Memphis Casserole Cheese Bread

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes

    8

    servings

Appears in

The Glory of Southern Cooking

The Glory of Southern Cooking

By James Villas

Published 2007

  • About

Why I’ve been introduced to so many unusual breads in the state of Tennessee I can’t explain. This yeasty, herbal cheese bread a hostess served in Memphis is one example. Dating back at least to the nineteenth century, this beguiling bread can be made strictly by hand with a wooden spoon for a coarse texture or, for a refined and somewhat lightened texture, an electric mixer can be used. Either way, the bread is traditionally baked in a casserole, must be flavored with oregano—why, nobody knows—and is never cooked less than 1 hour. Once I tried baking the bread without the oregano, and even with the two cheeses it was almost bland. Prepared exactly as directed, the bread is memorable.

Ingredients

  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves (or teaspoons dried)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ cup finely shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened

Method

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast and water and let proof till bubbly, about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups of the flour, the salt, oregano, sugar, both cheeses, and the butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed till well blended. Increase the speed to medium and beat till smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape the batter off the beaters and back into the bowl and, using a wooden spoon, beat in the remaining cups flour till the batter is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm area till doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a -quart casserole or baking dish with butter and set aside.

With a wooden spoon, beat the batter in the bowl vigorously for 30 seconds, scrape it into the prepared casserole or baking dish, and bake till lightly browned, about 1 hour. Transfer the bread to a rack to cool completely, then serve in wedges.