Friday, October 23, 2009


Today is an exciting day for me. As long time readers of my blog know, I am not a cook. I came to cooking for fun late in life, and there are many experiences that you all had at your mama's knee while I was watching Baseball, burping and learning poker at my Daddy's knee (and even worse stuff at other joints). But today, I join the ranks of the great bakers of the world. Today, I am going to blog about the very first loaf of bread I ever made in my life. Like many of you all, I have several bloggers that I visit whenever they have a fresh post. I also like to keep an eye on the good blog buddies that "follow" me (those bunch of little photos at the top of my center sidebar). You all have amazing recipes that I wish I had the time to cook and blog about. I have a data base built with over 100 recipes that I will be cooking... Someday. When I leave my comments, I honestly have great intentions to make something, but The siren call of the grill and the magic possibilities of pork force me to abandon that database for something new (or old) on the grill. But recently, I came across a Fugasse Bread recipe from ADVENTURES WITH THE WOODS. It looked so pretty, had peppers in it (grunt grunt grunt... love peppers - fire good - peppers good - insert your own mental image of hairy knuckled neanderthal deciding what to cook). The photo above is from Shelly's (owner/operator of Adventures With the Woods) website. I was hosting the Neighborhood Chili Throwdown, and I figured that this bread would make a GREAT accoutrement dish to go with the chili... It did. So, one of three things is going on with this recipe...
  1. EITHER Shelly gave GREAT easy to follow directions for this beautiful finished product
  2. OR no matter how spectacular the finished product looks, it is a very easy recipe to replicate.
  3. OR I am a cooking gOD
At least one, and probably 2 of those statements is true...

Here's what I did...

Assemble the ingredients first. It does sound silly that I always start with this step, but more than once before I started doing this, I had to stop in the middle of preparations for a masterpiece and either run to the store or substitute something inferior... But I digress, here is a copy of Shelly's ingredient list...
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped peppers (this can be one color or a combination of colors)
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm (110°F) water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • coarse sea salt (optional)
I am lucky enough to own a little electric chopper. Works similar to a big food processor, but is terrific at finely chopping onions, peppers, garlic, little bits of herbs, etc. I chopped up the onions and peppers...

And then I... - (Anything in BOLD ITALICS print, I admit to stealing word for word from Shelly)

1. Cook oil, onions and peppers slowly in a large skillet over medium-low heat until the onions are transparent. When you cook onions and peppers slowly, the natural sugars caramelize, and they become quite sweet. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

Still stealing her words, I...

2. In a large bowl, stir yeast into warm water to soften. Add salt, sugar, 2 cups flour, 1 cup cheese, and the cooled peppers. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.

Recipe thief that I am, I next...

3. Gradually add flour, a little at a time, until you have a dough stiff enough to knead. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead, adding flour as necessary, until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Put the dough into an oiled bowl. Turn once to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

I was (and always will be) Lazy. I let the Kitchenaid mixer do all the kneading. Am I posting too many pictures when I show photos of an oiled bowl waiting to receive the dough?

Here it is in the bowl...

And here it is covered...

And here it is doubled in size. I peed my pants a little when i uncovered it.

But wait, I was so optimistic, I doubled the recipe... What's the worst that can happen... Trust me, there is a second ball of dough under that second towel.

Next, I checked Shelly's recipe and I ...

4. Turn the dough out onto work surface. Knead in the remaining 1 cup cheese, leaving large streaks of the cheese visible. The streaks will toast and add an attractive look to the bread, not to mention a marvelous flavor.

Look Ma, I'm kneading!!!

And look at the streaks of golden cheese!!! And here's what Shelly told me to do next...

5. Shape the dough into a ball. Flatten the top slightly, and place on a well-greased baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise for 45 minutes.

I feel like such a terrible blogger, I failed to take a picture of the bread covered with the towel. Can you forgive me, can you possibly picture it in your mind's eye this ball of dough covered with a towel? Trust me I did it (although among BBQ bloggers, if you didn't photograph it, it didn't happen.

But I was busy, as Shelly said to do these steps...

6. Just before baking, brush the tops of the loaves with cold water and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, if desired. Slit the loaf in three places, about 1/2-inch deep, across the top.

And look closely, those are ice cubes in the bottom of the oven. Yeap, ice cubes, that is a trick only master bakers know... or, if you read master baker's instructions, master baker wanna Be's...

7. For added crispness, steam should be added to the oven for the first 10 minutes of baking. I put 2 cups of ice cubes directly on the floor of my oven. By the time they have melted and evaporated the 10 minutes is usually up. Since some people have trouble working with this theory, you can also put a pan of boiling water on the bottom shelf of the oven and remove it after the first 10 minutes of baking. Just be sure to work quickly to prevent loss of oven heat.

8. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 30 minutes, or until done. Immediately remove bread from baking sheet and cool on a rack. Makes 1 large loaf.

Hey... Look what I did!!!

And here's a tip I learned from my sainted mother... While the bread is still hot, take a little butter and gently rub into the crust of the bread. Makes it gleam, and prevents the crust from getting too hard... maybe, what do I know?

A HUGE HIT... just as good as it looks!

