Zesty Italian Cheese Bread is a terrific loaf to be served with your next Italian meal. The combination of the mozzarella cheese and the Italian herbs are enough to start a party in your mouth. This dough freezes well so make plenty. Defrost totally before baking. This dough also makes very tasty dinner buns.
Cooking Time: 30 - 35 minutes approximately
2/3 cup warm milk not hot
1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon crushed Italian herb spice blend (add more or less as per your taste)
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour
Pre heat oven to 350 F
In a small bowl mix together the water, sugar, and yeast. Let rest for 5 minutes or until yeast is bubbly.
Put salt, and flour in a large bowl and add the yeast mixture and combine. Next add the egg, milk, and butter. Stir until the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl and form a ball. Once the dough is ready add the shredded mozzarella cheese and crushed Italian herbs, mix until blended. You may have to add more flour or water a little at a time. Dough should be soft but firm enough to knead.
Turn out the dough to a lightly greased surface. Lightly oil your hands, and knead it for 6 to 8 min., or until it begins to become smooth and supple.
Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a warm damp cloth. Allow the dough to rise between 1 to 2 hours. Dough should be close to double in size. I place bread dough on top of my stove where it will stay warm. This decreases the proofing time.
Punch down the dough and shape it into an 8" log. Place the dough into a lightly oiled 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan; cover the pan loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Leave the bread to rise for about 1 to 2 hours more. It will be ready to bake when it is about 1" above the rim of the pan.
Place the pan into the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The Zesty Italian Cheese Bread will sound hollow when tapped when it is ready.
Remove the loaf of Zesty Italian Cheese Bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a cooling rack or clean dry cloth. If you would like a softer crust rub the top of the loaf with butter while still hot.
Let cool completely before slicing.
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