crust for steam to escape.
  10. Place in the oven, with foil underneath the pan to catch drips.
  11. Bake for 1 hour, or until the crust is browned and the juices from the apples bubble up through the vents.
  12. Cool completely before serving.