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roasted tomato and cheddar bread

when i was much, much younger, one of my sisters and i came across a bowl of what looked to be delicious cookie dough in a mixing bowl on the kitchen counter. with my mom out of the room at the moment, we took the opportunity to scoop up huge gobs and wolf them down, only to find out that what we thought was cookie dough was in fact cheese bread dough. i don’t care how much you like cheese, eating raw cheese bread dough is not a pleasant experience.

it didn’t ruin cheese as a whole for me, but i couldn’t bring myself to eat cheese bread for a long time. it wasn’t until years later that i accidentally ate an asiago cheese bagel and realized it can be one of the finer things in life. when i stumbled across this recipe last week for cheddar bread in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day [1], i decided to give it a shot. it happened to be the same day the girl brought home a whole mess of farmer’s market tomatoes to roast, so we figured, why not?

making roasted tomatoes is staggeringly easy. here they are at stage one: the tomatoes are happy and healthy on a baking sheet, doused with olive oil, salt and pepper, and ready for a 300F oven.

stage two: 3 hours have passed, and the tomatoes are looking a little tired. you can see where this is headed. you could stop now, but we’ve only just started to see the potential locked inside these little beauties.

stage three: 6 hours have passed, and the tomatoes have become something else entirely, caramelized and flavor-concentrated beyond words. it’s amazing what a little time and heat can produce. eat them straight off the pan, toss with some fresh pasta [2] or add to cheese bread dough and enjoy (once you’ve baked it, of course).

the bread is versatile, good enough toasted with a bit of butter, with hints of cheese and tomato throughout, but even better in sandwiches. the recipe below produces a bread with flavors that aren’t too overwhelming, but if you’re a cheese or tomato junky, adjust accordingly.

roasted tomato and cheddar bread
adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day [1]. makes 4 1-lb loaves.

3 c lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tbsp yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
7 c flour (unbleached all-purpose)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
about 10 slices roasted tomato (or more to taste) – see recipe below

roasted tomatoes
1 lb tomatoes
3 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt and pepper for sprinkling

1. to make the roasted tomatoes: preheat oven to 300F. slice tomatoes, place on baking sheet. drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. bake for 6 hours, flipping tomatoes halfway through baking time.

2. mix the yeast, salt, and sugar with the water in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). mix in the dry ingredients and the cheese without kneading, using a spoon or stand mixer. cover, not airtight, and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.

3. the dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. refrigerate in a lidded, but not airtight, container and use over the next 7 days.

4. on baking day, dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut off a  1 pound (grapefruit-sized) piece. dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 1 hour.

5. twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450F, with a baking stone (or unglazed quarry tiles) on the lowest rack. place an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread. sprinkle the loaf liberally with flour and slash across the top, using a serrated bread knife. leave the flour in place for baking; tap some of it off before eating.

6. slide the loaf directly on the hot stone. pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. bake for about 25 minutes, or until deeply browned and firm. small or larger loaves may require adjustments in baking time. allow loaves to cool before slicing and eating.