This bread is soft and not overly ‘cheesy’ so serve it as dinner rolls, paired with anything really.

I was taken to a lovely restaurant just outside Amsterdam. The food was delicious but what stayed in my mind were the bread rolls. Tiny little mounds of rolls were baked and served in ~1/3 cup sized food cans. The eatery had used tomato puree food cans which there must have been plenty of in their kitchen. I was so enthralled by the idea, I went to the grocery store and bought myself 20 cans of similarly sized tomato puree, put them in my luggage and brought them home. I can border on the fanatical when it comes to food. If you have yet to read about my very large food haul from Amsterdam and Paris, here’s the link. I am a champion luggage packer!

You will find the above-mentioned tomato puree food can in my feature image. I also used food cans of varying sizes to bake my bread as it makes such an appealing presentation. A little cute on the dining table can be a good thing.

If you do not want to bake the dough in food cans, it can be baked as a single loaf or into dinner rolls. Choose what suits you best.

Milk And Cheese Bread Baked In Food Cans

Prep: ~20 minutes 
Cook: ~15 -25 minutes baked in food cans. Might be longer if baked as a single loaf or as a tray of pull-part dinner rolls.
Inactive: ~3.5 hours for bread to go through several risings.
Level: Moderately easy if not baking in food cans.
Fiddly if baking in food cans.
Serves: ~ 5 – 6 as dinner rolls
Oven Temperature: 400F (200C) oven rack adjusted to lower middle shelf
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? Taste best fresh but will keep up to 2 days.

Ingredients

1 cup=250ml=8.45 US fl oz

~3 and 3/8cups (1lb)(459g) bread flour/all-purpose flour
1 and 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
~1 and 1/2 cups (5.3oz)(150g) shredded sharp cheddar*
~1/4 cup (2fl oz)(60ml)(~1 egg) eggs
~3/4 cup (6.4fl oz)(190ml) milk
~1/4 cup (2fl oz)(60ml) water

* Substitute with any similar firm shredded cheese of your choice. 

Method

Making dough with a standing mixer 
1. Use a standing mixer to mix dough. A hand held mixer is not powerful enough.
2. Mix all the dry ingredients in the mixer bowl, then add all the wet ingredients.
3. Use the dough hook to mix all the ingredients on low speed and work it up to medium-high speed. If you were to start straight away on medium speed, you would be met with a powder puff of flour.
4. After 5 minutes of machine kneading: (1) if the mix looks too dry, add 1 Tablespoon of water every 2 – 3 minutes until the mix comes together (2) if the mix looks too wet, add 1 Tablespoon of flour every 2 – 3 minutes until the mix comes together.
5. Then, continue to run the machine for 5 – 10 minutes. The sides of the bowl would have dough clinging to it, the dough should look smooth and it should feel ‘comfortably’ sticky like in the image below. Dry dough often bake into dry breads so it is better if the dough is on the sticky side.
6. To determine if you have kneaded the dough enough, move on to ‘Test for gluten development

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Making dough by hand
1. In a large bowl, add all the dry ingredients and mix well.
2. Add the wet ingredients and with fingers of one hand, work in the flour in a circular motion.
3. If the mix looks too dry to gather into a dough ball, add 1 Tablespoon of water at a time until the mix comes together. The dough should be more sticky than dry.
4. If the mix looks too wet to gather into a dough ball, add 1 Tablespoon of flour until the mix comes together. You want the dough to be more sticky than dry.
5. Then, continue to knead for ~10 minutes or until the sides of the bowl is relatively free of dough. The dough should look smooth and it should feel ‘comfortably’ sticky. Dry dough often bake into dry breads so it is better if the dough is on the sticky side.
6. To determine if you have kneaded the dough enough, move on to ‘Test for gluten development

Test for gluten development
1. To test if you have worked the dough sufficiently, remove a table tennis ball size of dough. Stretch it. The dough should have built up enough gluten that it would not tear easily.  You should be able to stretch it until you see a thin membrane. If not, continue to machine knead (or hand knead) until you reach this stage.

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Let the dough rise (first rise)
1. Shape dough into a ball, tuck loose ends under. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise to almost double in size. ~ 1 and 1/2 hours.

Let the dough rise (second rise)
1. Punch dough down, reshape back into a ball, cover and let it rise the second time until almost double in size. The second rise is always quicker. ~ 1 hour.

