Craving some warm bread fresh out of the oven? Give this Rustic Jalapeno Cheddar Bread a shot!
Ah, jalapenos. One of the few things we can grow in our garden without interference from the chipmunks and rabbits. You see, we used to grow strawberries. But apparently chipmunks love strawberries. They would mow down every single strawberry in the patch…while they were still green! We put plastic netting around the strawberries. They chewed through it. We put a metal wire cage around the strawberries. They chewed through it. (Seriously!) So we just pulled all of the strawberries out and planted jalapenos in their place.
I could repeat this same story with the peas and lettuce this past year. We had a nice trellis in place, and the peas were happily climbing up. Then one day, Peter Cottontail mowed down the peas. The tops were still all there vined in the trellis. Problem was the bottoms were gone. We had a fence around that bed, too, but somehow our rabbit friend made his (or her) way in. No more peas. And there’s no need repeating the sad tragedy of our yummy garden lettuce. At least we kept the rabbits full.
While it might seem more appropriate to grow jalapenos somewhere in the southwestern part of the States, they actually do grow well here in upstate New York. Once we learned the challenges with strawberries (and now peas and lettuce), we’ve begun transitioning more and more of our garden over to jalapenos and bell peppers.
Our growing season is short, and we have to get those starter plants in the ground by the end of May at the latest…but we do end up with a nice crop of peppers and jalapenos. And the chipmunks and rabbits don’t dare mess with those jalapenos (or Texas pickles as my Dad calls ’em). One time, it looked like something had chewed on part of a jalapeno. Let’s just say that critter decided not to finish the job.
Jalapenos have great flavor. But their flavor often gets overlooked due to their spice. In my opinion, jalapenos are a bit maligned. Folks hear jalapeno and immediately think “hmmm…too spicy for me.” It’s true. Jalapenos are spicy. But if you remove the seeds and ribs, then they lose a big part of that spicy punch. You can also soak the chopped jalapenos in water for 30-45 minutes. What you’re left with is amazing flavor! Sure, they can still be a bit spicy, but the flavor really comes through once all that heat is removed.
We had a bumper crop of jalapenos in our garden last year…partially because we turned half of the darned garden into a jalapeno farm! Before the first frost, I picked all of those jalapenos and diced ’em up. (Seeds and ribs removed, of course.) Then I just stashed them in a sandwich bag in the freezer. Now I’ve got plenty of diced jalapenos for our Saturday night pizzas.
But we had a lot of diced jalapenos. So I decided to experiment a bit and toss some into a bread recipe. I know what some of y’all are thinking: “Ah! Bread! Yeast! Run away! Abort Abort!” This Jalapeno Cheddar Bread couldn’t be easier to make. And if you’ve never made a batch of homemade bread, then please give this one a shot. I can’t sing the praises of homemade bread enough…especially when it’s warm out of the oven! And if you’re scared of the jalapenos, then just leave ’em out and make Jalapeno Cheddar Bread sans the jalapenos. I won’t tell.
This rustic bread spread out a bit during the second rise, but that’s ok. My Jalapeno Cheddar Bread ended up looking a bit more like focaccia in shape, but the taste was out of this world. This bread played a significant role in my dinner that night. And the yummy olive oil + Italian herbs + salt played a notable supporting role. I’m thinking next time I want to try this exact same recipe, but shape the bread into a rectangle (instead of a round) and place it in a bread pan. It would make for some excellent sandwiches! Enjoy!
Rustic Jalapeno Cheddar Bread
For the Preferment
- ¾ cup water
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- pinch instant dry yeast
For the Final Dough
- ¾ cup warm water
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1¼ tsp salt
- 2¼ tsp instant dry yeast i.e. one ¼ oz. packet
- 2 jalapenos seeded and diced
- 1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded and divided
- cornmeal for dusting
For the Preferment
- The night before you make this bread, just mix all preferment ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir until well combined, cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 12-18 hours.
For the Final Dough
- Using a large bowl, add the preferment along with all remaining ingredients. (Note: Only use 1¼ cups of cheese at this stage. The remaining ¼ cup will be sprinkled on top of bread before baking. Note #2: Use a large enough bowl to allow the dough to double in size as it rises.)
- Stir for 2-3 minutes, or until all ingredients are well combined.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours.
- Remove dough from refrigerator and turn out onto a well-floured countertop. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Shape each piece into a rough round and place on a piece of parchment paper dusted with cornmeal. Sift a small amount of flour on top of rounds. (Note: This dough is sticky. Just do your best in shaping it into a round. This bread is called rustic for a reason!)
- Cover loaves lightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 75 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup of cheese on top of loaves. Using a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 (½” deep) cuts into top of bread.
- Bake at 450°F for 23-25 minutes, or until deep golden brown in color. (Note: If you tap on the bottom of the loaf, it should sound hollow.)
- Let bread cool completely before slicing.