Asiago Black Pepper Bread
No kneading is required for this easy, artisanal-quality Asiago Black Pepper Bread. Simply mix together six ingredients before bed, shape the dough into a boule in the morning, then bake it after a brief rest. Slather with butter or serve with a fresh Tomato Burrata Salad.
Sometimes when I dine out at a restaurant, I can hear my mother’s voice in my head saying, “Don’t fill up on bread before the meal comes.”
But I have to admit that one of my favorite parts about going out to a really nice restaurant is exactly that: the bread.
Last year for our anniversary, Pete and I went to a restaurant that had a dedicated bread man who rolled a big cart of freshly baked loaves from table to table, and that guy was practically my best friend for the night. He had 15 different types of bread to choose from, and as he described each loaf I secretly wanted a slice of every single one.
By the end of our feast, he came to say goodbye and admitted he tried not to come to my table after a while so I’d still have room for the meal. Ha!
What can I say? I have a true appreciation and love for artisanal-quality bread, especially when it’s a loaf with a spongy interior and a crackly, bubbled golden crust.
Slice or tear pieces, and slather with butter. Maybe sprinkle on a little sea salt. Repeat. Be happy.
In my years as a cook, I haven’t made as much bread as I would have expected, given how much I love it. There’s pretty much one reason for that. If you want a pro-level loaf of bread with a perfectly golden, crackly crust and a light, spongy interior, you need steam. That’s the secret!
Steam delivered in the first stage of baking keeps the crust soft and allows the bread to fully expand while the yeast is still active.
After this initial stage of baking, the oven continues baking the loaf without steam, allowing the crust to begin drying out and fully caramelize into a glossy, golden exterior.
Artisan bread bakers use special steam bake ovens that deliver moisture at the perfect time to create a light and crusty loaf. Over the years I’ve tried several work-arounds, such as placing a tray of boiling water into the oven with the bread, but the results were always lackluster. I was jealous of these fancy-sounding steam ovens.
Several weeks ago I got invited to cook in the Bon Appétit Kitchen at 1 World Trade Center, which is outfitted with the latest and greatest Samsung appliances, and oh, I got giddy.
When I read that their double wall oven has a steam bake feature that delivers moisture at specific times, my mind immediately went to bread. I have always felt that my bread never looked as good as the artisanal baker’s loaves, and now I’d be able to test it out.
When I saw the loaf of bread I developed baked in the Samsung Double Wall Oven, I was floored. The loaf was so golden on the outside, and it also baked up so much bigger and lighter than my loaf at home.
But don’t despair if you don’t have this oven, because I have a work around of throwing ice cubes into the oven during baking that will help create some steam too.
I developed this recipe as a hybrid of several popular methods, with elements from Jim Lahey’s famous No Knead Bread, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François’s 5-Minute Artisan Bread, and a flavor profile that riffs off a Parmesan peppercorn bread I’ve been eating since I was a little girl.
Cooks of every level can make it and wow everyone they know. I’m thinking of mailing loaves out for the holidays this year!
How to Make Asiago Black Pepper Bread:
To make the bread, combine flour, water, yeast, salt, Asiago cheese, and coarsely cracked black pepper in a bowl.
Give it a stir with a sturdy spatula until the ingredients are well distributed and a shaggy dough forms.
Cover the dough, and let it rest overnight in the fridge. When you wake up in the morning it will look bubbled and sticky!
Grab the dough with clean, dry hands and shape it into a boule.
I find that it’s just on the edge of stickiness where I don’t need to add flour to my hands, but feel free to use a little bit if you need to.
Place the boule onto a parchment paper–lined baking sheet, and let it rest for 45 minutes.
Toward the end of the resting period, preheat the oven to 450° and score the bread as desired (I like an “x” right in the middle). This helps the bread bake up taller and lighter in the oven.
Bake the bread for 35 minutes, until the loaf is golden and crusty on the outside, and reads at 200° on the inside. Then let the loaf cool for 45 minutes.
Once the bread has cooled, I like to slice it into thick pieces, so I can really enjoy the spongy, light interior and big hunks of crackly crust. Enjoy!
Asiago Black Pepper Bread
- 15 oz bread flour, by weight (3 cups, measured)
- 1 1/2 cups warm water 110°
- 4 oz Asiago cheese crumbled
- 1 tbsp cracked black pepper
- 2 1/4 tsp rapid rise yeast (one 1/4 oz packet)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- In a large bowl, stir to combine all ingredients using a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon, until the pepper and cheese look evenly distributed, and no flour streaks remain. The dough will look very wet and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, for 10–12 hours.
- Place a piece of parchment paper on top of a baking sheet.
- Remove dough from the refrigerator, then scrape downward against the sides of the bowl with a spatula so the dough is balled at the bottom. Grab the dough with dry hands, and shape it into a boule using the palms of your hands for about 30 seconds. This process of shaping creates surface tension, which will help the bread bake up into a beautiful dome instead of spreading flat. Place the boule onto the parchment paper–lined baking sheet for 45 minutes, uncovered.
- 20 minutes before the 45-minute resting period ends, preheat the oven to 450°.
- Using a razor or very sharp knife, score the boule as desired, such as with three parallel slashes, an “x” shape, etc.
- If you have the Samsung Double Wall Oven with the steam bake feature, bake the loaf for 35 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and crusty on the outside, and has an internal temperature of 200°, as measured with an instant-read thermometer inserted into the side of the loaf and into the center.
- If you have a regular oven, place the bread into the oven and throw a handful of ice cubes onto the bottom surface of the oven along with it and quickly close the door. Bake for 35 minutes, or until 200F inside.
- Let the loaf cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in March 2020. Originally published in June 2017.
This post is sponsored by Samsung. All opinions are my own.