Easy Crusty Jalapeno Cheese Bread Fantastico

READY IN: 20hrs 45mins




  • Important: you will need a heavy pot with a lid. A Dutch oven is ideal; I just use a heavy stew pot with thick sides. I start the dough at 9pm if I want it for dinner the next day.
  • In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
  • Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and flop dough onto it. Fold it over on itself once or twice. Put some flour on your hands if the dough sticks to them. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
  • Divide the bag of cheese into 1/4s, and divide the jar of peppers into 4 portions, too, taking care to remove any stems or woody bits.
  • Remove plastic and press the dough flat. Sprinkle it with a portion of peppers and cheese. Fold in half, press flat, sprinkle again. I usually only use 3 of the 4 portions of cheese/peppers. Mash it into a ball, pressing firmly to seal the seam.
  • Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  • At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Drop dough into pot, taking care not to burn your fingers. It may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  • Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 or longer, until loaf is beautifully browned. This may take as long as 60minutes total bake time, but mine is usually done by 45min total.
  • Cool on a rack. Listen to it crackle as it cools.