Growing up, my very favorite event in public school may very well have been Cheese Zombie day. Warm, soft dough wrapped around melty, gooey cheese and eaten out of hand on the schoolyard, they were amazing. Turns out these weren’t an exclusive specialty of the house at Pleasant Hill Elementary; friends from around the East Bay remember them fondly. Some folks have even admitted they prefer them with a slip of ham inside, though I have severed all ties with those people, and align myself with the cheese-and-only-cheese camp.
A friend of a friend acquired this recipe from a former lunch lady, and I’ve adapted it for household proportions (unless you want to make 200 of these – if so, let me know! I’m equipped for that!). I’ve tried it with fancier cheeses, but will admit they come out a little runny and oily. This really is the one time I will allow Velveeta into our house, and it’s totally worth it. I’ve heard of folks filling these with mozzarella, pepperoni, and a bit of tomato sauce – sounds lovely!
This recipe is suitable for beginners – it’s super easy! Here’s how:
Adapted from a recipe by the Mount Diablo Unified School District
Dissolve 2 tablespoons of active dry yeast into 2 cups of warm (not hot!) water in the bottom of your mixer’s bowl, stirring until all the grainy bits have gone gooey. Then add:
- 6 cups of bread flour (you could use all white, or substitute up to 2 cups wheat bread flour here);
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar;
- 1 1/2 teaspoon table salt; and
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, grated on a cheese grater or chopped into small bits
Mix the ingredients with the dough hook on low speed for 10 minutes. You will really think this is taking too long, and after about 5 minutes you’ll decide the dough looks ‘doughy’ enough. Please, please, please listen to me. Keep going. Let your mixer work this dough for a full 10 minutes, and you’ll be delighted to discover that it’s come past ‘good enough’ and become velvety, soft, and elastic.
You could stop right here and use this dough for dinner rolls that your family will love you for. You, however, are on the hunt for Cheese Zombies, so you will unwrap a block of Velveeta, and hack it up into cubes of a size you prefer. Myself, I prefer less cheese and I go with a block about 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch, by 1-inch per Zombie. This recipe won’t use up a whole block of uncut Velveeta, so you should feel free to purchase instead 2 packages of pre-sliced Kraft or Velveeta processed cheese, unwrap each slice and stack them, and slice them into your cubes; trust me, you’ll have lots less waste to deal with if you don’t have another plan for a third of a block of american cheese!
On a smooth surface, turn out your dough and form it into a ball. Cut the ball into quarters, and each quarter into sixths (snack size) or quarters (meal size) as you prefer.
With each piece of dough, form into a ball, then flatten into a disc. Top with a bit of your cheese, and pinch the sides to seal the cheese inside.
Roll the finished Zombie between your cupped hand and the counter to super-seal the bottom (nobody likes a leaky Zombie!).
Place your Zombies onto a prepared cookie sheet and let rise under a damp towel until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Once risen, brush the tops of your Zombies with a wash made of one egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water. You can sprinkle the tops if you like with something fun like sesame, za’taar spice, flaky salt, cracked pepper, or leave them unadorned.
Bake in a 350-degree oven until lightly browned on top, about 17 minutes.