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Author Notes: This recipe hails from my mother-in-law who has made this appetizer (affectionately known in my family as "cheese squares") for numerous family gatherings and holiday dinners. My mother-in-law describes her version (see master recipe below) as "just glorified grilled cheese sandwiches" -- hence the name. However, I would argue that they are much more than that. When baked, the squares have a crust that is crispy and delightfully cheesy. Yet the inside is lovely soft bread. While this is not a gourmet recipe by any means, I have never seen anyone who has not find these addictive. I have made them when we have had company for dinner and even for my daughter's second birthday party, where they were devoured by both children and parents. As the mother of a young child, I love the fact that the master recipe appeals to both children and grownups. But I thought that it might be fun to tinker with this recipe to make it more spicy for say a grown-up cocktail party. I immediately thought that jalapenos and cilantro would be a nice foil for the cheese and loved the taste. I came up with a sundried tomato version too because who doesn't love grilled cheese sandwiches with a slice of tomato? I thought that the tomato gave these squares a lovely burst of Mediterranean flavor. Enjoy! - cookinginvictoria
Serves 6-8 for a hors d'oeuvres or can be easily doubled or tripled
Master Recipe (Child Friendly Version)
- 1 loaf unsliced whole wheat or white sandwich bread
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
- 9 ounces cold-pack sharp Cheddar cheese, at room temperature
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Carefully cut crusts off all four sides of loaf of bread. (I find it is easiest to do this with an electric knife.) Cut bread into 2-inch cubes. Place cubes on silpat, parchment paper or aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet.
- In bowl of electric mixer, add butter, cheese, egg, and salt. Mix on medium speed, with paddle attachment if using standing mixer until cheese mixture is smooth and creamy. If only making Master Recipe, then proceed to step 2 of Jalapeno/Sun Dried Tomato version.
Jalapeno and Cilantro/Sundried Tomato Version (Mostly for Grown-Ups)
- 2 teaspoons jalapeno or serrano chili pepper, very finely minced (or more to taste if you like things fiery)
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon sun dried tomato packed in oil, finely minced
- Measure out one cup of cheese mixture. Divide it in two and place 1/2 cup each in two small bowls. In one bowl add chili pepper and cilantro. Mix well with wooden spoon until incorporated. In other bowl, add sun dried tomato, and mix with wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Set aside cheese mixture (Master Recipe) in mixing bowl.
- If only making Master Recipe, spread cheese mixture in mixing bowl on all four sides of each bread cube. Place each cube about 1 inch apart from each other on baking sheet. Go to step 4 of Jalapeno/Sun Dried Tomato version.
- If making all three versions, spread Master Recipe on 1/3 of bread cubes, being careful to completely cover all four sides of each cube. Spread Chili-Cilantro cheese mixture on another 1/3 of cubes. Spread sun dried tomato cheese mixture on remaining 1/3 of cubes. Place cubes about 1 inch apart from each other on baking sheet.
- Bake for about 10 minutes until golden and crispy on top. Remove from oven and let rest for about 2 minutes. Pile onto serving platter and watch them disappear!
- Note: Can be made ahead and frozen. After baking, store in ziploc bag in freezer. When reheating on baking sheet, just add five minutes to baking time.
- Ingredient Note: Cold pack cheese is available in Canada under the MacLaren Imperial brand. Whole Foods sells a similar product. Look for it in the refrigerated case.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Open House Dish
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