I just spent the last four hours putting together a chicken alfredo lasagna, baking a three-tier lemon cake with lemon curd filling and cream cheese icing, and baking two loaves of cheese bread. On a Wednesday. Three days after returning from a weekend out-of-state trip and two days before my in-laws arrive for a weekend visit.
I love my husband :).
His birthday is tomorrow, and given that it’s pretty much been overlooked the last two years, I felt the need to go all out kitchen-wise this year. In 2012, we were knee-deep in a cross-state move/job change; in 2011, I was so pregnant (and ridiculously swollen) that the thought of standing on my feet to make a peanut butter sandwich was daunting. Cakes and dinners and such were not happening. (I did throw a big 30th birthday bash for him in 2010, though, so snaps for that.) However, his favorite thing in the whole wide world is my three-tier lemon cake that I made him the first year we were married, so it was time. The lasagna and bread come in a close second, I think.
The cheese bread is a recipe my mom’s made for years that’s a holiday staple in our house. It smells like Thanksgiving to me. It’s not hard per se, just time consuming and a smidgen advanced if you’ve never made bread. It’s also physically harder if you don’t have a KitchenAid with a dough hook and have to knead the dough yourself, but hey, that counts as exercise, right? My mom got it from an old Betty Crocker cookbook, and in there it’s called “Cheese Braid,” but I like to think that’s just a Southern spin on it :).
2 c. all-purpose flour
2½-3 c. all-purpose flour
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1½ c. milk
2 Tbsp. sugar
1½ tsp. salt
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
In large mixer bowl, combine 2 c. all-purpose flour and 1 pkg. active dry yeast. Heat 1 1/2 c. milk, 2 Tbsp. sugar, and 1 1/2 tsp. salt until warm (115-120 degrees), stirring to dissolve sugar. Add to dry mixture in mixer bowl; add 1 egg and 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese. Beat at low speed with mixer for 1/2 minute, scraping bowl. Beat three minutes at high speed. By hand or using your mixer paddle, stir in 2 1/2-3 c. all-purpose flour to make a stiff dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth (8-10 minutes) or use your mixer’s dough hook for about 4 minutes, or until dough pulls away cleanly from bowl and is smooth. Shape into a ball and place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover and let rise until double (1 1/2 hours). Punch down and divide in six pieces. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Roll each piece into a rope about 15″ long. On greased baking sheets, shape into two braids, using three ropes for each braid. Cover and let rise until almost double in size (35-45 minutes). Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. Makes two loaves.
It’s awesome a day or two later, toasted, with butter, or used for sandwiches (leftover turkey, anyone?).