Recipe: Pull-Apart Spicy Cheese Bread

When a farmers' market stall has to make repeated re-stocking deliveries over the course of a Saturday morning, it has to be a good spot. Stella's Bakery in Madison, Wisconsin has such a stall going in the Madison farmers' market. And the item they just can't keep in stock? Hot and spicy cheese bread. Gooey Wisconsin provolone and jack cheeses blended with herbs and a kick of spice fill this buttery, pull-apart loaf of bread.
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This recipe cuts out the most time consuming part of making cheese bread: making the actual bread. Instead, I used a store bought rustic loaf of sourdough and cut it crosswise and stuffed it with shredded cheese, fresh chives, and red pepper flakes.
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This is a great recipe to make using two loafs of bread as well. Split 7-ounce packages of cheese, doubling the chives and red pepper flakes, between the two loafs (these will be slightly cheesier, with two cups of cheese per loaf). Bake both or freeze them just after you stuff them with cheese. To freeze for later, wrap the loaf in aluminum foil and then in plastic wrap or a plastic bag; simply remove the plastic and bake the loaf directly from the freezer.
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The flavors here are mild (except for the spicy kick) and would be great with rosemary or sage and stronger cheese like a sharp cheddar, too. Ideally, this bread can be pulled apart piece by piece. However, depending on the texture of the bread, you may need to serve with a spoon to help lift the pieces from the loaf.

Pull-Apart Spicy Cheese Bread
inspired by Stella's hot and spicy cheese bread of Maidson, WI

1 rustic loaf of sourdough bread
¾ cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese
¾ cup shredded provolone cheese (or sliced provolone, cut into strips)
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (more if you want spicier bread)
¼ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350&def; F. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut bread horizontally into inch-wide strips without cutting all the way through the bottom crust. Use the same method to cut bread vertically so that the result is a grid of 1-inch square cuts, leaving the bottom of the loaf intact. Set aside.

Combine cheese, chives, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and mix until evenly distributed. Using your hands, gently stuff the cheese mixture in between the cuts in the bread. This is easier if you stuff cheese in the horizontal cuts and fill in as needed. Sprinkle any remaining cheese on top of the loaf. Place loaf on a sheet of foil, pour melted butter on top, and wrap the loaf with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, unwrap from foil, and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned on top. Serve while hot.

Related: Recipe: Cheese-Stuffed Bread Sticks

(Images: Stephanie Barlow)

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