Man, nothin' says fun like cheese and bread.
Seriously. There is nothing solemn about a bubbling pot of fondue and chunks of bread. In fact, the kissing game is such an integral part of consuming fondue, it just can't be dull if you tried.
You know, the kissing game, right? If you drop your bread into the cheese, you need to kiss the person on your left before fishing it out. Choose your seats wisely!
Have you ever seen a kid on a snow day contemplating a grilled cheese sandwich? It surely isn't the same sideways glance and suspicious squint that might accompany, say, spelling homework or lima beans. It's almost another action figure to add to the mix. Mighty Stretch! Lava Cheese! If you happen to have a bowl of soup, you can guarantee shark fins and rafts will appear in short order.
I've been wanting to make cheese sticks and/or cheese-stuffed pizza crust for awhile now. Little did I know it was going to take batch after batch to get things just so. It's just crust and cheese, right?
The bread wasn't an issue. I just whipped up a batch of my favorite pizza dough – soft enough to stretch for wrapping, but sturdy enough to hold the cheese securely inside.
Here's what I tried first. I cut my dough into 3 pieces, and divided each piece into 8 strips.
Each strip was filled with a chunk of American cheese about 4" long and 1/2" high, cut from a deli block of cheese. Roll, pinch to seal, and bake at 350°F.
Results? Hollow logs of bread. The cheese had totally melted away into the dough.
Next up, I ditched the American cheese and swapped in mozzarella cheese sticks. They're pre-made to the right size, and they're sturdier than American cheese.
Much better! Lots of melted cheese. Unfortunately, most of it was all over the baking sheet. :( Thank goodness I use parchment paper on my pans.
Apparently my little strips of bread dough weren't holding their seal as they baked. Sticking with our three strikes rule for testing recipes, I tried one more time.
This time I tried patting out a longer strip of dough, about 4" wide and 6" long. I wet the entire surface with a little water and rubbed it a bit to make it sticky to the touch. Place the cheese stick at the top end and roll like a jelly roll down to the bottom end.
Did you notice I changed cheeses? I liked the American just fine, but I wanted the chewiness of mozzarella this time around.
Another bit of water on the end of the dough, and press to seal.
You can see that the cheese is ensconced in a deeper (thicker?) layer of dough now.
A 30 minute rise is just about right for these sticks. Remember, you're looking for full and puffy, but not thin or webby looking on top. If it starts to look see-through on top, get the sticks into the oven ASAP.
I also thought the baking temperature a bit too low. This was giving the cheese too much chance to melt as the bread baked. So I upped the temperature to 425°F, preheating the oven while the bread was rising. Bake 20 to 25 minutes .
And the result?
Happy, puffy cheese sticks with NO burst seams. Wa-hoo!
But, what about the cheese?
Perfection! Soft and melted, but not dissipated. The bottom of the bread stick is a little doughy from melted cheese, and delightfully chewy. I ate one stick right off the bat, just as is. The next one I dipped in steak sauce, and it was outstanding.
After the sticks cooled completely, I sliced them into rounds for fun. A ring of bread, a ring of cheese, and a little bit of a hole, perfect for stuffing with a slice of salami. At last, I could call it a success.
So, for the rundown on this final version (remember, there's no printable version, just this little paragraph):
Make long strips of dough approximately 4" x 6". Brush them with water, and roll rather than fold. Seal well. Let rise for approximately 30 minutes, until puffy. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes to ensure good puff, melted cheese, and soft, tender bread.
And there you have it: my version of stuffed bread sticks. Do I think it would work with any pizza dough? Pretty much.
Any cheese? Well, stick with the firmer cheeses, but feel free to experiment. I can't wait to hear about it!