Jalapeno-Cheddar French Bread

3-1/2 cups bread flour
1 packet yeast (2-1/2 teaspoons)
2-1/4 teaspoons salt
1-1/3 cups cold water, plus additional 1/3 cup cold water
4 ounces cheddar cheese
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, minced, or 4 tablespoons pickled jalapeno peppers, minced
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Place the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of the food process. Pulse to mix. Add 1-1/3 cups of water and process until the dough comes together. If the dough doesn't form a ball, add a little of the extra water. Process for about 60 seconds, turn off machine and let dough rest for 5 minutes. Turn on the machine again and rotate the dough about 30 times under the cover, and then remove it to a lightly floured work surface. it should be fairly smooth and quite firm.

Let the dough rest for 2 minutes and then knead roughly and vigorously. The final dough should not stick to your hands as you knead (although it will stick if you pinch and hold a piece); it should be smooth and elastic and, when you hold it up between your hands and stretch it down, it should hold together smoothly.
Preliminary rise - 40 to 60 minutes at around 75°F. Place the dough into a clean dry bowl, (do not grease the bowl), cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place free from drafts. (Note the French do not grease the bowl because they believe the dough needs a seat to push up from.) This first rise is sufficient when the dough has definitely started to rise and is about 1-1/2 times its original volume.

Turn the dough onto your lightly floured work surface roughly and firmly pat and push it out into a 14-inch rectangle. Fold one of the long sides over toward the middle, and the other long side over to cover it, making a 3 layer cushion. Repeat the operation. This important step redistributes the yeast throughout the dough, for a strong second rise. Return the dough smooth side up the bowl; cover with plastic wrap and again set to rise.
Final rise in the bowl - about 1 to 1-1/2 hours or longer. The bread should be 2-1/2 to 3 times its original bulk. It is the amount of rise that is important here, not the timing.

Cut the dough in half. Set one piece aside and cover with a towel. On a lightly floured work surface pat the dough into a 14-inch rectangle, squaring it up as evenly as you can. Distribute half of the cheese and the jalapenos and press lightly into dough.  Lengthwise, roll dough up, pinching to seal the long edge and the ends.  Curl the dough around itself, snail-like, pinching the end of the dough to the loaf.  Flatten slightly.  Sprinkle Parmesan, if using, over loaf.  Repeat with other half of dough.
Cover with plastic wrap or loosely with a towel and let rise to more than double again at about 75°f.
Place baking stone in oven and preheat oven to 500 F. Place on the hot stone. Immediately toss a number of ice cubes on to the bottom on the oven to create steam. Bake until bread is golden brown and has an interior temp of 200°F. Takes about 20 - 30 minutes.

BreadAngela TolsmaComment