Who does not love a grilled cheese sandwich? In this post I will be focusing on the foundation of the sandwich; the bread. I love how this sandwich takes you down memory lane. As a kid it was the only sandwich I would say “I want two!”. The same remains true in my house today. My children love grilled cheese. Whenever I ask if they want grilled cheese they always say ” Yes! I want two… And tomato soup?” Tomato soup and grilled cheese are forever paired in our house. You can find the recipe for my yummy tomato soup here. The foundation of any good sandwich is the bread. I like to start off with an extra sharp cheddar jalapeno bread. What’s a little more cheese when you are making a grilled cheese. Adding cheese to your bread gives the sandwich another depth of flavor.
You can get a little wild and crazy with your fillings for your grilled cheese sandwich. Most of my house likes it straight up traditional with just cheese in the center, but my favorite is cheddar, parmesan, bacon, avocado, tomato, and sprouts! Yum…. The skies the limit. I have strayed a little further from the traditional grilled cheese as I have gotten older. I have not only changed my bread, but I have stopped using processed cheese. I prefer to cut my cheese from the block or wedge, it tastes much better and is better for you.
Now for a little bit of history… Lets take a look at the origins of the grilled cheese sandwich.
American Grilled Cheese Sandwich History
The modern American grilled cheese sandwich is a more recent invention. In the early 1900s, a young man named James L. Kraft was pushed out of his partner’s business and stranded in Chicago with only $65 to his name. Kraft bought a mule, purchased cheese wholesale, and then sold it to local grocers. He soon realized that the major drawback for his cheese customers was spoilage; most restaurants and store owners did not have refrigerators so cheese wheels had to be used within a day of cutting.
In 1915, Kraft invented a way to manufacture a blended, pasteurized cheese that he called “processed cheese.” This pasteurized cheese could be transported across the country without spoiling. He patented his invention in 1916 and soon began selling Kraft cheese across the nation. He sold packaged bulk cheese and grated cheese.
Early grilled cheese sandwich recipes were made by mixing the grated cheese with a binder, such as salad dressing, white sauce or mustard, and toasting the sandwich between two slices of buttered bread. These were called “Toasted Cheese Sandwiches.”
During World War I, the United States Army purchased 6 million pounds of Kraft’s cheese. In World War II, Navy cooks prepared countless “American cheese filling sandwiches” for hungry seamen.
Depression-era families found processed cheese to be a cheap and filling meal. Kraft sold nearly 8 million boxes of its macaroni and cheese during the Depression, under the marketing campaign that you could feed a family of four for 19 cents. School cafeterias purchased cans of tomato soup to go with toasted cheese sandwiches to satisfy the Vitamin C and protein requirements for school lunches, leading to the classic childhood combination.
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Grow in Popularity
Soon, grilled cheese sandwiches were everywhere. A 1934 Washington Post article explained, “Sunday night is a grilling time… Grilled cheese sandwiches are no new thing. We get them in drug stores for lunch and at tea rooms for supper. But when the housewife begins to grill there is no limit to the combinations she may use and the delicious Sunday night suppers she may serve. Open-face sandwiches of cheese and tomato grilled, offer a combination of flavors sure to please the palate.”
In 1949, Kraft Foods introduced Kraft Singles, individually wrapped slices of processed cheese, and it became even easier for home cooks to make grilled cheese sandwiches.
In Search of Creative Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Today, grilled cheese is making a resurgence with gourmet versions popping up in restaurants across the country and people exploring international varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches.
In the U.S. cheddar has become the most popular cheese to use in the sandwich. But in Oregon, visitors have discovered grilled cheese heaven. In southern Oregon, Rogue Creamery, famous for blue cheese, puts together such interesting combinations as their house-made mild white cheddar and a mild Rogue blue to create a noteworthy sandwich. They offer recipes for even more creative options, like a Crispy Rosemary TouVelle grilled cheese sandwich.
Food & Wine Magazine compiled a list of the Best Grilled Cheese in the U.S. and includes such cheesy delights as the Crabby Melt from Grilled Cheese & Co in Catonsville, Maryland. The local chain serves up the regional favorite made with local crab and jack cheese on top of homemade “crabby dip.”
You could easily put together a road trip across the U.S. to taste gourmet grilled cheese offerings, the sandwich born as a simple toasted white bread sandwich with American cheese.
I would love to hear the creative ways you make the beloved grilled cheese sandwich.
Keeping it fresh!
Jalapeno Cheddar Bread
- August 18, 2020
- 371 Cals/Serving
- Print this
- TO A MEDIUM MIXING BOWL
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese - divided
- 1 large jalapeno - seeded and diced
- TO A LARGE MIXING BOWL
- 2 cups warm water
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- SET ASIDE FOR TOPPING
- 1/3 - 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
- 10 round slices jalapeno - (or more, to taste)
- Step 1
- 1. Add flour, salt, cheese, and jalapenos to medium mixing bowl. Bread flour gives the best texture and rise for this bread, and I find shredding my own cheese helps it melt better.
- Step 2
- 2. Add warm water and yeast to large mixing bowl – then add flour mixture. The water should be warm to the touch, but not hot. Like a baby’s bath water.
- Step 3
- 3. Stir together and fold dough in on itself. Fold the dough from the outside of the bowl towards the center, turning the bowl a little each time, until you have folded the dough in on itself 8-10 times.
- Step 4
- 4. Cover and let rise 1 hour.
- Step 5
- 5. Fold dough in on itself again. Same method as before, although you will notice the dough looks and feels a bit more elastic
- Step 6
- 6. Cover and let rise again for 1 hour. Halfway through this rise time, preheat oven to 450°F with your Dutch oven inside it. Let it preheat the full 30 minutes.
- Step 7
- 7. Turn out dough and shape into a rough ball. Lightly flour your surface and your hands, then flip dough over and fold the corners of the dough in towards the center, about 6-8 times, until a rough ball is formed. Flip the dough over onto the piece of parchment paper. Use a sharp knife to score the dough, spray with cooking spray (so the toppings stick), then add more shredded cheese and sliced jalapenos. Use parchment to transfer dough to Dutch oven.
- Step 8
- 8. Bake dough with the lid on for 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake 20 minutes. This creates a steamy environment for the bread to bake and rise, then when the lid is off, it let the bread brown and crisp nicely.
- Step 9
- 9. Remove bread from pot and parchment paper and let cool for 1-2 hours.