Chevre and Herb Hearty Bread Ring

For a ridiculously long time, we have wanted to make a ring-shaped bread stuffed with fresh goat cheese, just to see how it turns out. Now the results are in: it’s YUMMY!

A rather rustic ring. Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I just used some leftover pizza dough as the bread base, but it still turned out great! You could use your favorite dough recipe and I think it would still be fantastic, although steer away from sweet breads, unless you are going to sweeten the cheese and leave out the herbs! I am giving you a slightly more complicated, but wonderful, recipe for rustic bread below:

Rustic Bread

Makes 2 large loaves

Preferment:
1 lb. bread flour (3 1/2 cups)
9.5 oz. water (1 1/4 cups)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

Final dough:
10 oz. bread flour (2 1/2 cups)
6 oz. whole wheat or rye flour or a mixture of them (around 1 1/2 cups)
12.5 oz. water (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
all of the preferment

Put the yeast in the water and stir. Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl and pour in the yeasted water. Mix until the flour is hydrated, adding more water if necessary. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave the pre-ferment out at room temperature overnight (up to 16 hours… if you need more time before baking put it in the refrigerator).

To make the final dough, combine all of the ingredients except the pre-ferment in a mixing bowl. Chop the pre-ferment up into small pieces and mix or knead it into the final dough until they are thoroughly combined. If you have a heavy-duty (KitchenAid stand) mixer, you can mix it for 5 minutes by machine. Or mix and knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes. At the end of that time the new and old dough aren’t perfectly combined– you can still see a few streaks of the lighter colored pre-ferment in it– but they are sufficiently combined that loaves bake evenly.

Place the dough back in a greased bowl and let rise for 2 1/2 hours, punching down or folding the dough twice during that time.

(Folding the dough consists of taking the dough out of the bowl, spreading it out a little on a clean surface, folding it in thirds like a letter, rotating it 90 degrees and folding it up again, and then returning the dough to the bowl and covering it again. Like punching down, folding degases the dough some, but it also encourages gluten development.)

At the end of the rise, divide the dough into two pieces and preshape each into a ball. Cover with a clean towel and let each rest for 5 to 10 minutes before shaping into the final shape.

Take one ball and roll it out on a floured surface or Silpat, until it is a rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Spoon teaspoons of room-temperature chevre onto the dough rectangle until you have distributed 8 ounces over the entire surface. Now take a knife and further smooth it around. Then take about 3 tablespoons of chopped herbs and sprinkle them over the cheese. Finally, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of herbed salt (I used truffle salt) over the herbs. Roll up the dough along the long side of the rectangle. Once rolled up, try to position the seam of the roll on the bottom of the rolled-up dough (or leave it upside, if you want your bread to have the same cleavage as mine in the picture above!). Shape it into a partial or full ring, whatever you can manage.

Once shaped, cover the loaves with a clean towel and set aside for a final rise, approximately 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Halfway though the final rise, begin preheating the oven to 450 degrees. If you are using a baking stone, preheat it as well.

After 20 minutes of baking, rotate the loaves 180 degrees so that they’ll bake evenly. Bake until an instant read thermometer reads around 200 degrees, which took approximately 35 minutes for my loaves.

After removing the ring and/or loaf from the oven, take a stick of butter or butter + olive oil spread and run it over the bread to keep the outside crust soft. This is helpful in ensuring a nice mouth feel, and my husband prefers a soft crust!

Thanks to The Fresh Loaf for the rustic bread recipe.

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