A Toast to Winter

Dense, Delicious, and Loaded with Sharp Cheddar

I have a deep appreciation for every season, but I particularly love winter. I like that darkness comes late in the afternoon and that the sun rises early enough to flood my bedroom with that bright, clear light, that the wooden floors--nearly 100 years old--are cold beneath my feet when I slip from the blankets, and that when I finally make my way to the dining room table with coffee in hand, the floor furnace heaves and grunts as it bellows hot air into my house.

After I've warmed up, I take my coffee and sit on the arm of the sofa and gaze from my window at the landscape below, The grass is newly greened from recent rains, the last leaves of the pear tree ablaze in deep golds and crimson, the maples completely bare; the marine layer, slowly rises like the curtain in a theater, to reveal a world caught between seasons.

Of all the seasons, I think toast best suits winter. Perhaps, it's the yeasty aroma that emanates from the toaster oven as the bread begins to warm, or, the carefulness and attention to monitor each cycle to ensure that the bread is deeply toasted, the edges just beginning to darken, the crumb firm to the touch. Or, perhaps, it's just the anticipation of slathering on a thick layer of butter, topping off my coffee and wandering the rooms of my house, still quiet, while slowly eating my toast.

Winter bread, too, is more dense, heavier, and fully warranting the heft of added ingredients, from cubes of potatoes, to chunks of cheese. Of course, while both are delicious, I tend to lean toward the cheese, which pleasingly melts during the last cycle in the toaster and adds a savoriness to my morning ritual. Even better--baking a loaf of your own, so you can eat as many slices as you like, or at least until the coffee runs out and the fog lifts.

Whole Wheat Cheese Bread

*Adapted from Robert Lustig's The Fat Chance Cookbook

4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
2 packs of Rapid Rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups of warm water
1/4 cup of molasses
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup plus 1 T of vegetable oil
8 ounces of extra sharp cheddar, diced
4 ounces of white farmhouse cheddar diced

* Oven to 350 degrees

1. Drizzle the T of vegetable oil into a Pullman loaf pan, or other long narrow, square pan, such as one used for making a terrine.

2. In a mixing bowl, mix together the warm water, honey, salt, and yeast and stir to combine; let sit in a warm location until yeast is bubbly and frothy.

3. Mix in the molasses.

4. Add the flour and oats and stir until just combined.

5. Gently stir in the cheese and knead slightly with your hands.

6. Turn dough into the oiled loaf pan; cover with a tea towel and place in a warm place until doubled in size.

7. Bake in a 350 degrees oven until the crust is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean--except for the cheese; if you hit a cheesy spot, test again.

8. Allow to cool completely on a rack; slice and store.


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