Potatoes and Cheddar and Chives — Oh, My!

Having recently baked one really good (Vienna), two so-so (Pain de Mie and Whole Wheat), and one yuck (Tuscan) breads in the past few weeks, I had high hopes for the 42nd and next-to-last recipe in the BBA Challenge, Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes. In fact, I will admit to expecting a lot out of the last two recipes in the book. After months of baking, with mostly great results and only a few duds, I really hope to go out with a bang here. And if this bread is any indication, PR will not disappoint.

One of the interesting things about this bread is that it uses both sourdough starter and yeast to leaven the bread. The sourdough starter (which PR incorrectly refers to as a “barm”) is built from the Mother Starter. The recipe requires 10.5 ounces of starter. The starter recipe, on the other hand, yields 39 ounces. Time for baker’s math again. By using 1.9 ounces of starter and 4.3 ounces each of flour and water, I ended up with exactly 10.5 ounces of 100% hydration starter for the recipe.

I prepared my starter the evening before I planned to bake and let it sit out at room temperature overnight. The next day, I chopped and boiled Yukon gold potatoes, then let the potatoes and potato water cool to room temperature. I decided to use Yukon gold, as I thought they would give the crumb a nice color. While the potatoes and water were cooling, I chopped the chives and assembled my mise en place.

I bought the chives in a small package at the grocery store. When I got them home and started chopping them, I realized that my $2.59 got me only 2/3 ounce of chives. And by the time I culled out the bad ones, I had about 1/2 ounce left! It killed me to realize that within a few months I’ll have chives coming out my ears in the garden. In fact, the chives often poke out through the snow early in the Spring.

OK, enough of my chive rant, back to the bread. I mixed 1/2 of the flour, 1/2 cup of the potato water, the potatoes, yeast, and starter just until the flour was hydrated. I allowed this “shag” to sit for about half an hour.

Then I added the rest of the flour, the salt, and just under 1/2  cup of potato water and kneaded the dough for about six minutes with my Kitchen Aid. I added the chives and mixed another two minutes. The dough was very tacky, bordering on sticky. I put it in an oiled bowl and turned it to coat the dough with oil.

After a 90-minute ferment, the dough had more than doubled in size.

I dumped the dough out onto my Roul’Pat, divided it in half, and patted one half into a rectangle. I layed out half of the cheddar cheese on the dough, leaving the edges uncovered.

I rolled the dough into a batard, sealed the edges, then tapered the ends to make a torpedo shape. Then I repeated this with the second loaf.

I misted the torpedoes with spray oil, covered them with a towel, and allowed them to rest for one hour. About 15 minutes into the proofing period, I began preheating my oven to 500 dF with a steam pan on the bottom shelf.

Just before loading the bread into the oven, I boiled some water and slashed the loaves, being sure to cut down to the first layer of cheese.

I was a little nervous about this part. I’m a pretty good slasher, but I have never worried too much about the depth of my cuts. I was afraid they would be too shallow and require a second or third slash to get down to the cheese. I needn’t have worried. As you can see, one slash was all it took, and they were ready to bake.

I loaded the loaves into the oven, poured a cup of boiling water into the steam pan, closed the oven door, and reduced the temperature to 450 dF. I don’t bother with spraying the oven walls at 30-second intervals, as I can’t discern any difference in the loaves one way or the other. I think the steam pan works fine for creating the proper amount of steam in the oven.

I baked the loaves for about 20 minutes and rotated them 180 degrees. I inserted a probe thermometer into one of the loaves, and was surprised to find that it was already over 200 degrees in the center. The recipe said the torpedoes would take 35 to 40 minutes to bake, but mine were done after 20 minutes.

The loaves looked and smelled amazing. The cheddar bubbling out through the slashes was especially striking.

I honestly wasn’t sure if I could wait 45 minutes before slicing into this bread. But wait I did. When I sliced the first torpedo, the crumb, with its spiral of sharp cheddar cheese, was as beautiful and enticing as the loaf had been coming out of the oven.

And the flavor? Well, let’s just say that I finished half the loaf standing in the kitchen before I thought to offer any to the rest of the family. I had more this afternoon toasted. It was like eating the best grilled cheese sandwich you’ve ever tasted right out of the toaster.

This was easily my favorite bread in the past few months of the BBA Challenge. In fact, it ranks up there with Casatiello as one of the top breads in the book!

Up next: Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche, the final bread in the Challenge.

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11 Comments

  1. March 2, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    I’m supposed to do Pumpernickel next but you are tempting me to cheat and do this one first! It looks amazing. Great idea to slice cheddar thin for more even distribution.
    I also wondered if spraying the oven at 30 second intervals was really going to make that much of a difference but now that my guru Phyl says don’t bother, I will give it up!

    Looking forward to your final post.

    • gaaarp said,

      March 2, 2010 at 5:20 pm

      Guru? I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but that’s a first. Why, the nerve,… Oh, wait. That’s a good thing. Nevermind.

      As far as the urge to skip ahead to this bread, I can only quote Oscar Wilde: “I can resist anything except temptation.”

  2. Yumarama said,

    February 28, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Mmmm… cheeeesy….

    I think your large thin slice method worked great. Lovely loaves with a nice long swirl.

    Now get that silly tax stuff done so you can get to the even more awesome Roasted Onion.

    • gaaarp said,

      February 28, 2010 at 10:00 pm

      At some point I have to do my own taxes, too. Shoemaker’s children, you know.

  3. AnneMarie said,

    February 28, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I used a white sharp cheddar, it tastes delicious, but you get nicer contrast with yellow. Don’t you think that this would be the perfect picnic loaf? I can’t wait to play around with this one. Beautiful pictures.

  4. misterrios said,

    February 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Amazing. I’m salivating just looking at it. I love how the cheddar is just busting out of the slashes. I’m totally looking forward to this one.

    • gaaarp said,

      February 28, 2010 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks. You don’t have too many more to go until you get here. It’s worth the ride.

  5. Frieda said,

    February 28, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Ooooh…a white cheddar sounds divine! Great post!

  6. February 28, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    They’re beautiful! You’re almost done! Woohoo!

  7. Natashya said,

    February 28, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Wow, what a bread! I am so looking forward to this one.
    Thanks for the tips, I think I will look for cheddar sliced like that from the deli.

    • gaaarp said,

      February 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm

      Thanks!

      I have a nice, sharp white cheddar in the fridge, but getting it sliced really thin at the deli seemed like the best idea.


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