As soon as I saw the International Women’s Day Food Blogging Event, hosted by 1x umruehren bitte aka kochtopf and fiordisale, I knew I wanted to participate. The requirement was to cook or bake something yellow in honor of the sprigs of bright yellow mimosa flowers which are given to women in some countries to celebrate this day. But yellow food? Well for someone who hates bananas I was a little stumped (and I hate bananas so much that it was almost cyclical–I could not not get bananas out of my head as the only possible yellow option–dumb I know since there are plenty of other yellow foods out there, witness the yellow peppers and cornmeal in this recipe). The only other thing that occurred to me was lemons, which I was thinking about when I made this bread. It turned out beautifully and unusually golden (inadvertently helped along by yellow bell peppers, which is what I had around), enough so that I decided it qualified. I also thought it qualified because it is a bit of a surprise and truly spectacular. It seemed like a fitting dish to celebrate the achievements of women around the globe. I don’t know how to describe this bread other than to say if you like chile peppers and cheese I practically guarantee you will love it. Several times in the days since I made it (it made 2 loaves, so it lasted a few days here) I literally snuck off with the bread and inhaled it. Don’t tell my family! And don’t worry, it was only me and John and the girls eating it. But its smell is actually intoxicating.
I found the Buttermilk Cornmeal Bread with Fresh Chiles and Cheddar in Beth Hensperger’s Breads of the Southwest. If you like to bake and you are a little bored with your current basic sandwich loaf routine, run, don’t walk, to get a used copy (it is out of print) of this book. Amazon sells them. I have now made 2 of my favorite loaf breads ever from this book—as well as others that were simply really good. My first favorite? The Taos Pumpkin Bread, which I was first turned onto by my friends over on the CLBB and which served as my inspiration for buying the book (and which was originally a free form bread but worked fine in the loaf pans). And then this cheese bread. I found this bread so excellent that I liked it just as well at room temperature— and I never want bread at room temperature. I usually reheat it night after night so that I can have it warm each night, but for this bread I did not bother.
A few notes on the chile peppers and cornmeal: Hensperger calls for a poblano and 2 serranos in her recipe. I cannot get good poblanos year round where I am so I subbed 2 Anaheim chile peppers for the serrano and poblano both. It worked fine, although I would love to try it with the poblanos and serranos also. Hensperger also calls for masa harina para tortillas and masa harina para tamales, which is coarser. I had one kind of masa harina, unidentified but very finely ground. I decided to sub it plus regular stone ground corn meal for the 2 and since I was unsure of how well they subbed I changed her amount from ⅓ cup of the coarse grind and ¾ cup of the fine grind to 50% of each kind that I had (I used a heaping ½ cup of each).
Buttermilk Cornmeal Bread with Fresh Chiles and Cheddar
Adapted from Breads of the Southwest, Beth Hensperger
1 T (or 1 package) of active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
2 serrano chiles and 1 poblano chile, minced OR 2 anaheim chiles, minced (all seeded and deveined)
½ sweet bell pepper, seeded, deveined and minced
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (she likes Longhorn, I used medium Tillamook)
1 ½ cups warm buttermilk (under 115 F)
¼ cup corn oil (I used olive oil)
2 T honey
1 T salt
1 ½ t ground ancho chile powder
⅓ cup coarse grind yellow cornmeal, polenta or masa harina para tamales
¾ cup fine grind white cornmeal or masa harina para tortillas (see my notes above if you cannot find one or both of these cornmeals)
¾ cup whole wheat flour
4 – 4 ½ cups unbleached bread flour
Pour the warm water into a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast and pinch of sugar over it. Stir it to dissolve and set aside. (If it does not foam, your yeast is dead and won’t work).
Meanwhile, combine the minced peppers and cheese in another bowl.
In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the buttermilk, oil, honey, salt, chile powder, both cornmeals and whole wheat flour. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the foaming yeast mixture and beat an additional minute to combine. Stir in the pepper/cheese mixture. Add the remaining bread flour, ½ cup at a time, on low speed, until the dough forms a rough, shaggy mass. Remove the paddle and replace it with the dough hook or switch to a wooden spoon. Continue adding the flour until the dough forms a kneadable ball. If you use the dough hook, knead on the appropriate speed for your mixer for 2-3 minutes, adding flour by the tablespoon if the dough gets too sticky. Likewise, if you knead on a flat surface by hand, knead for 3-5 minutes, adding flour by the tablespoon if it gets too sticky. Be gentle so that the cheese and peppers do not fall out. For me, this was not a very sticky dough—so much so that I was concerned because I did not add the full 4 cups of flour. But it came out fine, so I would guess if you are somewhere dry and you think the dough is ready, trust your instincts and don’t add anymore flour.
Spray a steep-sided bowl lightly with nonstick spray and place the dough into the bowl to rise. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise until doubles, 1 ½ – 2 hours (more if your kitchen is cool).
Lightly grease 2 8 X 4 inch pans. Gently deflate the dough after it has doubled and split it into 2 balls. Form each into rectangles and then shape them to be placed into the loaf pans. After placing them in the pans, cover with plastic wrap loosely and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. The bread should rise about 1 inch above the sides of the pans.
20 minutes before the bread finishes its second rise, preheat your oven to 375 F.
Bake in the center of the oven at 375 F for 45 to 50 minutes. When the bread is done, the sides will come away from the pan slightly, the bread will sound hollow when tapped, and it should have an internal temperature of about 200 F. Immediately turn the bread out of their pans and onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing (ok I rarely listen to that one—do let it cool at least 30 minutes; warm bread is wonderful—hot bread though can completely flatten while you are trying to cut it and lose its internal structure; I did think this recipe was susceptible to that).