Filled with molten plastic cheese which oozed out of a white bun, I never cared for cheese zombies in high school, but it seemed like everyone else did! They were, I suppose, good as hand warmers for kids outside on the quad on a cold day, and it was certainly hard to beat the $1.35 price tag. Besides, American cheese screams “this is familiar and safe!”
Now I grew up in Northern California and these were a recurring staple at my high school. I’ve heard that they originated in Washington State’s Yakima Valley when, sometime in the late 1950s, a school district there received a little too much subsidized cheese from the government.
Having to deal with this sudden cheese windfall, an enterprising cafeteria worker invented a new “sandwich” that soon began showing up on kids’ plastic trays. You can read all about its origins here, on Atlas Obscura.
Now the beauty of American Cheese, and Velveeta cheese in particular, is that when melted, it “keeps a fully integrated and evenly clump-free liquid texture.” (Thanks, Wikipedia. 😉)
How Do Cheese Zombies Taste?
So, I’m not really sure why I want to recreate them. A little memory about something else got me thinking of them the other day, so here we are.
And while I don’t miss much about high school or cheese zombies, freshly baked bread is always welcome! So I’ll reserve some of the dough for a batch with “no cheese.”
But they are easy to make, and your kids just might like them. So here’s the recipe (adapted from No Bones Life):
- Stand mixer with dough hook attachment
- Kitchen scale (optional)
- Parchment-lined baking sheet(s)
- Conventional oven
- 2 C. warm water
- 3 tbsp dry-active yeast
- 6 C. bread flour
- 1/3 C. sugar
- 3/4 t. salt
- 1/4 C. melted butter
- 12 oz Velveeta cheese cut into 12, 1 oz blocks
Make the Dough
- Add the yeast to the warm water and stir to dissolve.
- Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes, at which point you should see bubbles on the surface.
- Add flour, sugar, and salt into bowl of a stand mixer.
- Stir to combine.
- Add the butter to the yeast and water mixture.
- Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment. Turn the mixer on low, slowly adding the yeast and butter mixture. Increase the speed to medium and continue to mix for 3-5 minutes, or until a bowl of dough is formed.
- Turn out the dough onto a countertop and knead by hand for 8-10 minutes incorporating the remaining flour. The dough will take up ½ to 1 cup of flour. You’ll know when the dough has been kneaded enough when it passes the windowpane test, meaning the dough can be stretched thin enough that light passes through it. The dough should no longer be sticky and the surface should be smooth.
- Cover the dough with a dampened towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Make the Filling
- Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. (Use a kitchen scale if you want to be precise.)
- Take a 1 oz. block of cheese and gently squeeze it into a ball.
Make the Zombies
- Press and flatten a dough ball out and place a ball of cheese in the middle.
- Pull up the edges of the dough around the cheese and pinch the dough into a parcel. Make sure to pinch the edges well to seal in the cheese.
- Place the filled dough ball seam-side down. Using cupped hands, shape the roll into a tight sphere.
- Place cheese-filled dough balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Cover lightly with plastic wrap. Let the rolls rest in a warm spot for 1-1 ½ hours, or until they have doubled in size.
- Before the rolls have finished resting, preheat your oven to 375˚F.
- Bake for 15 minutes.