Today’s recipe is one in a series of “how have I possibly not written about this yet” recipes. These are recipes that I personally love, make all the time, and swear by. They’re the ones that I tell other people to make if they ask me for, say, a chocolate birthday cake—like the Brooklyn Blackout Cake we talked about earlier this week.
And before we dive into it all, let’s start with a question. Do you like cheese?
Okay, that was an easy one. But how about this: do you like melted cheese? Do you steal the crispy, cheesy bits off the edges of a pan of lasagna? Have you ever microwaved slices of sharp Cheddar cheese and eaten it with a fork and said, “oh good God, it appears that someone has completely forgotten the chips in these nachos!” if anyone happened upon you? Is your spirit animal a Cheez-it cracker?
Then you’re in the right place.
And now that we’re all here on the same cheese-loving page, let’s talk about cravings. If I wake up with a strong craving, or one strikes around dinnertime, I usually assume my body is telling me what it needs. On one of the first warm days of spring, the thought of a green salad—piled high with crunchy Little Gem leaves and soft Bibb lettuce leaves and fresh herbs—is all I want. I crave green goddess dressing and crisp slices of radish dipped in butter and piles of raw sugar snap peas.
On cold, rainy mornings, I find myself thinking only of oatmeal: cooked slowly with milk and a pinch of salt, the oats toasted first in a little butter, a spoonful of miso stirred in at the end, a sprinkling of sesame seeds over the top.
In the depths of that 3 PM afternoon slump, I stop and assess what I want. It’s usually sweet: a plate of yogurt swirled with tahini and topped with fruit. A slice of dense pistachio pound cake, the crumbs so buttery they press together under my fingertips. A chewy chocolate chip cookie. A tart-sweet apple, sliced and dusted with cinnamon and ginger.
Sometimes (rarely!) I crave a burger: juicy with nearly crispy edges, dripping onto a squishy potato bun with plenty of relish. I try to respect all of these signals—to trust that our bodies are wise enough to ask for what they need, if we give them proper rest and care.
When and if I’m craving salt—I pause and pay attention and gently direct my cravings by imagining different things I could eat (a melted Swiss and sautéed mushroom sandwich on griddled rye bread, a bowl of creamy cauliflower soup, a plate of scrambled eggs, a piece of toasted sourdough piled high with tarragon chicken salad), and I see what sounds best.
And often this results in realizing that anything I think of doesn’t sound complete without cheese. I imagine a tuna salad sandwich, and it sounds good. Then I imagine it covered in a layer of melted cheese and it sounds GREAT. I consider an omelette, then think of one stuffed with gooey Gruyere. Even better!
And when it comes to bread, naturally I think few recipes can’t be improved by cheese.
Okay, I take that back. That’s a really aggressive statement and I don’t want to lose you all here.
So let’s amend it to saying that a classic white dinner roll is much better with cheese.
This recipe is fantastic in every single way. It’s easy to make, simple to work with, and extremely memorable. It’s not just a cheesy roll, it’s more like…cheese with a little roll holding it all together.
I typically describe it as having “rivers of molten cheese” which is the straight truth. (The headnotes on the original King Arthur recipe talk about “lava-flows of cheese” which is equally apropos.) You shape them somewhat like cinnamon rolls—meaning you roll out the dough, cover it in cheese, then roll it up. You can shape them into smaller portions (by slicing them like cinnamon rolls), or keep them in larger loaves.
I like making them smaller, as this creates more edges, meaning more crusty cheesiness on all sides.
*Note on flour: King Arthur’s original recipe calls for bread flour. I’ve made it both ways, and I find little difference when I use all-purpose, which is what most people are more likely to have on hand, so I call for it here. If you have bread flour and want to use it, go for it!
Also, if you want a more nuanced flavor, try using half all-purpose flour and half white whole-wheat flour. If you do that, be sure to let the dough sit for about 30 minutes in between mixing it and kneading it to let the flour absorb the liquid, which is useful in working with whole wheat flour doughs—making them more malleable and easy to work with.
Gruyere-Stuffed Crusty Loaves
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
For the starter
1 1/4 cups (150g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
1/2 cup (113g) cool water
For the dough
all of the starter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (255g) lukewarm water
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups (418g) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
For the filling
2 1/2 cups (283g) grated Gruyère cheese
The day before you want to bake, make the starter: Mix all the starter ingredients together (it will be stiff) in a medium bowl, cover, and let rest on the countertop (at room temperature) overnight.
The next day, mix the starter with the all of the dough ingredients. Knead for about 10 minutes (by hand or with the dough hook of a stand mixer) until smooth and elastic.
Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise for about 2 hours or until it’s nearly doubled in size.
Press down on the dough gently to deflate it slightly. On a lightly floured surface, stretch and press the dough into a 3/4”-thick rectangle. Brush the dough lightly with water (or you can use a little melted butter to gild the lily), and spread the cheese on top in an even layer.
Roll the dough into a long log (starting with the long side of the rectangle) and pinch it firmly along the seam and ends—you want to try and seal it well so that the cheese isn’t falling out, but don’t worry too much about being neat. Cheese will escape, which gives you those delicious edges!
Now you can either cut the long into 4 big pieces, if you want to make loaves, or you can use a piece of unflavored dental floss to slice them into 2" slices, like a cinnamon roll.
Place your loaves or slices on a parchment-baking sheet, cover lightly with plastic wrap, and let them rise until they get puffy, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425°F when you get close to the end of the second rising time.
Brush the tops of the loaves with water or melted butter, and bake for about 25 to 35 minutes (it will take about 5 to 10 minutes longer if you bake loaves).
Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and eat warm!