Our friends from Prague have been visiting this week. At our final potluck gathering last night they treated us to a typical Czech pub snack called beer-cheese.
Beer-cheese is a variety of extremely pungent cheese and it is also the name of a dish that is the result of mixing and smashing the cheese with chopped onions, paprika, mustard, and a little actual beer to create a dish that is called beer-cheese. Here is a short video showing the technique.
Actually, it’s NOT as bad as it looks, or smells. I tried it spread on a Tunisian baguette and it was tasty. It was so tasty that the flavor lingered in my mouth through the next five marinated olives I ate. It really has staying power.
As we were saying goodnight and goodbye, they gave us our own packet of beer-cheese (Pivni syr) to enjoy at home. It was already factory sealed in plastic, but because its odorous qualities were escaping the seal, I immediately double-wrapped it when I got home and put it in the fridge.
The next morning…
When I opened the fridge this morning to get milk for my coffee, my first thought was, good Lord, a mouse has died and decomposed behind (or in) the fridge. Then I remembered my friend talking about packing this cheese (smaller than a stick of butter) in baking soda and multiple bags to transport it to Tunis and I truly understood what she had been working with.
Using this cheese, today(!) came to the immediate top of my priority list. Leaving it in our fridge to bring out as a novelty at our next social gathering was not an option. I felt I needed to use it in combination with tempering ingredients that could hopefully soften and diffuse the pungency. A cheese bread came to mind. Dispersing the cheese throughout the mellow flavors of whole wheat flour, browned leeks, and toasted walnuts with a bite of paprika on top seemed like a good way to bring out its best qualities.
Cheese, Leek and Walnut Bread
Makes 2 loaves
- 3 tablespoons yeast
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup molasses
- 4 ½ cups flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 medium leek
- 6 ounces walnuts
- Paprika, 1 tablespoon
- 12 ounces cheese (Stilton, Gorgonzola…) or ½ that much Pivni syr
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a wire whip, combine the yeast, water, 1 tablespoon of the oil and molasses. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.
Combine the flours and salt together.
Change the mixer attachment to a dough hook. Add the flours and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and climbs up the dough hook.
While dough is rising, toss walnut halves in 2 tsp. olive oil, 1 tablespoon paprika, and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Turn out onto a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree F. oven for approximately 10 minutes. When slightly brown, remove from the oven, turn out onto a cutting board and roughly chop. Reserve.
Chop leek. Saute in 2 teaspoons olive oil until lightly brown. Reserve.
Grease a larger mixing bowl with the remaining teaspoon of oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning once. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free area. Allow the dough to rest until double in size, about 2 hours.
Divide the dough in half. Set one half aside. Roll or pat the dough out into a rough rectangle or circle. Sprinkle half of the nuts and 4 ounces of the cheese over the dough. Work filling with fingers to thoroughly mix cheese into the leeks and walnuts. Fold the sides in toward the center and knead the dough several times, working in all ingredients. Repeat with the remaining dough, walnuts, leeks and cheese. Form the balls of dough into two small rectangles.
Grease 2 rectangular bread pans with the remaining oil. Place the dough in the prepared pans; press the dough to form to the pan. Sprinkle the top with more cheese, if desired. Cover lightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise again until double in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place the pans in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. and continue to bake for 20-30 minutes more or until brown. Remove from the heat and cool on a wire rack.
One thought on “Czech Beer-Cheese Bread”
I used to live in the Czech Republic and oh, I remember beer cheese. Your adventures with it definitely made me laugh. I seem to remember a pickled cheese as well (I think it was called the drowned man). Regular cheese not being strong enough of course!