Savory Cheese Boule

By • January 4, 2012 44 Comments

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Author Notes: The lusty yeastiness and a portion of tender all-purpose flour almost render this a quick bread. You can certainly make it and have it on the table in about 2 hours. The colorful effect of the toasted walnuts and fresh sage have to be seen to be believed. And if your house is for sale, bake a batch just before the open house. People will follow their noses straight to your door.

Please be sure to look through the photo gallery so you can see the finished product.

Makes 1 large round loaf or 2 small ones

  • 10 ounces warm water
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast (or 1 tablespoon instant)
  • 1 glug of honey, about 1 tablespoon
  • 3 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
  • 2 glugs of olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
  • 8-10 large sage leaves, minced
  • 1 cup walnut pieces, toasted
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, 1/2” cubes, about 4-5 ounces
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Scatter the walnut pieces over the parchment. If they’re large, first chop them up a bit on a cutting board. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until they’re nicely fragrant when you open the oven door. Remove from oven and allow to cool while you scale your ingredients and begin mixing.
  2. Measure water, yeast, and honey into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Don’t have a mixer? Don’t despair. See #12 below. Whisk them together.
  3. Add the bread flour, salt, and olive oil. Mix on low speed. By the time the ingredients come together and look like a good dough, your nuts should be cool enough to add. Don’t worry of the dough has a bit of a “foot,” a portion that sticks to the bottom of the bowl. The addition of the nuts and sage will solve the problem.
  4. Add the nuts and sage. Let bread continue to knead until they are well incorporated, about 4-5 minutes. Don’t worry if they don’t appear evenly distributed. The step where the cheese is added will take care of everything.
  5. Turn dough out of bowl and either oil or spray it. Return dough, turning it over once. Cover tightly with a piece of plastic and allow to proof at room temperature until doubled, about 30-45 minutes.
  6. While dough is rising, cube cheese.
  7. When dough has finished its first proofing, lightly flour a work surface. Gently turn dough out on it. Pat your hands in some flour and begin tenderly patting your dough out into a circle about 12” in diameter. Scatter the cheese cubes over the surface, avoiding the edges. Now, imagine that you’re folding four edges of the circle towards the center, effectively creating a square. Do that. Then fold the 4 points of the square to the center. Your cheese should be completely enfolded in the dough. Carefully turn the dough over and use your hands to gather the edges into a ball again.
  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set the dough on it and drape it with your piece of plastic. Let proof again until doubled, about 30 minutes.
  9. About one half hour into the proofing time, preheat oven to 375 degrees. If you use a baking stone, set it in the oven when you turn it on. Just before placing bread in oven, remove the plastic and slash it decoratively with a serrated knife held at an acute angle. Some of the cheese should bubble out dramatically while baking.
  10. If using a stone, simply lift the sheet of parchment with the bread on it and slide it onto the stone. Otherwise, set the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating bread 180 degrees at the halfway point.
  11. When done, remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Definitely serve warm!
  12. No mixer? No problem. Start with step 2 in a mixing bowl. Add the dry ingredients in step 3, and stir with a wooden spoon until you can’t stir any longer. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, pat your hands in some flour, and knead until dough comes together, but still feels a bit soft and tacky. Add the nuts and sage and continue kneading until they’re well incorporated. At this point, pick up with step 5 and continue the rest of the way through!

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