After hours of research and trial and error, I have discovered the holy grail recipe for Subway’s Italian Herb and Cheese Bread. Soft, fluffy and caked in cheese, this is THE recipe everyone needs in their lives.
This recipe is part of my series recreating Subway 100% from scratch at home. This post can be found here.
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Ingredient Breakdown for Italian Herb and Cheese Bread
Other than the diastatic malt powder, all these ingredients are super common to have in the pantry at home. You don’t NEED it, but it won’t be the same without it. Modernist Pantry describes diastatic malt powder as “the “secret ingredient” savvy bread bakers use to promote a strong rise, great texture, and lovely brown crust“.
I got my diastatic malt powder on Amazon, and at least in Canada I don’t have any recommendations on where else you could get this if you live in a small-ish town like me. You may be able to find it at specialty stores or bulk sections near you.
For the yeast, I 100% recommend active dry yeast. If you only have instant yeast, substitute the amounts in “starter” with 2.25g of quick yeast, and 12.75g for the dough section. There is a strong chance this will change the outcome. I only have access to active dry yeast because of the pandemic so I couldn’t experiment with that particular substitution.
The recipe for Subway’s Italian Herb and Cheese Bread is put together by creating a bread starter out of flour, yeast, diastatic malt and water. After combining all these ingredients, you leave the starter covered for 4-6 hours.
Don’t I Need to Proof My Yeast?
You’ll notice that I don’t proof my yeast. This is actually something you don’t have to do and I don’t. This article from King Arthur talks about why people proof their yeast (originally called proving yeast) was a process to make sure (aka prove) the yeast was alive. If you know that your yeast is healthy and isn’t expired – follow the recipe as is.
If you’re unsure, you can take the 3g of yeast in the starter and mix it with 20ml of lukewarm water before combining it with the diastatic malt and flour. Then, add it to the other ingredients (including the other 40ml of water) and you know that your yeast will work for the next part of the recipe so you won’t need to prove again.
If you do proof your yeast, you’re just looking for the yeast to foam or bubble. It’s an indicator of whether or not the yeast is alive and able to give a good rise. It’s not necessary. That being said, if it makes you more comfortable you’re welcome to do it how you always have. I’m just lazy.
Rising and Baking the Bread
After the dough rests, you combine the starter with all the ingredients for the dough. You want to knead for about 8 minutes. I recommend a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer with a dough hook, but you’re welcome to knead by hand if you have the patience. After kneading, allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes (room temperature being 25-30 degrees Celsius, ideally.)
After the dough has rested for 30 minutes, you fold the dough and then let it rest 3 separate times. After, shape the dough into 4-5 even logs and place into silicone baguette pan like this one I got on Amazon (Canada) (US). Top the bread with the ingredients marked as “topping” and bake for 20-25 minutes with an oven safe bowl filled with water at the bottom of the oven. Once the bread is done, broil the loaves for 1-2 minutes to achieve a crispy and brown crust.
Italian Herb and Cheese Bread Subway Copycat
- 75 g all purpose flour
- 0.5 tsp diastatic malt powder
- 3 g active yeast
- 60 ml water lukewarm
- 600 g all purpose flour
- 40 g butter
- 17 g active yeast
- 50 g sugar white, granulated
- 15 g kosher salt
- 15 g diastic malt powder
- 340 ml water lukewarm
- 1/2 cup monterey jack cheese shredded
- 2 tbsp parmesan cheese freshly grated
- 3 tbsp oregano or italian seasoning
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp butter melted
- Mix all the dry ingredients for the bread starter and then add the water.
- Cover the starter with a clean dish cloth and allow to sit at room temperature for 4-6 hours.
- *Optional – mix yeast with 1/4 cup (60ml) of the lukewarm water and allow to dissolve. This step is NOT to proof the yeast, just to dissolve it in order to mix easier. You don't have to do this, but I find it lends to an easier time to knead. Keep in mind, you only need 280ml of water added to the final dough and not the entire 340ml if you use this method.
- In a stand mixer, add all the ingredients for the dough with the starter that was set aside for 4-6 hours and knead for about 8 minutes.
- Let the dough rest for 30 minutes at room temperature, ideally around 25 – 30 degrees Celsius.
- Gently fold the dough a few times and then allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Repeat this step 2 more times (3 in total). Before you let the dough rest for the last time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees C.
Baking and Toppings
- Divide the dough into 4-5 baguette style loaves. Ideally before baking they should be place in a silicone baguette pan to maintain structure. You can skip this if you don't care about the perfect shape in your loaf.
- Combine all the topping ingredients (minus butter) and set aside. With a pastry brush, coat the dough in butter and roll in the herb and cheese mixture.
- Let rest for another 20-30 minutes until bread has expanded to desired size.
- Add an oven safe bowl full of water to the bottom of your oven along with the bread, and bake for 25-30 minutes (or until the bread is desired size and texture). The bread should be browned slightly.
- Turn the oven to broil, watch closely and broil until the color is even, about 1-2 minutes.
- After the bread is done, cool them while draped in a clean dish cloth to keep the loaves super fluffy and moist.
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A Simpler, But Less Authentic Recipe
If you don’t want to deal with the diastatic malt powder, there is a more accessible version that isn’t 100% identical but less “hard to find” ingredients. Inspired from Sandra’s Homespun Life.
- 5 2/3 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp sugar, granulated
- 2 cups water, lukewarm
- divided into 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons, and 2 tablespoons
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 5 cups flour, all purpose
- (same topping as above recipe)
- Combine the yeast with 2 tablespoons of water heated to 105 degrees. Allow to prove for about 10 minutes.
- In a stand mixer bowl, add water, sugar and yeast mixture. Stir until combined and add olive oil.
- Add in the salt and the flour a cup at a time until combined.
- Knead on low (2-4) for 8-10 minutes.
- Divide dough into equal halves and place each in a greased bowl (greased with olive oil) and add more oil to the top of the dough. Allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Punch out the excess air in the dough and divide each half into halves. Brush the loaves in melted butter and coat in the herb and cheese topping.
- Add an oven safe bowl filled with water to the bottom of your oven.
- Place the dough on a baking sheet (or silicone baguette molds) and bake the loaves for 25-35 minutes, depending on your oven. You want them to be browned slightly and maintain a bit of softness with a crunch.
- To cool, place on a wire rack covered in a clean dish cloth.