Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread

Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread
Sometimes, you win Life Lottery.  Sometimes you know it in the moment, and sometimes you're young, you feel it then but you maybe don't fully realize until later.  Such is the case with my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Burt.  And in narrowed focus, Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread.

This Cheese Bread has endured in my memory for literal decades, and I only had it once.

I suppose I've been feeling Life of late.  There's life, ya know, your every day kind of days and then there's Life.  Big L grabs you, rattles you, shakes you until your eyes pop.  Such has been Life here with Finn.

Little l went on hold for me, I haven't baked, I have done nothing except stress the hell out and take care of Finn.  Because Life.  So I apologize (not really) if this is a tad lengthier than usual.

Aunt Ruth, Uncle Burt, and their sons Dan and Kerry lived next door to us when I was a tot, our neighbors.  But they were more than neighbors, they became, were, are, our family.  Things I do daily, still, I learned from Aunt Ruth.  She is with me.

These are Life Lottery people.  Like, I can't, I'm struggling to find the right words to describe...these are once in a lifetime people.

Every time I saw them, and ok, fine, it was the 70's, neither here nor there really and I've just dated myself, it was like magic.  Truly.  Like radiating swirls of happy and love and sunshine and warmth.  Etched deeply in my soul forever.

Lucky for me, I have a rockin' memory.  A steel trap as my mom says.  Sometimes it's hazy and, thankfully, often it's as vivid as if it were yesterday.  Like Kerry's car that had a loudspeaker on top and he'd talk to me as if it were his car, ya know, pre-Kitt.  And Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread.

Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread end
Holy heck, right?!  I did not bump the saturation on this photo either.  It is really like this.
Sadly for us, they moved away, way up north to woodsy Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, on Native American land.  We visited them and the entire time?, magical radiating swirls of joy.

There was a Husky named Koa who had a home but roamed freely, visiting everybody daily and it was an event to behold.  Everything would stop for his visit.  Koa was a bear, actual bear size, the biggest, fluffiest bear-sized, sweet as pie, majestic Husky I have ever seen in my life.

I remember my Uncle Burt gleefully showing us around, sitting with him in their living room, gazing out at the trees, ice clinking in glasses, adults chatting away.

And then there was Aunt Ruth who loved to cook, who had thousands of recipes with notes on where they came from, who she made them for, how they turned out, and made sure to never serve guests the same dish twice, pulling this stunning loaf of Cheese Bread out of the oven for us. 

It glowed.  I kid you not.

Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread sliced in half
It was unreal.  I had never tasted anything like it.  I looked up at her in utter awe, wide smile across her wonderful face.  I have longed for this bread since.

A bit ago, I asked my mom about everyone and in jogging her down memory lane, she got in touch with Dan to say hi and reconnect.

Living Life as I have more recently, The Cheese Bread memory came rushing at me so I emailed my mom again.  She kindly sent me Dan's email address and the email I got back from him, well, whip out the tissues.

I wasn't sure how he'd feel about getting a random out-of-the-blue email from me decades on plus a query about this Cheese Bread recipe but lo, I was floored.

Not only did he still have The Cheese Bread recipe but he keeps it on his phone with him at all times. 

I know.  I said get out the tissues.

As he told me, this recipe is, and I quote, " plated...encased in amber...vacuum sealed," it is "legendary."  Spoken of "in hushed tones, with closed eyes, and longing in our hearts," where they "anticipate baking day with trembling fingers."

I hope Dan forgives me for quoting him directly as I inquired solely if I could post the recipe here, but his eloquent, and accurate, words are infinitely better than anything I can muster.

Not only did he share Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread but also very specific tips and rules from her and himself to execute this as Aunt Ruth did.  Normally I'm a rule bender or breaker, but absolutely not with this.  It is rare for me to say this but do not deviate or skip anything.

Dan pointed out that the bread itself is quite basic and I have to say, when I read the recipe, I was stunned at its simplicity, how so few ingredients creates this absolute marvel.  The tips, he said, are what knocks this basic bread into otherworldly territory.

Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread ingredients
Dan also points out that this serves one.  Ya know, just fyi.

Ok, let's do this.  And I cannot even remotely begin to tell you how excited I am, and excited is a very lame grouping of letters to describe this feeling, to bake this myself.  Nervous, but excited.  Channeling Aunt Ruth....

