Remember when a bunch of crazy gals decided to revisit a cinnamon bun recipe by making the Cinnabon knock-offs a few months back thanks to a recipe that Lisa provided? Well, another type of breadish yummy bake got into our mail boxes last month and this time Mary was tempting us with promises of hot cheesy bread on a quiet Saturday afternoon. Gruyere Stuffed Crusty Rolls from the King Arthur Flour site to be precise. Was I game? You bet I was...so where Lisa, Ivonne, Stephanie, Laura-Rebecca, Sara and Kelly. When I said I'd join in the fun I had no idea that the day in question would turn out so...weird.
Before I tell you more about it though I have to say that I may not be the most eloquent blogger today or the most "happy" one...The reason why our "Cheese Bread" day was weird is the same why I am feeling awkward posting today. B.'s band mate L. has been sick with cancer for over two years now, the same one that took my brother away, the same devastating oesophagus cancer. A couple of days before we gathered last week on Skype to make and bake our bread and chat and laugh, he was sent home after a difficult stay at the hospital. He knew the end was near and he asked to be able to say goodbye to all the musicians and friends he had played with and for over the years. His wife called the young ones who had the most energy to help make this smooth and organized and that's why B. was on duty calling all the numbers they could find of anybody who might want to come and visit one last time. I volunteered to be in the kitchen fixing a breakfast and a lunch buffet for whoever might stopped by. I was also doing a little stint at the old restaurant that night to get them over the hump of Mother's day...as if I had nothing more to add to make the day complete, right?!!
I had post-its everywhere to start the bread on Friday since it needs a little starter the day before. Saturday morning I took the starter, flour and cheese to L.'s house just in case I would get stuck there and needed to proceed with the bread. I ended up mixing it up, letting it rise, rolling it, filling with the cheese (parmesan and Monterey Jack), and rolling it into a ever rising and expanding log, all over there. That's when it hit me: I have got to drive across town with that huge...giant snake of a dough in my trunk, shower, cut it, bake it...and leave it to the hungry wolves of neighbors that I have!!
I was running high on adrenaline and lack of sleep and I think that once it actually come out of the oven, I went to type that it looked like...bleep-bleep-bleep...Well, I don't think, I know and there is actually our Skype archived conversation to prove it. Well, let's just that my mind was in the gutter big time when the bread came out of the oven, but the smell of the cheese and the herbes de Provence I had added was too hard for me to resist and as soon as it was cool enough to handle, I ripped one round open and "oh my"...I just wanted to stay there and forget the day, the world and the reality of what was actually going on.
I left for work and I left 3 1/2 rounds of bread on the kitchen counter. When I came back that evening there was 1 1/2 loaf left....I love that I have such a generous husband, so giving in fact that he took 2 loaves down to the neighbors for our weekly get together. I would have probably done the same but...after I took some pictures!! Anyways...From what they said, it was a hit! Seriously, can you resist hot, melting cheese on/in bread fresh from the oven? Nah...me neither!
We loved it so much that I made it again later that week but rolling and cutting "the snake" in 12 rolls as if I were making cinnamon rolls minus the herbs that time. Another "oh my" came out of my mouth that day too. I urge you to go ahead and make it...it is highly comforting, addictive and simply wonderful.
Here is the recipe as I modified it because I did not use the King Arthur brand of flour and I went with all purpose flour instead of bread (except for the starter) without a problem. I also replaced the gruyere with what was in the fridge since the crazy week and weekend made my brain very spongy and I forgot to get gruyere everytime I went to the store.
Cheese Stuffed Crusty Rolls:
1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water
all of the starter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) to 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) lukewarm water (I used the lesser amount since it was humid that day)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cups (10 ounces) grated Montery Jack cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan
2 Tb Herbes de Provence
To make the starter: Mix the 1 1/4 cups flour, salt, yeast, and 1/2 cup water in a medium-sized bowl. Mix till well combined. Cover and let rest overnight at room temperature.
To make the dough: Combine the risen starter with the water, salt, flour, and yeast. Knead by hand or with a stand mixer for a few minutes (I went with 5 minutes by hand). Place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it’s nearly doubled in size. Gently deflate the dough, and pat and stretch it into a ¾"-thick rectangle, about 9" x 12". Spritz with water, and sprinkle with the grated cheese and the herbs. Starting with a long side, roll it into a log, pinching the seam to seal. Place the log, seam-side down, on a lightly floured or lightly oiled surface. Cover it and let it rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, till it’s puffy though not doubled in size. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F. Gently cut the log into four crosswise slices, for mini-breads; or simply cut the dough in half, for two normal-sized loaves. Place them on one (for two loaves) or two (for four mini-loaves) lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, cut side up. Spread them open a bit, if necessary, to more fully expose the cheese. Spritz with warm water, and immediately place them in the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes (for the mini-loaves), or 35 minutes (for the full-sized loaves), or until the cheese is melted and the loaves are a very deep golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack.
Note: You can also roll the log and cut 12 slices from it and set them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and proceed with the recipe as written.
L. went back to the hospital in the middle of the week so I brought half the rolls to his nurses and the doctors taking care of him. I hesitated posting at all about it today because Lee passed away Saturday night, one week to the day we organized this little visits-marathon weekend for him. I just would like you to indulge me in a little description of him: really tall...think over 6 feet, really big...think Santa Clause belly...about 72 years old although people easily gave him 10
years less...and one of the sweetest and most considerate guys I have met. I am a band wife...the youngest in the band actually, which means that I still go to their gigs on a regular basis and he would always treat me like a daughter, pushing his wife, to come along if he knew I was there. They were married just 15 years ago, finally finding the right companion and lover in each other. L. loved food, he loved bread and he loved desserts...so here you go big guy! This one is for you! His favorite song? "Just A Bowl Of Butterbeans".... Love you L.! Thank you for all the giant hugs and giant laughs, you will be as missed as you were loved.