15 June 2009

skip the meal in favor of the bread

Finally, there seems to be some kind of consolidation in my household.

After the last weeks seem to have been filled with nothing but cooking experiments (with no proper results to speak of) and not only one, but two computers simultaneously acting up (that being my old one, which had a proper meltdown, AND the new replacement), slowly things become a little more productive here.

Most importantly, the cheese sticks now are up to standard, finally. I have already complained about my first failure here, but since then, there have been quite some more. Most annoying was the last one, with the sticks turning out nicely but me being a complete slob and forgetting to note how much water I used in the final dough, that way rendering my complete recipe useless (insert the sound of grinding teeth here).

But, as I already mentionend, they turn out nice each time by now, and I have the recipe here to prove it. Can you tell I am happy that I can now finally discard the note on my kitchen pinboard saying 'bake me: cheese sticks'?

I bet you can.

These cheesesticks basically are strips of bread dough with cheese in between, both chewy and crispy at the same time, and a perfect snack or addition to a salad. The combination of rye and spelt in a sourdough make for a surprisingly complex, tangy taste, and the salty-creamy cheese just goes along very nicely.
The only drawback is that they are quite filling, and definitely nothing I'd serve as a nibble with a drink before the actual meal. But, as with pretzels or similar goods, one can always skip the meal in favor of the bread...

Sourdough Cheese Sticks
(makes about one dozen)

250g wholegrain rye flour (German type 1150)
2 tablespoons rye sourdough starter (100% hydration)
125ml water

250g wholegrain spelt flour (alternatively: wholegrain wheat flour, German type 1050)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
220ml water

250g Gruyere cheese, grated

On the day before baking, mix the starter, the rye flour and the water to a firm dough. Cover and leave to ferment at room temperature for a day.
This dough is too dry to show any significant raise during this time, but this is mostly to build taste, and (I think that) the final product benefits from a drier pre-dough. (Does this qualify as a biga, actually?)
Also, during the chaos of the last days, I was forced to keep one batch fermenting for two days. It didn't do any harm, actually, I found the taste strong but rather pleasant.

On the day of baking, add the spelt flour, the salt, the yeast and the remaining water. Knead until smooth, or, if you are using wheat flour instead, until you can see the first signs of gluten developement. Leave to proof for an hour at room temperature.
Once again, as this dough has no need to hold any significant amounts of air, proofing time isn't crucial, though I personally find that a longer and cooler proofing phase always adds to the final taste.

Preheat the oven to about 250°C.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough, trying to get it as rectangular as possible, about as thick as a pencil.
This dough can be rather sticky at times, so be warned.

Spread the grated cheese over one half of the dough. Cover the cheese with the remaining half of the dough and press down slightly to get (most of) the air out.

Cut the dough in strips about two fingers wide and as long as they fit into your oven. Transfer the sticks onto your baking sheet and twist them like you can see in the picture above. Also, place them closely together, this way you'll lose as little cheese as possible.
For me, the easiest way was to take the dough with one end in each hand and then twisting from the middle outwards, with as much of the dough resting on the baking sheet as possible. This way the rather soft dough wouldn't break.

Bake at a low rack with steam for about 15 minutes, until the tips of the cheese-sticks start turning dark brown, then take out onto a rack and leave to cool.

If not served right away, the cheese sticks keep best if immediately wrapped airtight, else they dry out quite quickly. They keep like this for up to three days but also freeze very nicely, as long as you let them thaw at room temperature.

They hold very well on their own as a snack with beer or wine (think pretzels), but also make a great, hearty side for a salad.

P.S.: Once again, this post is submitted to the YeastSpotting section of Susan's formidable blog Wild Yeast. Check it out, it is a great resource and inspiration for all home bakers.


Susan/Wild Yeast said...

I would eat these any time! Delicious, and their spiral form gives them such an interesting look.

Anonymous said...

They also make a great stand alone breakfast (with some tea or coffee) when you don't want to go through the trouble of putting any effort into your breakfast. Or when you really quickly need something to eat and are already jumping into your car. OR when you need something none messy to eat when you are at your computer typing... Basically I eat them anywhere and at any time. Well, I did... now they are all gone and I have to wait for you to make new ones...

the wife

Reuben Morningchilde said...

@Susan - Coming from you, this is a compliment indeed. Thanks!

@the wife - don't worry dear, this weekend you'll get new ones. Promise!

Dewi said...

Sounds really delicious!

Reuben Morningchilde said...

@Elra - Thanks!