I have to think of words to describe this bread.
I wanted to work on my breads this month. Last week I tried a cheesy herb bread but I wasn't completely happy with the results. I was tired of trying this and that internet recipe with this and that bread techniques so I turned to an expert.
My friend's Dad bakes breads and we've heard tales of his dad breads. I've even tried his dad bread and it was delicious! He gave me tips on the perfect crust and on getting bread with a good, chewy texture.
While giving me tips, he told me he was making an asiago basil bread...which honestly, sounded absolutely amazing. So...I tried it!
I have to say, I'll be making this forever. The aromas that came from my oven were a.m.a.z.i.n.g. The whole apartment smelled like a giant asiago cheese bagel with basil infused throughout.
The top of this bread literally tasted like a cheese-it (cheez-it? cheeze it?). A rich, cheesy, delicious, amazing, crispy perfect crust.
...with the most amazing perfect, chewy, herb filled inside. We've been topping this with cream cheese and just devouring it. Straight up devour.
Oh yeah, you know what else? Those red flakes? The bread had dried italian dressing seasoning inside courtesy of my mother in law! Do you want to talk about flavor? Nah, we should just eat it instead.
Asiago Basil Bread
Adapted from foodiewithfamily and Mr. Roberts' years of experience
3 cups all purpose flour + some for dusting
3/4 cups grated asiago cheese + a little more for making that crust!
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon dried italian seasoning (or dried italian dressing seasoning)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 cup minced, fresh basil
1 1/4 cup warm tap water
In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of your flour and all of your dry ingredients. Add in the water and slowly add in the rest of your flour until well incorporated. Once you're able to form a ball of dough, knead for 8-10 minutes (good arm workout!). Add just enough flour to make sure that your dough doesn't stick to the board.
Rise #1: Once you're done kneading, coat your dough with olive oil and place back into your mixing bowl. Cover your bowl with saran wrap or a moist towel and place in a warm location and let rise 1.5-2 hours or until doubled.
Rise #2: Once doubled, gently stretch your dough out into a rough rectangular shape and then fold into thirds lengthwise (hotdog style) and then into thirds again (hamburger style). Plop back into your bowl and let rise for about 30-40 minutes.
Rise #3: Repeat rise #2. At the beginning of this rise, preheat a baking pan made of some sort of stone (i.e baking stone, dutch oven, or ceramic tart pan as I did) in a 500 degree oven for 30 minutes. Also in the oven, throw in a cookie sheet or any sort of pan that will fit. We'll use that for later.
Baking: Once your third rise is done, plop your dough (being careful to disturb the rise as little as possible) onto your hot ceramic pan. Slash a large "X" on top of your loaf using a sharp knife or a razor blade. Sprinkle as much asiago cheese as you can possibly fit onto the top of the loaf and into the folds of the "X". Spray the top of your loaf with water if you want a crispy crust. Put your stone with bread back into the oven, decrease to 375F and right before you close that door....throw in 1/2 cup of water into that hot cookie sheet/pan that you also had waiting. Then, close that door!
Mr. Roberts taught me that throwing in that water helps to create steam in the oven, making for a beautiful crust. Similar to the technique used in the no-knead bread that I had posted about a few months ago!
Bake for 35-40 minutes, trying really hard not to check on it too often even though it smells really really good!. Once it sounds hollow when you tap it, the bread is done!
Enjoy warm as it is prime crust time!