Please tell me you love Asiago cheese as much as I do. I am not always crazy about cheese, but Asiago gets me every time. In garlicky, creamy pasta. Broiled on toast. Baked onto a bagel.
This Italian cheese boasts a salty tang that I cannot resist!
The thought of baking it into a batch of my favorite French bread has excited me for months. This week, I whipped up another pot of this Zuppa Toscana, and decided it was a great opportunity to try baking some Asiago bread. Creamy soup with crusty, cheesy bread… ahhh…
So I made my French bread, by hand (in keeping with my “bake more” goal), and added Italian seasoning and pepper in the mixing stage.
After the first kneading, I let it rise a bit. Then I kneaded in some freshly grated Asiago.
Are you smitten? I’m smitten. Beautiful Asiago…
After a good rise to double, I formed the dough into two baguettes (detailed instructions below in the recipe).
I let them rise, topped them with more Asiago, and popped them in the oven to bake.
The incredible aromas of yeast bread and Asiago filled the house with all their savory goodness. I prefer to let bread cool completely before cutting it, but I couldn’t wait that long for this one. I sliced it for a sample just a few minutes out of the oven.
The results were scrumptious. All the way. I wish I had some baking in my oven right now.
Don’t be frightened of the instructions list. It’s much longer to explain than to implement. And your efforts will be well-rewarded. 😉
Herbed Asiago Cheese Bread (makes 2 baguettes)
- 1 1/4 c. warm water
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- a pinch of sugar
- 3 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, separated
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 TBSP Italian seasoning
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 3/4 c. freshly grated Asiago cheese, plus more for topping
- Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water and stir. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until foamy.
- In a large bowl, stir together one cup of the flour with the salt, Italian seasoning, and pepper.
- Pour the yeasty, foamy water into the seasoned flour. Then gradually add most of the remaining flour. Reserve just a teeny bit of flour to sprinkle on the counter for kneading the dough.
- Knead for about 5 minutes, then cover the dough with a clean towel and let it rest on the counter for 20 minutes.
- After the rest, knead in the 3/4 c. Asiago cheese. The cheese was difficult to incorporate, but after a minute or two, it mixed through the dough. (I’ll have to try adding it in the first knead next time and see if I get the same baked results. If so, I’ll leave out the counter rest and skip straight to putting it in a bowl to rise!)
- Spray a large bowl with non-stick spray (or drizzle with a little oil), and place the dough in it. Turn it once to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk.
- When the dough is risen, divide it in half and pat it into rectangles. Then fold the bottom third up over the middle and push it in with your thumbs. Fold the top third down and pinch to seal. Sometimes I fold under the ends and sometimes I just leave them. (I read a bread book years ago with similar instructions for forming baguettes, so I have been making them this way ever since. Alternatively, I believe you can roll the rectangle into a tight spiral and pinch to seal.) See photos above.
- Place the loaves seam-side down on a baking sheet, using your preferred non-stick method. (I covered the sheet with foil and sprinkled it with a little flour. I might try cornmeal next time, or use parchment paper. The bottoms seem to brown too easily with non-stick spray.) Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in bulk. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees 15 minutes before baking. (I preheat to 425 because my oven runs hot.)
- Using kitchen shears, snip shallow diagonal slashes in roughly two-inch intervals down the length of each baguette. Spray or brush the dough with water. Then sprinkle with additional Asiago cheese. (I don’t like to waste an egg for an egg wash unless it’s entirely necessary, and I thought the water worked pretty well.)
- Bake the loaves in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Serve the bread with soup, or slice thin for mini grilled sandwiches. This is best eaten the day it’s baked, but you can store it at room temperature in a sealed bag for a day or two. To soften the leftovers, place a few slices at a time in the microwave in an open plastic bag for 7-10 seconds.
Next, I’ll have to try a jalapeño Asiago version like these muffins… oh the possibilities!
Have a scrumptious day!