Smoked Cheese and Kumquat Bread

This is my winter topped bread. Check the summer version, my very popular Tomato-topped-bread at the end (Variation).

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Yields 2 laganes (focaccia-like flat breads), each serving 6-8 people as appetizer

2 cups fine semolina or pasta flour
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup barley flour (optional) or 1 more cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 teaspoons mixed ground coriander seeds, caraway and mahlep (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (optional)
1 ½ cups orange juice
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons olive oil
About 1 cup spring water (non chlorinated), or more, as needed
1 1/2 cups sliced kumquat peels (see NOTE)
2 cups coarsely grated or shaved Metsovone, or smoked cheddar cheese
Good pinch Aleppo pepper, or freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place flours, yeast and spices in the bowl of a standing mixer and toss with a spatula. Make a well in the center and pour in the orange juice, the milk and the olive oil.

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Fit the bowl to the mixer and work with the dough hook on low for 1 minute. With the motor running add water as needed and work the dough for 5 minutes or more, occasionally stopping to turn over the dough with a large spatula. The dough should still be wet and sticky, but should start to come off the sides of the bowl. If too dry, add a little more water, if too wet add a few tablespoons all purpose flour.

Lightly oil a large transparent or semi-transparent bowl, as well as a piece of plastic wrap. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Transfer to the oiled bowl. Cover with the oiled plastic wrap and let rise until double its original volume: about 1 hour or more.

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(When the dough has expanded to about 1 1/2 times its size you may transfer the bowl with the dough to the refrigerator, and leave it overnight and up to 24 hours. It will continue to rise slowly. Before proceeding further, bring to room temperature).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and halve with a spatula.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and place one piece of dough on each. Wet your fingers and push the dough making dimples with wet fingers, expanding it to fill the baking sheet. Cover with oiled plastic wraps and let the laganes rise for another 30 minutes –they won’t rise much.

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Preheat the oven to 450°F (240° C).

Spread the kumquat slices over each of the breads and top with the cheese, to cover the surface. Press lightly with your palm so that the cheese sticks to the peels, then sprinkle with pepper.
Turn on the broiler and place the first baking sheet 5-6 inches from the broiler. Bake for about 5 minutes, until the cheese melts. Move the bread to the bottom of the oven, and slide the other baking sheet to its place. After another 5 minutes, turn off the broiler and lower the heat to 375°F.

Transfer the second bread closer to the bottom of the oven, bellow the first, and continue baking for another 15 minutes, changing once more the positions of the breads –always at the lower part of the oven. Check that both breads are well browned on top and bottom, or bake them a bit longer. When done, transfer to a rack to cool for about 10 minutes, before slicing to serve.

NOTE: Only the peel of the kumquat is used for the breads. Halve each fruit and with a spoon remove and discard the bitter flesh, pips etc. Slice the peel with a knife or with scissors.

VARIATION:

Tomato Bread S

To make Tomato-Topped Bread spread first the cheese on the flattened dough, then top with thin tomato slices. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary, thyme or any other fresh herb you like, then bake as described above.

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