Baking tips of note:
  • use extra sharp cheddar and in block form only, yes both only (Aunt Ruth used Kraft)
  • freeze the cheese block for several days ahead for improved crumbliness
  • butter the loaf pan liberally, like liberally, with real butter
  • ensure the outside and top have exposed cheese crumbles so they melt, get crispy, and hopefully char
My tip?  Use a metal loaf pan.*  My other tip?  While butter quantities are listed, it is for the required nutritional calculator; the only not hard and fast rule here, use your best judgment but do not skimp.  The butter?  I used salted Irish butter, so salted is fine.

Oh, and let's clear one thing right up:  this is cheese with bread in it.  And I will not apologize for it either.

To start, crumble the cheese.  Various sizes are perfect.

Next, toss your bread flour, instant yeast, and salt in a mixer* bowl.  You can do this by hand if you are sans mixer (zero excuses for not making this Cheese Bread!). 

mixing flour in stand mixer
Slowly stream in the warm water as the mixer is running.  Aunt Ruth used her paddle* to stir.

Once it comes together into a firm dough, switch to a dough hook* and mix for five to eight minutes.  If the dough isn't catching the hook, stop the machine, form a ball, and push the hook right through it.

mixing the dough
Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread dough mixed
Cheese time.  Knead the cheese in by hand.  Yes it will get everywhere, that's part of the fun.

adding cheese to dough
See?  Cheese with bread in it.
Give the dough a slight shape that mimics your loaf pan, set it in there, brush* with melted butter and time to rise. 

brushing dough with melted butter
Sorry for the awkward lighting here.
Dan said Aunt Ruth, and this is an incredible tip, used to heat a glass of water in her microwave and quickly tossed the loaf pan inside.  Brilliant.  Verified; it works.

Check the dough at a half hour as you might be surprised.  It may not need a full sixty to rise.

Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread risen
My bread flour, which I keep in the freezer, was a tad cold still when I started this as I was much too anxious to bake so my rise probably could have been better.  Will try again, hahaha.
How do you know when bread is proofed and ready for baking?  Make a small indent with your finger in the top.  If the dough springs right back, it needs more proofing.  If it's slow to come back and leaves a small dent, it's ready.

Ok!  Toss your loaf pan in the oven and stick close so you can smell this baking.  It literally smells like a cheese shop.

Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread baked in pan
And voilà.  Holy heck., it's madness.  Genius.  The best damn thing you will ever eat.

Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread
Oh I know, photo re-share, I know.  But obviously you can see why.
It is so good.  mmmph, so good.  So freaking good.  *fluttering eyes*  *passing out*

Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread half
I about cried when I tasted it.  After dreaming about Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread for so long, here it was on my counter.  This time Life with a big L in a good way.

Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread sliced on rack
Thank you, Dan.  From the bottom of my heart, from my soul, my most deepest, sincerest thank you.  I love you, Aunt Ruth, mwah!  Life Lottery, people.  Life Lottery.

Aunt Ruth's Cheese Bread slice

*The loaf pans, stand mixers, mixing paddles, dough hooks, and pastry brushes are Amazon affiliate links.  Happy baking!  Please see the "info" tab for more, well, info.

Share your thoughts :

  1. ~Chrissie O.June 05, 2023

    Hi! I'm new to your site; this was the 1st post I've read. First off, I understand about Life Lottery people; your Aunt Ruth was amazing. My Grandma Dixie was, also (funny - her sister, equally lovely, was Ruth!!!). I was literally salivating reading this - the best memories, ever, aren't they??? I'm very pleased to have discovered your site; you brought back some amazing memories of my own. Thank you for such a poignant tribute - and for such a lovely recipe; it's always the "tips" that make a recipe, isn't it? Like, words on a page a great, but the instructions about how something is supposed to look/feel under your hands/react, etc., are something priceless!!! Blessings, ~Chrissie

    1. Chrissie! Thank you for making my day with your comments! Holy heck, everything you said! I'm thrilled you've had a Life Lottery person in your life! I'm thrilled you're salivating over the recipe! I'm thrilled you get it -- tips are totally key, especially look, feel, react, plus smell as otherwise even the simplest recipe can be super confusing.

      Truly, thank you so much for taking the time to write and for all the incredible things you said!

  2. AnonymousJune 05, 2023

    It's even better when you add sliced green nonsense, omg to die for!!

  3. AnonymousJune 05, 2023

    That was supposed to be slice green onions I don't know where the nonsense came from, haha

    1. I bet! Mike is onion-averse so, oh wait, I can make two! Thanks for the excellent tip!


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