Few of the foods I have loved from my childhood evoke more ire and disdain from friends and celebrated food icons than the much maligned processed cheese food, also known as American Cheese, the boldly orange stuff found in convenient individual plastic wraps. Often considered a lowbrow food, it must be admitted that it is a much used ingredient by harried mothers everywhere seeking to make something quick and satisfying for their children after a long day of school and a great way to shut them up for a few minutes which they scarf down their white bread and American cheese while watching the afternoon cartoons.
Before then, I actually did not know what a true grilled cheese sandwich in this form was for a long time. My family had always simply placed the cheese on bread slices, and toasted them in the toaster oven, and I had liked it just fine, and still did after learning the proper way. Truth be told, I still enjoy this as a quick snack when I can get away with it. But when I witnessed my friend’s mother butter the sides of two pieces of bread, slide not one but two pieces of American cheese between them, and them grill them between the plates of a George Foreman grill did my perception of how grand a grilled cheese could be was truly elevated. Perhaps that experience was one of the contributing elements to my love of cooking and its abilities to transform food.
So it is this memory that I pay homage to for this post, and with love that I transform it into this. I really hope I’m not using the word deconstruction incorrectly when I call this a deconstructed grilled cheese. It seems more like a reconstruction, but obviously I haven’t watched enough Top Chef to figure it out.
So behold my creation of love and quick thinking, a “deconstructed grilled cheese,” which is now in the form of homemade bread dough, studded with chopped garlic, stuffed with American cheese, and fried to doneness.
The ingredients are simple. Bread flour, yeast, American cheese, some garlic, and salt.
Ten ounces of flour, six ounces of water, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of yeast and minced garlic is combined, then 6 ounces of water is added, then the dough is kneaded until elastic and slightly tacky.
Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour with change.
After the first rise, divide the dough into pieces. While I went with twelve here, I would advise a greater cheese to dough ratio for future applications, so 16-20 would probably fit the bill.
Now for the fun part. Take an American Cheese slice.
Tear it into quarters.
Then with each quarter slice, fold it over twice. Now you have a cheese block. I enjoyed doing this as a kid.
Stuff each piece of bread with your cheese block, then form into a ball and pinch it to seal tightly.
If you happen to have scraps of cheese for some very cool project you will share later, you can use that too. Or if you happen to have that most treasured of American Cheese, government issue grade blocks, cutting it into half inch/quarter inch blocks would probably work really well.
Just eyeball it.
Then don’t do this. Be smart and place the dough balls on a baking tray spaced well apart from one another, preferably well floured. 45 minutes for this rise and we’ll be ready to go.
Heat up some vegetable oil for frying to 325 degrees F, and over moderate heat is probably best, or if you are very skillful, over high heat then lowering it. I am no frymaster, so some advice would be welcome here.
I’ll share my mistakes first. The first batch looked beautiful with the oil considerably hotter than is recommended.
The cheese did not seem to match up however, as the outside browned faster than I’d like and the cheese did not melt.
This is why I recommend smaller dough balls, which I did make from the existing dough balls by breaking down the dough balls and making some cheeseless ones to use up the excess dough. I also decided to experiment with different shapes.
Fry, flip, be amazed at the volume change.
At the proper temperature, the dough balls will not turn that amazing brown color, but will be wonderfully cooked through after a few minutes, about four or five in the oil, flipping every so often. Oh here’s a tip, if your happily frying dough balls happen to bleed cheese, they’re probably ready.
So, it looks decent enough.
Cut one in half to check. And what a surprise! A wonderful cheese smile formed from the expansion of the dough in the hot oil. They are happy to be eaten, and I was happy to do it.
Perfectly “oil baked” bread with a gooey cheesy filling to the last bite.
Sorry for the bad focus. The cheeseless ones are delicious and garlicky on their own, and the fried bread is a great appetizer.
So do as you will, maybe try different cheeses, and serve. They are also great at soaking up sauce, so they would probably go great with the right kind of soup too.
Happy cooking everyone.
Brian’s Deconstructed Grilled Cheese
- 10 oz. bread flour (about two cups)
- 6 oz. water (3/4 cup)
- 1 tsp. yeast
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3-6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2-3 oz. American cheese, a few slices or a small block.
- Vegetable oil, for frying, maybe three cups.
- Combine flour, salt, yeast and garlic in a mixing bowl, then add water. Knead with a stand mixer or with your hands until a good sticky mass is formed, adding more water or flour as necessary.
- Form into a ball and cover to rise until doubled in volume, an hour or so.
- Take American Cheese slices and quarter, folding each quarter into a small block, or cut block of American cheese into a bit larger than a half inch cube, or larger if desired.
- Divide the dough into several small balls (16-20) and form into balls. Create an indentation, place a piece of cheese in the middle and wrap it completely, pinching to seal the ball as best as possible. Let rise for another 45 minutes on a well floured surface with plenty of room between dough balls.
- Heat up vegetable oil to 325 degrees F over moderate heat. Fry for a few minutes, flipping to ensure even frying. Drain on paper towels, and try not to burn yourself while enjoying.