One of our family’s favorite breads is Chunk o’Cheese. The original recipe was developed by Mrs. Richard W. Ojakangas from Duluth, Minnesota. With it she won Second Grand Prize in the ninth annual Pillsbury Grand National Bake-Off. The recipe was published in Best of the Bake-Off Collection, Book Publishing Industries, Inc., 1959, page 21. Since then, the recipe has been reprinted numerous times in various cookbooks and recipe collections as well as on the internet.
During a recent visit to Los Angeles, I made the bread with my grandson, who had a great time pushing the little chunks of cheese into the dough. That is a very important step, because cheese on the surface of the dough melts in the oven. It can make a big mess. For that reason, be sure to line your baking pans with aluminum foil Also be sure to remove the foil from the finished loaves while they are still cooling. Otherwise you will wind up with pieces of aluminum foil stuck in the cracks of the firmed-up bread.
The basic recipe is really the very old-time American classic, anadama bread, but the cheese sets it apart. The original recipe called for American cheese. (That and Velveeta were the kinds of cheese found in most American kitchens in the 1950s.) I prefer to use sharp Cheddar, but you can choose your favorite so long as it melts easily. Monterey jack, Muenster, Swiss, mozzarella, or provolone will also work. You can even try a mixture of cheeses. I have also added a little whole wheat flour to make the loaf even more flavorful and crunchy.
Chunk o’Cheese Bread
2¼ cups lukewarm water (110°F)
- ½ cup cornmeal + more for shaping loaves
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons butter or vegetable shortening
- 1 package dry yeast
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 4½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 pound cheddar cheese, cut into ¼ to ½ inch cubes
- In a 2 quart saucepan, combine 1 3/4 cups of the warm water, cornmeal, and salt. Stir until smooth. Then place over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Continue to stir until thickened, about 5 minutes after it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat.
- Stir in molasses and butter or shortening. Cool to lukewarm.
- In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the remaining ½ cup of warm water. Add the cornmeal mixture and blend thoroughly.
- Stir in the whole wheat flour until well combined. Then, one cup at a time, stir in 3½ cups of the all-purpose flour to form a sticky dough.
- Spread the remaining 1 cup of flour onto a clean work surface. Place the dough on the flour and knead until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Return the dough to the washed, dried, and greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean cloth, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in volume.
- Turn the risen dough onto a work surface sprinkled with cornmeal, and work the cheese cubes into the dough by flattening the dough, sprinkling with about ¼ of the cubes, and folding over the dough, then repeating the process until all of the cheese cubes are incorporated. Make sure that all of the cheese cubes are covered.
- Divide the dough into two equal pieces.
- Shape into two round loaves. Place in two 8 or 9 inch cake pans tightly lined with well-greased aluminum foil. Make sure the cheese cubes are well covered. Otherwise they will melt during baking and make cleanup difficult. Cover the shaped loaves with a clean cloth and let rise until doubled.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 1 hour. Test for doneness. When the loaves are baked, remove from the oven and cool in the pans for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Remove any bits of aluminum foil that cling to the loaves while they are still warm. Otherwise you will have a hard time removing the foil.
- Cool completely before slicing. although you will be tempted to try an early sample.