Henry’s Cheddar and Basil Loaf
7 1/2 cups (900g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3 cups (680g) water, lukewarm
1 tablespoon (18g) salt
1 1/2 tablespoons (14g) instant yeast or active dry yeast
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
175g shredded sharp cheddar cheese
The flour/liquid ratio is important in this recipe, so measure carefully. Your best bet is to weigh the flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess
Combine all of the ingredients (except the cheese) in a large mixing bowl, or a large (6-quart), food-safe plastic bucket. For first-timers, “lukewarm” means about 105°F, but don’t stress over getting the temperatures exact here. Comfortably warm is fine; “OUCH, that’s hot!” is not. Yeast is a living thing; treat it nicely.
Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, mix at medium speed with the dough hook attachment for 30 to 60 seconds. Just until it comes together and there is no dry flour. If you don’t have a mixer, just stir-stir-stir with a big spoon, your damp hands or dough whisk until everything is combined.
Next, you’re going to let the dough rest for 30 minutes covered. If you’ve made the dough in a plastic bucket, you’re all set, just let it stay in there, covering the bucket with a lid or plastic wrap. A shower cap actually works well here. If you’ve made the dough in a bowl that’s not at least 6-quart capacity, transfer it to a large bowl, it’s going to rise.
After 30 minutes, perform your first stretch and fold while introducing the cheese a little at a time and stretching from each side at least once. Perform three stretch and folds, one every 30 minutes until you have completed three. ( if my kitchen is cool, I will sometimes do more than three.) The dough should feel smooth, extensible, and elastic.
After the final 30-minute rest, dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and degas. Then fold the edges onto themselves making a round smooth ball. Not tight. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes then final shape your loaf, creating tension, and place it into a banneton to rest until proofed. Approximately 1 hour at room temperature. and 2 hours covered in the refrigerator. Or when a damp finger gently pressed into the surface bounces back halfway.
Carefully turn your dough out onto a piece of parchment paper and score it. Place your dough into the preheated (500° F, 260° C) Dutch oven for ~22 minutes. Uncover and check its color and internal temperature. If necessary, return to the oven uncovered for 15 minutes.
The bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom or when the internal temperature reaches ~200° f, 93° C.
Carefully remove the bread from the Dutch oven, and cool it on a wire rack. Try not to slice into it until it comes close to room temperature. Give the starches a chance to solidify. *Slicing your bread while it’s still warm will cause it to lose moisture faster so gets hard much sooner.
Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature. (Never in the refrigerator.) For longer storage options, see our YouTube post, https://youtube.com/user/henryhunterjr.
For super-crusty artisan-style bread, try baking your dough in a Dutch oven. See the details https://amzn.to/3vr1x7M
Would it be better to use bread flour here? Bread flour has more gluten-
forming protein, so if you choose to use it in this recipe, the crust will be a bit thicker and you won’t get quite the same open-holed structure as with all-purpose. I really prefer the texture of both crust and crumb when all-purpose flour is used. If you do use bread flour, increase the water by about 2 teaspoons per cup of flour to make the requisite sticky dough.
Want to try this with whole wheat flour? You can absolutely make up to half of the total flour whole wheat, either our Premium or white whole wheat flours. Add an additional 2 teaspoons of water per cup of whole wheat flour to prevent the dough from being dense.