OPTION 1: To prepare and shape dough for baking in food cans
1. Please read through ‘Choosing size of food cans under my ‘Tips‘ section (below) before proceeding further as your choice of food cans, that is, its size and volume, does matter.
2. Brush the insides of the food cans well with oil. Set aside.
3. Gently deflate the dough. If you overwork the dough it will be difficult to work with it and then you would have to let it rest another 10 -15 minutes before you can return to work on it. To prevent overworking the dough, I use a pair of scissors to snip off whatever dough I knead. Snip off only the amount of dough you need to fill up ~1/3 – 1/2 the volume of the food can. Refer to instructions below:

For circular food cans: Fill each food can with a ball of dough that only reaches between 1/3- 1/2 up the height of the food can. Dough should be shaped into a ball with loosed ends tucked under.
For rectangular food cans: Fill each food can with a rectangular shaped dough that only reaches between 1/3- 1/2 up the height of the food can. To get a rectangular shape, pat the dough out into the required shape. Do centre the loaf to allow for the dough to expand outwards to fill the entire base as it rises and bakes.

Let the dough rise in the food cans
1. Set all the dough filled food cans on a baking tray. Cover the dough with a plastic wrap (oiled on one side to prevent rising dough from sticking to it).
2. Let dough rise until almost double its size. Might take ~30-45 minutes depending on the ambient temperature.

OPTION 2: Prepping dough to bake into a single loaf 
1. Gently press out the air from the risen dough.
2. Gather dough into a ball, tuck loose ends under the loaf, pinch or twist ends to seal. The top should be relatively smooth.
3. Cover the dough with a plastic wrap (oiled on one side to prevent sticking) and let dough rise until almost double its size. ~45 minutes – 1 hour depending on the ambient temperature.

OPTION 3: Prepping dough to bake into a tray of pull-apart dinner rolls

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1. Choose the baking vessel. It should have a depth of at least 2″ (5cm) to allow for dough to rise.
2. Grease the insides well.
3. Gently press out the air from the risen dough. Determine how many bread rolls will fit into your chosen baking vessel and divide the dough accordingly equally.
4. The dough can be placed touching each other. Once baked, they would rise upwards more than outwards.
5. Cover the dough with a plastic wrap (oiled on one side to prevent sticking) and let dough rise until almost double its size. ~45 minutes – 1 hour depending on the ambient temperature.

Prep before baking
1. 1/2 an hour before baking, turn on the oven to 400F (200C), oven rack adjusted to lower middle shelf.

Bake
OPTION 1: Baking in food cans
1. Bake for 15-25 minutes depending on the size of the food cans until tops are golden brown. Smaller ones would have to be removed earlier than others. If it is browning too fast, cover with a sheet of aluminium foil.

OPTION 2: Baking into a single loaf 
1. Bake for 20 -25 minutes. If it is browning too fast, cover with a sheet of aluminium foil.

OPTION 3: Baking into a tray of pull-apart dinner rolls
1. Bake for 20 -25 minutes. If it is browning too fast, cover with a sheet of aluminium foil.

When is it baked through?
1. For bread baked in food cans, after 15-25 minutes of baking, the tops will be golden brown and this is an indication that the breads have baked through. Remove from the oven, those that have baked through faster than the others. Leave to cool slightly in food cans for 5 minutes. Whilst still warm, with oven gloves and a palette knife (especially useful for those deeper food cans), remove bread and cool on cooling racks. If you leave them in the food cans to cool completely, they will steam inside and the bread will be damp and it will be more difficult to dislodge.
2. For bread baked as a single loaf or as dinner rolls, they are baked through when they sound hollow when you tap them at the base. The single loaf and the dinner rolls if not baked through, can be removed from its baking vessel and returned as they are into the oven to bake directly on the oven rack for ~5 minutes or so until baked through. Cover tops with foil if necessary.
3. Cool completely on cooling racks before serving.

To serve
1. Those bread baked in food cans can be returned into their respective food cans, if only, for aesthetics reasons before serving.

Tips

Things to consider when choosing size of food cans for baking
(1) Be careful when handling emptied food cans. There might be sharp edges. I have a pair of pliers set aside just to press in any sharp edges flat down. Now a days, there are food cans that use a pull tab to completely dislodge the top of a food can in one piece which translates to less sharp edges and is rather convenient especially if you do not own an electric can opener.
(2) Choose small sized food cans. The best size is the ones that are ~1/3 cup in size.  Smaller volumes not allows for quick and even baking, it makes dislodging the baked bread easier and the bread will be sturdy enough to stand upright on its own if you choose to serve the baked bread outside of the food cans (but then that defeats the purpose of baking in food cans). The narrower and taller the food can, the more challenging it will be for you to plop the dough in it and to dislodge the baked bread.
(3) You want food cans that have the content information printed directly on the can and not on paper. The latter should never be used… fire hazard, burn baby burn.
(4) My favourite kind of food cans to use? Rectangular shaped sardine food cans and ~1/3 cup size tomato paste food cans. Refer to my feature image.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

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