Madison’s Spicy Cheese Bread

27 Nov

My finished product

The Farmer’s Market is one of my absolute favorite things about Madison. Saturdays in summer, I’d go to the Capitol Square with $25 and come home with bags of fresh, local, beautifully grown veggies, fruit, flowers, pastries, and other goodies. What could be better?! I love that everyone is so eager to be supporting local farmers and businesses. It’s one of the things that make Madison a truly special city! And just think, all of the restaurants on the Square can just walk out their doors on Saturday and buy all of their produce for the week.  Amazing.

Taken at the Farmer's Market, September 2011

Surely, I’ll go into more detail in Spring when the outdoor market returns. I could go on for days. Well, it’s something to look forward to through a Wisconsin winter!

Anyone who’s been to the Madison Farmer’s Market knows that Spicy Cheese Bread is almost a mandatory purchase.  People come from near and far for this stuff, lining up for a warm loaf, which must weigh about 3 pounds with all the glorious cheese in it.

(Dietitian disclaimer: I wouldn’t recommend eating this stuff every Saturday. Holy calories and fat! Whoo!)

And, usually, it never even makes it home! A perfect treat, pulling pieces off bit by bit while walking once around the square, and before you know it, it’s nearly gone.

The real thing

Of course, if you’re not near Madison, you can buy it for $8 a loaf plus $10 shipping from Stella’s Bakery. But, I thought I’d give it a shot (for probably quite a bit less than $18)!

I adapted my recipe from a “pull-apart” bread recipe, which gives it the lovely doughy texture, and is easy to rip off in pieces.


One packet (2 ¼ tsp.) Red Star Instant Yeast (+ 1/4 cup warm water, sugar, per directions on packet)

3 -4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 black pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp crushed red pepper

1 Tbsp olive oil

About 1 cup water

Provolone and Monterey Jack cheeses, cubed


Olive oil, Red pepper flakes (required!), parmesan and romano cheeses, Italian seasoning (optional)

Mix yeast and water in a bowl, following the directions on the yeast packet (using warm water, and a pinch of sugar). Let sit for 5 minutes. Add 3 cups flour and about half the water and mix until combined. (If you have a stand mixer, mix on low.) Add the rest of the ingredients except the cheese. You can add a little bit more water at a time to get it to all stick together, until dough is a little sticky and soft.

Knead dough ball on a floured breadboard with your hands for 5 minutes, or on medium-low on a mixer. Fold in cheese cubes while kneading, and extra red pepper flakes if you want. Below is how much cubed cheese I used. Dare I say, I’d use more next time!

Place dough ball in a bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for about 2 hours. It should double in size during this time.

Transfer dough into a round cake pan, greased. It’s going to be pretty puffy, so it’s ok if you pat it down into a ball a little. Then, let rise again for about another hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees in the meantime.

Brush top with olive oil, and sprinkle some parmesan and romano cheeses, a little Italian seasoning, and a bunch of red pepper flakes on top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on the outside. Eat it while it’s warm and gooey!


12 Responses to “Madison’s Spicy Cheese Bread”

  1. Deb Persak November 28, 2011 at 6:36 am #

    That bread is to die for! I bought it at the Madison Farmer’s Market and everyone shared while it was still warm – I had nothing left to bring home. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Dana January 17, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    I’ve never actually tasted the original, but I’ve heard great things about it. I made this tonight and think it might actually be manna from Heaven. Perfection! So wonderful. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Julie January 23, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

      Thanks so much!! Next time you stop by Madison, try it, you won’t be disappointed!

      • Cookie September 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

        We live in Indpls, but my husband is from WI. We make special trips just for this bread. He’s going up this week for the Packer game and is stopping on his way home Saturday for the bread. I have doubts it will make it home, so with this recipe, I’ll be prepared to make my own! Thanks!

  3. Mel June 21, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    We lived in Madison for several years before we left for Kansas City for my husband’s work a year ago. My Madison-born daughter asks for spicy cheese bread every time we go to the Farmer’s Market here in KC and is disappointed when she discovers it’s not here. Can’t wait to try this recipe and cheer up my little girl

  4. Lafayette July 20, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    One of the biggest things I miss about living in Wisconsin is Stella’s Spicy Cheese Bread. I just tried this today and OH MY GOODNESS… I used Monterrey jack jalepeno cheese for an extra kick. It was fantastic. Not a 100% replica of Stella’s, but it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to Stella’s Spicy Cheese Bread out in Utah. I’ve tried other recipes and this is the closest by far.

  5. cookinseason May 5, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    Badger living abroad here – so glad I found this recipe and so excited to try it!

  6. strangemodegirl August 30, 2014 at 1:36 am #

    I used to live in Madison and miss this bread so much. Curious if you have tried doing it a bread machine on the dough cycle and then baking it in the oven after?

  7. lizzie November 1, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    I desperately miss this bread. I’ve been tempted to ask people to ship it to me, but I’m not sure how well it would survive the trip. I’m going to try this this weekend. Thanks!

  8. Cat May 16, 2016 at 6:57 pm #

    I really need to try this. I was born and raised in Wisconsin, lived in Madison for many years and attended many Saturday markets and, of course, bought many cheese breads!!! I moved to Colorado for a while, and now in the South, and no cheese bread to be found. *sob

  9. Cat May 28, 2016 at 4:03 pm #

    The original, one and only that I’ve ever really known for Madison “cheese bread” is from Stella’s Bakery. Your picture shows cheese bread in a bag from Oakhouse Bakery? I believe I’ve tried their version some time ago and nobody else in town can come close to Stella’s. Your recipe looks good, though.

  10. Angie July 21, 2016 at 8:14 am #

    Is there a point at which you can freeze this dough prior to baking? Nothing is better than fresh out of the oven, steaming hot cheese bread so I’m hoping to make a large batch and freeze the loafs. Thoughts?

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