December/January 2016

Spicy Cheese Bread

How much cheese could we pack into this Wisconsin favorite without producing a greasy brick of dough?

Why This Recipe Works

This chewy, cheesy snack bread is legendary in Wisconsin, and replicating it in our kitchen was no small task. To get a cheese-loaded loaf of bread without bogging it down with grease, we rolled cubes of provolone and Monterey Jack cheese into our eggy dough after its first rise. Paying special attention to the temperature of the ingredients ensures an efficient and effective fermentation time. Incorporating red pepper flakes into both the dough and the topping gives this bread its signature kick.


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Makes 1 loaf


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3 ¼ cups (16 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 ½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
½ cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1 1/2 cups), room temperature
6 ounces provolone cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1 1/2 cups), room temperature


1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

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Makes 1 loaf

Take the cheese out of the refrigerator when you start the recipe to ensure that it comes to room temperature by the time you need it. Cold cheese will retard rising. Plan ahead: The dough needs to rise for several hours before baking.

Watch the Cook's Country cast make this recipe

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1. FOR THE BREAD: Whisk flour, sugar, yeast, pepper flakes, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk warm water, eggs and yolk, and melted butter together in liquid measuring cup. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Fit mixer with dough hook and knead on medium speed until dough clears bottom and sides of bowl, about 8 minutes.

2. Transfer dough to unfloured counter, shape into ball, and transfer to greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

3. Grease 9-inch round cake pan. Transfer dough to unfloured counter and press to deflate. Roll dough into 18 by 12-inch rectangle with long side parallel to counter’s edge. Distribute Monterey Jack and provolone evenly over dough, leaving 1-inch border around edges. Starting with edge closest to you, roll dough into log. Pinch seam and ends to seal, then roll log so seam side is down. Roll log back and forth on counter, applying gentle, even pressure, until log reaches 30 inches in length. If any tears occur, pinch to seal.

4. Starting at one end, wind log into coil; tuck end underneath coil. Place loaf in prepared cake pan and cover loosely with clean dish towel. Let rise in warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.

5. FOR THE TOPPING: Brush top of loaf with egg, then sprinkle with pepper flakes. Place cake pan on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until loaf is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Rotate loaf, tent with aluminum foil, and continue to bake until loaf registers 190 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes longer.

6. Transfer pan to wire rack and brush bread with butter. Let cool for 10 minutes. Run knife around edge of pan to loosen bread. Slide bread onto wire rack, using spatula as needed for support. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.

How Many Loaves?

We made more than 60 loaves of spicy cheese bread before we found the best way to form each loaf. One sticking point was choosing a type of cheese for maximum meltability; a mix of Monterey Jack and provolone won the day.

On the Road: More Than a Market

Every Saturday from mid-April to mid-November, you’ll find the sprawling Dane County Farmers’ Market in full swing around Capitol Square in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. What started as a ramshackle group of five farmers in 1972 (decades before farmers’ markets saturated urban centers everywhere) grew steadily over the years; it’s now 150 vendors strong. Farmers’ markets across the country still look to the Dane County model for inspiration.

The farmers, cheesemakers, beekeepers, and, of course, breadmakers—all local, all strictly vetted by the Madison Chamber of Commerce (it’s competitive to get into this market)—set up tents on the sidewalks surrounding a grassy patch of park by the towering capitol building at the center of town.

But this is more than just a pop-up venue for commerce. It’s a full-blown community happening that can attract upwards of 20,000 customers. They bring blankets to spread out on the grass, where they catch up over morning picnics of fresh seasonal fruit, coffee, breakfast sandwiches from food trucks, and freshly baked spicy cheese bread before making another pass through the market in search of goods to take home and transform into supper.

The early hum of “hellos” and “good mornings” eventually builds to a steady roar as the sun burns brighter. Crowds move elbow-to- elbow through the tidy rows of tents, eyes darting from piles of ruby radishes to baskets of shiny peppers, from plump stone fruits to gnarled, multicolored heirloom tomatoes.

Wisconsinites have an enthusiastic sense of humor, reflected in the signs put up to entice customers with important promises: “Grown in Real Dirt” and “No ’Cides” (meaning herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides). But, this being a Saturday morning, one of the longest queues winds toward the potato doughnut stand, where the sign proclaims “Fried with Pure Lard.”

Test Kitchen Technique: Shaping Spicy Cheese Bread

Achieving an even distribution of spice and cheese takes careful shaping.

SPRINKLE FILLINGS: After rolling the dough into a rectangle, cover the surface with cheese cubes and red pepper flakes.

ROLL INTO LOG: Starting with the longer side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder, trapping the cheese cubes inside.

CREATE SPIRAL: Use gentle pressure to roll the dough log back and forth until it is 30 inches long. Then, create a spiral shape.

PLACE IN PAN: Nestle the spiral into a greased cake pan, cover it with a towel, and let the dough rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

ADD SPICE: Once the dough has doubled in size, brush the top with beaten egg and sprinkle it with red pepper flakes.

Watch The Full Episode

Test cook Julia Collin Davison demonstrates how to make a regional classic, Spicy Cheese Bread. Next, tasting expert Jack Bishop conducts a tasting of sharp cheddar cheese. And finally, test coo...

Done in 281 ms! 61.385 KiB - 7.5% = 56.776 KiB