Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Inspired by Apricot Beer - Soft Cheese Bread

You never know when inspiration will strike. I was avidly reading through Peter Reinhart’s book Artisan Breads Every Day a short while ago and noticed a recipe that called for beer in the bread. The day before Sweetie had me try a new beer he had found that had a strong apricot flavor. It was delicious! As soon as I saw that this bread recipe used both beer and cheese I decided to bake it using the apricot beer, diced dried apricots and brie cheese.

The brie seemed like a good choice because it goes well with fruit like apricots and it would get nice and melty in the bread, too. I always did like the challenge of making changes to a new recipe that I had never tried in its original version.

To make the challenge even greater, I decided to use some of my sourdough starter instead of the instant yeast in the recipe. I left out the diced onion or chives called for, but included the brown sugar and buttermilk. Because it has been over a week since I made the bread and I forgot to write down the proportions, I’m going to give the recipe as written for using instant yeast, but include the apricot beer and apricots and brie. Although the recipe gives amounts in a number of different measurements, I weighed mine…it is so nice having a good scale at last! Thanks go to my generous daughter who gave it to me for Christmas.

This book has a wonderful, illustrated section at the beginning that gives a nice primer on mixing, kneading, and shaping bread, with lots of explanations. One of the distinctions that Peter makes in this book is between sticky and tacky dough. His description for tacky is that the dough sticks to the surface of a dry finger but then peels off easily, like a Post-it note. That was what I was going for and eventually reached. I also did the stretch and fold that he suggested, giving my bench scraper a workout at first. Once the gluten developed enough I could use my hands. It was fun. The apricot dice was kneaded in at the end, before the first rising. The diced Brie cheese was carefully kneaded in right before I shaped the loaf into a sort of football shape.

During the baking some of the cheese near the surface melted and bubbled up and then cooked to a crispy bubbly blister.

This may not be the most elegant looking bread, but it was delicious.

This bread was very different than the Irish Apricot and Walnut bread, even though they both had apricots. This bread was softer, with a finer crumb, and it had a malty flavor due to the beer.

I really liked it when it was warm and the cheese was soft. It didn’t need any butter…or anything added. Great bread! I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for her Yeastspotting event...the best event ever for those who bake with yeast both wild and not.

Soft Cheese Bread with Apricots and Brie
Makes 2 large loaves

6 ¼ cups (28 oz/794 g) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons (0.5 oz/14 g) salt, or 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
5 tablespoons (2.25 oz/64 g) brown sugar
1 cup (8 oz/227 g) lukewarm apricot beer (I used Pyramid Breweries Audacious Apricot Ale [an unfiltered wheat ale], but you could use your favorite beer or ale)
1 cup plus tablespoons (9 ox/255 g) lukewarm buttermilk (about 95 degrees F or 35 degrees C)
1 ½ tablespoons (o.5 oz/14 g) instant yeast
¼ cup (2 oz/56.5 g) melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil (I used butter)
1 cup (8 oz) (sorry, no other measurements for this ingredient) finely diced dried apricots
1 ½ cups (12 oz/340 g) diced Brie cheese. I removed some of the Brie rind for a mellower taste.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, slat, and sugar together. Separately, combine the beer and buttermilk, whisk in the yeast until dissolved, then pour the mixture and the melted butter into the dry ingredients. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 2 minutes. If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for about 2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed, or continue mixing by hand for 3 minutes, adjusting with flour or water as needed. The dough should be soft, supple and tacky but not sticky. Add the diced apricots and mix on the lowest speed or continue mixing by hand for 1 minute, until the fruit is evenly distributed.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 1 or 2 minutes to make any final adjustments, then form the dough into a ball. (This is where I used the bench scraper and did the stretch and fold. Perhaps I had not added enough flour, but I was going for a hydrated dough and the combination of bench scraper and stretch and fold did the job.)

Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days.

When ready to have a baking day, remove the dough from the fridge about 2 hours before you plan to bake. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Each will weigh about 2 pounds (907 g). Dust each piece with flour, then use a rolling pin (I used my hands to flatten dough) to flatten dough a bit. Put about ¼ of the cheese on each piece of dough, then knead it in. Flatten again and divide remaining cheese between the two pieces of dough. Knead the cheese dice in until evenly distributed. If making a boule, draw the dough toward the back of a ball to create a skin all around the ball. If some cheese pops out, that’s OK. (I shaped mine into a football shape once it was in the boule shape.) Proof the loaves on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Since these are large loaves, you may want to use one pan per loaf. Mist the shaped dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap, then let the dough rise at room temperature for about 90 minutes, until increased to about 1 ½ times its original size.

About 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F ( 177 C). Because of the cheese, there may be air pockets or tunnels in the risen dough that could cause it to separate. Poke through the top crust in a few spots with a skewer or toothpick. The dough may fall a bit, but will recover in the oven.

Bake loaves for 20 minutes, then rotate the pans. The total baking time is about 50 minutes. The bread is done when it’s a deep golden brown and the internal temperature is above 185 degrees F (85 egrees C) in the center.

Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack for about 45 minutes to an hour before slicing or serving. (Since I’m married to Sweetie who can't seem to wait for the bread to cool, the bread was sliced by him after about 30 minutes…not great for the bread texture, but yum for the melted cheese.)


  1. Peter Reinhart has such great recipes. I tried his pizza dough recipe and thought it was the best ever. This bread - oooh la la - I can almost taste it just reading about it.

  2. Nice bread with a great flavour combination.

  3. Oddly enough I can get this beer in Dallas! That's a relief, since this really sounds so perfect. Apricot & brie & beer, made to order if you ask me.
    Congrats on the scale, they are incredible. Strange how quickly you adapt and then become dependent upon.

  4. I did a wine bread last night, with onions & olives & capers. Fabulous stuff! Yours sounds tasty, but I don't know where I'd get apricot beer. ;)

  5. Teresa2:35 PM

    Yummy! Great looking loaf and good idea for flavor combinations. Teresa

  6. Oh my, can't you please come stay with me and bake this for me every day?!