The second loaf looked just as good. I honestly was very surprised at how easy and satisfying this turned out. The sauteed onions and peppers made the bread sweet. The bread was very moist, solid (perfect for dipping in the chili). Best of all (to me), the presentation left everyone in awe. I could have presented smoked ribs, brisket and 12 pounds of pulled pork, and I do not think I would have received as much praise as when I showed off this loaf of bread. A real crowd pleaser...

In all humility... TOP O' THE WORLD MA

Dave again... Do me a favor and drop by Shelly's site (Adventures With the Woods) and thank her for being a guest blogger of sorts today, as I stole her recipe. It is always exciting to see one of your recipes made by a reader. I hope that she is honored by my efforts and pleased with how well her instructions worked! Shelly, thank you so much for this post!

Just a reminder, I am in the middle of the BIGGEST giveaway contest I have ever held... Coupons for 4, 15-oz bottles POM WONDERFUL (you pick the flavor). Check my post from Sunday (you can get there by clicking HERE) for the details on how to win, but one of the important ways to enter is to go to and leave a comment, letting Shelly know what I did with her bread then return here, and comment to me that you thanked Shelly for her guest inspitation blog. You will get one entree for each of my guest bloggers (or inspirees) you thank for giving me a blog vacation. On Sunday, I will select one commenter to win this terrific prize!


  1. That's excellent ! What a flavorful loaf of bread and its extremely pretty... looks like the work of a pro to me...!

  2. Beautiful loaf of bread, cher! Looks perfect and delicious, I'm sure. Would love to have a big piece right now!

  3. I love bread but I am not good in making bread.
    Must start to learn from you :)

  4. Nice looking bread- first loaf? You'll screw up a few..Lord knows I did- and do!

  5. Gorgeous, I am making this to go with my soup on Halloween, love it

  6. Congratz on your first bread! Looks awesome, I can almost taste it.

  7. I planned on making chili this weekend - this bread is right up my alley! Except, I would leave out the onions!

    I have a whole bag of tiny baby peppers - perfect way to use them up, and I agree - why not make two loaves! :D

  8. Wow, that is an interesting bread! Bet is is tasty too. Good job.

    I popped over to Nigella's Adventures and thanked her for the "inspiration" guest blog and her recipe.

  9. Hope you are having a good time in Nawlins. This bread looks awesome. I have to give you my husbands recipe for hot pepper, beer bread made in the bread machine. If you don't have a bread machine you have to get one just for this bread. You can always find them at yard sales. I'll try to blog about it soon or email you the recipe.

  10. That is some great looking bread - I'll show it to the bread maker in the family

  11. As you know I'm not a baker - but if you can do it, I can do it. Looks delicious, I've got to give it a try.

  12. Yay YOU!!!!! I also see that you won a book on Foodie Blogroll! Must be your lucky week.

  13. Cool, fresh bread! It really is one of the great secrets of the accomplished home cook. Everybody thinks it's much harder than it really is; people are ridiculously impressed when you present a fresh loaf and announce it as having been baked from scratch. And you smile inside, because you know it really wasn't that difficult.

    Sure, a couple of the steps are a little finicky; you can't rush or cut corners like you can in other kinds of cooking. But if you have a handle on those, the rest is cake.

    Or bread. Whatever.

    Welcome to a whole new world!

    Wait, one question: One of my very favorite things about making fresh bread is how it smells while it's baking -- this unmistakable full and yeasty aroma that fills the house and actually gives me butterflies. It's almost more satisfying than eating it afterward. But I've never tried bread on a grill, and you don't describe this aspect. Does that mean the grill contained or dissipated the scent, so you couldn't enjoy it?

  14. I love me some good bread, and that looks like a good bread. I will make that this weekend. I have made a fougasse with fried onions and smoked gouda before which is also out of this world (recipe from King Arthur: which is amazing with some pepperoni and beer :) Enjoy your new found bread skills!

  15. I love fougasse! We used to make it all the time in culinary school and I even had to do a paper on it! It was one of our more interesting breads, made with olives and shaped into the traditional fougasse shape, sort of a leaf with holes in it. I haven't made it since, though, but have discovered that there are A LOT of great recipes out there for it.

  16. Fantastic job, Dave! You made some darn good-lookin loaves! Thanks for the shout out and for giving that baby a try :)

  17. Proof positive you are a cooking god.

  18. It looks perfect, I'm impressed!

  19. Wow this bread sounds AMAZING!! And I love the ice cube trick! Cool!

  20. Dave, in reply to your question on my blog: Yes, of course, you can still link to the roundup. It doesn't matter how long ago you originally posted the recipe, just add a link or do a new post and link yourself at Joy of Desserts and at Tamy's 3 Sides of Crazy, too. Glad you want to join in the bread-making fun. The roundup goes through Nov. 15, so you have two weeks to try out more bread recipes and post those too, since I see how much you enjoyed making your first bread.

  21. WOW!!! what a GREAT!!! combination of flavors. This bread sounds and looks AWESOME!!!

  22. What a beautiful looking loaf of bread, and I'm sure it tastes just as good as it looks. I will definitely have to try it. Thanks for sharing with us. :)