After hours of research, trial and error and taste testing, I've discovered the holy grail copycat recipe for Subway's Italian Herb and Cheese Bread. Soft, fluffy and dusted with 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.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- 75 g All-Purpose Flour
- ½ teaspoon Diastatic Malt Powder
- 3 g Active Dry Yeast
- 60 ml Water, lukewarm
- 600 g All-Purpose Flour
- 40 g Butter
- 17 g Active Dry Yeast
- 50 g White Sugar, granulated
- 15 g Kosher Salt
- 15 g Diastatic Malt Powder
- 340 ml Water, lukewarm
- ½ cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
- 3 tablespoons Oregano (or Italian Seasoning)
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 tablespoon Butter, melted
Substitutions and Diet Modifications
I don't have x... what can I use instead?
...Diastatic Malt Powder? 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 mine on Amazon for a very reasonable price, but you can likely find it at specialty stores or bulk sections of a supermarket.
...Active Dry Yeast? YOU CAN USE INSTANT YEAST BUT don't swap it with an equal amount of Active Dry Yeast. Active Dry Yeast is different than Instant Yeast and I prefer Active Dry almost always.
If you only have instant yeast, substitute the amounts of diastatic yeast in the "starter" section with 2.25g of quick yeast, and substitute the "dough" section with 12.75g of quick yeast. The recipe won't be identical but it will be close enough. I understand yeast has been hard to come across since the middle of 2020. Work with what you have.
...Monterey Jack Cheese? You can use Muenster, Havarti or Gouda. Really, you can use any kind you want as long as it's not overly strong. Different cheeses that are a different color may make the bread look different but it will still be delicious!
Can I make this vegan? Great news - this recipe is already vegetarian. If you're vegan, you can use vegan cheese as a substitute, or just leave it out all together to just make an herb loaf. You'd also need to swap butter for a plant based alternative of your choice. Make sure your diastatic malt powder is vegan if you have dietary restrictions as some are not dairy-free.
Can I make this gluten-free? Theoretically you could substitute the all-purpose flour for a gluten-free variety and leave out the malt powder. I'd say if you're gluten-free this may not be the easiest recipe to customize just because baking is so sensitive. Here is a Subway style bread recipe that is gluten-free by Gluten Free on a Shoestring! I haven't tried it as I'm not gluten-sensitive, but this is the highest rated recipe online.
Instructions, FAQs and Other Tips
1. 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 often don't. This article from King Arthur talks about why people proof their yeast (originally called proving). It was a process to make sure (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 and want to test it, 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) if it foams or bubbles, you know your yeast is alive and you can skip proving during the next step.
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.)
3. After the dough has rested for 30 minutes, you fold the dough and then let it rest 3 separate times for 10 minutes each interval. After, shape the dough into 4-5 even logs and place on a baking sheet. If you want to be authentic, Subway uses silicone bread molds (shown above) to maintain the bread shape.
4. 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.
How do I know when my bread is done? After 20 minutes, take the temperature of the middle of the baguette with an Instant Read Thermometer. You want it to read between 190 and 210 degrees (Celsius). If you don't have a thermometer, insert a toothpick or knife and look for it to come out clean. If dough sticks, it's not ready.
Alternatively, if you're a comfortable or seasoned baker, done bread has a "sound" to it. Turn the dough over and tap it - it should sound hollow. The Kitchn has a great article talking about bread doneness.
How can I make regular Italian bread from Subway? Great question! All you have to do is leave off the cheese and seasonings. The other ingredients and steps are identical.
How can I make my entire Subway order at home? If you like their sauces and cookies, this post may be of help to you. Learn how to copy Subway mayonnaise, chipotle southwest sauce, sweet onion sauce and white chocolate macadamia nut cooking.
What equipment do I need for this recipe? Bread making can be as simple or as complicated as you want. One thing you really need to bake is a kitchen scale. If you want to bake on a budget, you can do this with a good oven and good old fashioned work. A stand mixer with a dough hook (Kitchen Aid brand recommended), silicone baguette molds and an instant read thermometer are nice to have.
Zero Waste Tips and Storage
Almost everything in this recipe is a pantry staple. If you find yourself left with a lot of diastatic malt powder it's the perfect time to make bagels, pretzels or sourdough.
The best tip for avoiding food waste in this recipe is proper storage. This bread doesn't have as many preservatives as store-bough bread and may go stale/spoiled rather quickly if it's not used. It's best to use the bread within 2-3 days. If you can't go through it in that time, it freezes well. To reheat, let it defrost in the fridge and it's best to heat it up in the oven until warmed through and slightly crispy.
If you buy active dry yeast it can also spoil. I store my yeast in a reusable container in the fridge. I make sure I never use measuring materials that are wet or cross contaminated in order to keep the yeast good as long as possible.
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
- ½ 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 ¼ 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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