Cheesy Garlic Pan Bread

Back in December I was going through my end-of-the-year questions and spent a post lamenting the fact that despite baking up a lot of sourdough, I hadn’t spent much time exploring the potential of my starter as a starter for other recipes besides bread.

A goal for 2022 was to branch out, and the suggestions I gave myself in that post were to try some variety of recipes such as doughnuts, bagels or english muffins.

Instead, as inspiration would have it, I started instead with a crusty pan bread.

The Youtube algorithm tends to show me a lot of baking content these days, and my playlist offered up a recipe for a thick crust pan pizza. I skipped the pizza part and instead used some of the pizza advice and a half a recipe of my sourdough bread to whip up a tasty cheese bread that complimented our evening meal of beef stew.

cheesy garlic pan bread

500g bread flour
350g water
12g salt
250g active sourdough starter
250g hard cheese
3 garlic cloves
60ml olive oil
10g finishing salt

I made my basic sourdough recipe using the flour, water, salt and starter. This went through the typical hydration and folding cycle and then got covered and popped into the fridge overnight. Technically, I only used half of this to make the pan bread and used the other half to bake some simple sourdough rolls, but I’m sure any innovative baker can figure out something clever to do with half a recipe of ready-to-rise sourdough dough.

I oiled up my ten inch cast iron pan (using half the oil) and halving the dough from above, I balled and then flattened it, shaping it into a thick disk that sat about an inch from all sides of the pan. It was about 8am when I did this, and I wouldn’t go onto the next step until nearly 5pm when the dough disk had risen to a lovely volume that was closer to being ready to bake.

My folks had given us a huge wedge of gouda cheese as part of a Christmas basket, so I grated down a bunch of that. I also crushed the garlic in the remaining oil. Just like one might do with a loaf of foccacia I dimpled the surface of my dough disk with my finger tips then spread the garlic oil roughly over the surface.

Here’s the first trick I learned from that Youtube video. I took about half the grated cheese and made a thick edge right up against the edge of the disk and touching the cast iron. The point here is that as is melts it drips along the crack and gets all fried and crusty making a crispy cheesy edge.

The point is, you want the cheese (and quite a bit of it) right up to the edge of the dough.

With a saltier cheese I may have skipped this extra finishing salt sprinkled atop this whole creation. I like salty garlic bread, probably an artifact of growing up on garlic bread made from buttered toast sprinkled with garlic salt not real garlic, but it really does bring an added dimension to the finished product.

This spent 28 minutes in a 425F oven, but I was watching it carefully for the last five.

The second trick I learned from that Youtube video came right at the end. I checked the browning on the crust of the bread after I pulled it out of the oven to make sure it wasn’t too brown (it wasn’t) and then lit up the stovetop where I continued frying the bread right there in the cast iron pan for another 3 minutes. That crust just browned up a little more and it popped out of the pan glorious and crusty and cheesy as I expected.

My biggest problem was making sure there was some left over for tomorrow.

It was delicious, fresh and steaming hot from the oven, and I’ll be adding this to my regular rotation for family meals or perhaps even to share with friends some day again.

Grilled Grilled Cheese Spring Sandwich

Late last year I bought a slab of cast iron from the local home improvement mega store. The idea was not to buy a quality cooking griddle, but instead supplement my outdoor grill with a reasonably inexpensive multi-purpose cooking surface.

Delicate grill items, like veggies or fish are fine on aluminum foil, but I figured an outdoor flattop would be so much better.

If I recall correctly, I spent less than thirty dollars on a reversible barbecue griddle. The one I found that fit my dimensions was meant to match into a specific model of barbecue, but on its own sits just fine atop the grill I own.

I seasoned it up with a triple round of oil and heat. Smiled contentedly at my own ingenuity. Stored the griddle in inside the grill and then … winter hit.

Yesterday at lunchtime I was working from home, as usual. As I rummaged through the kitchen I discovered a loaf of freshly baked sourdough, some leftover Easter ham, a big block of cheddar cheese, and an abundance of painfully beautiful spring weather.

Inspiration struck.

I fired up the grill. Brushed the grill plates down a little (still crusty from the over-the-winter storage). And put some fresh oil on the slab of home improvement store cast iron.

I was rewarded for my efforts with a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, fresh off the backyard grill. Hot. Fresh. And in the fresh air.

Ain’t spring grand?

Ten Deliciously Bready Ideas for Using Your Cast Iron

I love sandwiches, wraps, and more. Putting almost anything between, atop, or inside bread …and toasting it up on a cast iron pan (of course!) makes for a great meal… or just a quick snack. Here are 10 Friday ideas for putting that iron to work for a hot treat.

1. Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Simple: bread, butter and cheese grilled on a hot pan and served with your choice of sauce, or just as is.

2. Inside Out Cheese Toasty. Hot iron meets an outer coat of shredded cheddar and the fried cheese goodness wraps the toasty bready middle.

3. Quesadilla. A hot pan fries up your fillings, then fold a tortilla in half, add some cheese and salsa, and toast to a crunchy finish.

4. Burrito. Fry your veggies. Fry your meat. Wrap tight and toast into a warm, toasty one-hand meal for home on on the go.

5. Panini. A specialty hot press or just an extra pan heated up, the pressed sandwich is great with all variety of fillings.

6. Meatball Sandwich. Orbs of pan-fried meat coated in a warm tomato sauce fill up a toasted bun and leave a delicious mess.

7. Egg Muffin. A fried egg. Some grilled ham. Stacked together and melted with cheese and served on a toasted English muffin is better than the drive thru version.

8. Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Fry up a bit of breaded chicken, smother in hot sauce, and squeeze it into a bun with some crisp lettuce for a worthwhile weekend lunch.

9. Calzone. Pizza dough, filled and folded, crimped around the edges into a sealed sandwich and finished in the oven.

10. Campfire Pie. A couple slices of white buttered bread pinch-seal a bit of hot fruity filling to warm you up around the evening fire.

People like lists. I like people. So I’m giving the people what they like. I ran a blog for 16 years and one of the most popular posts ever on that blog was a list of “100 things” that I’d compiled and posted. I’m trying to recreate something similar over the next couple months for the cast iron guy blog. This post will eventually form part of that mega list.