We start our cheese bread with all-purpose flour and add whole milk and sour cream for a clean, creamy flavor and rich, moist texture. Just a few tablespoons of butter adds enough richness without greasiness, and using less fat makes the texture heartier and less cakelike.
Most recipes for cheese bread call for shredded cheese. We prefer our cheese (cheddar or Asiago) cut into small chunks, which, when mixed into the dough and baked, create luscious, cheesy pockets throughout the bread. For added cheesy flavor and a crisp, browned crust, we coat the pan and sprinkle the top of the loaf with grated Parmesan. Run-of-the-mill cheese bread is at once dry and greasy, with almost no cheese flavor at all. We wanted a rich, moist loaf topped with a bold, cheesy crust.
QUICK CHEESE BREAD
Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours
Chef’s Note: A mild Asiago, crumbled into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces, can be used instead of the cheddar. Aged Asiago that is as firm as Parmesan is too sharp and piquant. If, when testing the bread for doneness, the toothpick comes out with what looks like uncooked batter clinging to it, try again in a different, but still central, spot; if the toothpick hits a pocket of cheese, it may give a false indication. The texture of the bread improves as it cools, so resist the urge to slice the loaf while it is piping hot. Do not use skim milk for this bread. We developed this recipe using a loaf pan that measures 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inches; if you use a 9-by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness 5 minutes earlier than advised in the recipe.
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated on large holes of box grater (1 cup)
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1 cup)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 F. Spray 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray, then sprinkle 1/2 cup Parmesan evenly in bottom of pan.
In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne, and pepper to combine. Using rubber spatula, mix in cheddar, breaking up clumps, until cheese is coated with flour. In medium bowl, whisk together milk, sour cream, melted butter, and egg. Using rubber spatula, gently fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined (batter will be heavy and thick; do not overmix). Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan; spread to sides of pan and level surface with rubber spatula. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan evenly over surface.
Bake until loaf is deep golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes, then invert loaf onto wire rack. Turn right side up and let cool until warm, about 45 minutes. Serve. (To freeze, wrap cooled loaf tightly with double layer of aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 F. Bake wrapped loaf until it yields under gentle pressure, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until exterior is crisp, about 5 minutes longer. Let loaf cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before serving.)