My penchant for cheese invariably gets the better of me a Christmasa as I buy far too much. I found myself left with a piece of tangy Stilton and some dried sweet and slightly sour cranberries so I decided to combine both in a loaf of bread. Of course, you don’t have to wait until Christmas to make this bread (the original idea came to me as a red, white and blue loaf to celebrate the royal wedding in April 2011). Neither do you have to use Stilton. Any crumbly blue cheese will do. Just make sure it’s a full flavoured variety. I have been deliberately vague on the quantity of cheese to use as it will depend on how much you have to hand. Obviously, the more you use the cheesier the final product and the less salt you will need. Anything less than 100g would probably diffuse the Stilton flavour too much. Much more than 200g could affect the consistency of the bread. I’ll leave you to experiment with the quantity of cheese that suits you best. This bread is delicious warm spread with a little butter or dunked into a piping hot bowl of soup.
Ingredients for 2 small or 1 large loaf
- 8g fresh yeast or 2 tsp fast action dried yeast
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 400ml luke warm water
- 600g strong plain white bread flour
- 1 – 2 tsp fine sea salt
- 150 – 225g Stilton or other blue cheese, grated (reserve 25g of this for the topping).
- 75g dried cranberries
- A little milk for brushing
2 x 450g loaf tins or 1 x 900g loaf tin greased and floured.
- Dissolove the sugar in the water then add the fresh yeast (if using) then stir until this has also dissolved.
- Place the flour, salt and dried yeast (if using instead of fresh) into a food mixer with a dough hook attachment. Turn the mixer on to a low speed then gradually add the water mix. Mix until thoroughly incorporated then continue to knead at a low speed for 3 – 4 minutes (this will take around 5 – 6 minutes in total). The kneading can be done by hand if preferred but it will take longer to reach the desired consistency, say 10 – 15 minutes. The dough will be ready when it has a silky appearance and feels springy so that any indentation you make with your finger bounces back. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and leave to rise for approximately 90 minutes or until doubled in size.
- After the dough has risen, knead it again gradually adding the cheese and the cranberries. Knead until the cheese and fruit are thoroughly mixed in. If making smaller loaves divide the dough into two, roughly shaping each half before placing in a prepared tin. Leave the dough to rise again in a warm place until it reaches the top of the tin (about 30 – 40 minutes). Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 220ºC (Fan 200ºC / 425ºF/ Gas Mark 7).
- When the loaves have risen, brush them with a little milk and sprinkle with the remaining cheese then bake in the hot oven for 10 minutes. After this time, reduce the heat to 190 ºC (180 ºC Fan / 375 ºF / Gas Mark 5) and cook for a further 25 minutes for smaller loaves or 30 – 35 minutes for a large loaf. The finished loaf will have a crisp crust which when cut reveals a soft crumbed interior studded with ruby cranberries and emanates a mouth watering cheesy aroma.