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Hot Cheese Bread, Baby
A Pizzember foreshadowing
I have long been obsessed with the hot cheese bread from Stella’s of Madison, Wisconsin, a molten-provolone and -Jack cheese filled, chive-inflected brioche-y spiral of dough, topped with red pepper flakes. I’ve never been to Madison or Stella’s, but I know a good thing when I see one, and Stella’s has been on my bread radar for years.
On those mornings, the sun beat us into the concrete, but we waited because we knew at the end we’d be rewarded with sticky messes of sweet bread rippled with provolone and Monterey Jack carving through it like lava. Whoever got first hack at the loaf would handle its undercarriage, searching for the quadrant of dough with the greatest ratio of cheese.
And then earlier this month my friend Paula Forbes (head librarian over at Stained Page News) wrote her own paean to her hometown loaf for the Midwesterner newsletter:
The internet tells me it’s famous, but when I was growing up, it was just the last stop at the farmers’ market: a burnished loaf dusted with chile flakes, the unassuming exterior belying the decadence inside. We pulled off hunks with grubby child fingers in the back seat of our minivan, gobbling down bites of sweet, yeasty bread swollen with slick pockets of provolone and jack cheese. It was destined for cold soups like potato-leek or gazpacho—if any made it home.
In case those two descriptions don’t sell you on the joys of hot cheese bread, I think this video from Stella’s itself should:
If you live near Madison and aren’t already a fan, I hope you’ll get over there and try some for yourself (and send me back reviews of your own!)
For the rest of us, I have finally sorted out a recipe. I have no idea quite how Stella’s makes theirs, but I know my way around a sweetened, enriched dough like that, so whether or not mine is an exact copy, I do know it is very, very good. If you’d like to get your mitts on the hot-out-of-the-oven, subscriber-exclusive recipe, here you go:
And if you aren’t already a subscriber, there’s no time like the present to sign up. There’s lots more exclusiveness to come, especially during Pizzember 2021, which is just days away (and of which this recipe is something of a harbinger).