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Pull-Apart Cinnamon Loaf

April 1, 2012

I know, I know, I know.  I’ve been away for too long again.  Try as I might, I just can’t seem to work more baking into my busy schedule.  What’s more, the rest of this spring and summer are fixing to be pretty hectic, what with moving to Michigan while I plan a wedding here in California.  Put that together with a full work schedule, a garden that needs planting, and a steady flow of other projects demanding my time, and you’re in for posts that are… well… a little fewer and farther between than I wish they were!  That being said, I did find the time to read a magazine or two in the last two weeks – namely, Better Homes and Gardens, where I found a recipe I really could not pass up.

Mr. Brillantes is always begging me to make cinnamon rolls.  From scratch.  For breakfast.  I don’t know if you’ve ever attempted this, but it’s no picnic.  And for that reason, I refuse to make them more than once a year, on Christmas morning.  Well this year, last minute crafting, shopping, and baking left me no time to stay up with the requisite dough, and I ended up serving cinnamon buns from a can.  Needless to say, we were disappointed.  They were not good.  Not even close.  So when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it up to Mr. Brillantes.  To Christmas!

And as I was working out the two-day baking schedule, I thought to myself, why stick with cinnamon?  Why not take it one twist further?  So I doubled the recipe and made a savory version too.  The result was amazing.  Salted, herbed butter baked into each layer of the bread and served straight from the oven makes for a fantastic accompaniment to pastas or cheeses.  Give it a try, or put your own twist on this fabulous bread Idea!

*******

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Loaf
(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)
Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp whole milk
1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2 Tbsp honey
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup wheat flour
2 cups unbleached bread flour

———–

⅓ cup (3/4 stick) butter, at room temperature
¾ cup brown sugar, lightly packed*
1 Tbsp cinnamon*

———–

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp orange zest
1-3 Tbsp orange juice
Method

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk until just lukewarm, between 100°F – 110°F.  Do not overheat! Stir in the yeast until dissolved completely and let stand until foamy.
  2. Beat melted butter, honey, and egg into yeast mixture until smooth.  Add the wheat flour and beat on low until incorporated.  Add 1 cup bread and continue beating.  Using your hands, knead in as much of the rest of the flour as you can in the bowl.  Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and continue kneading for about 5 minutes, until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.  Shape into a ball and place in a well-oiled bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or set in a warm place for 1-2 hours, until dough has doubled in size.
  3. Butter a 9X5X3in loaf pan and set aside.  In a small bowl, mix together room-temperature butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Remove dough from the refrigerator or, if you let it sit in a warm place, punch it down.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and roll into a large rectangle, about ¼ inch thick.  Spread all over with the cinnamon mixture.  Cut dough into strips roughly 2 inches wide, then stack each strip on top of the others.  Cut into 4 inch pieces, leaving stack intact.  Place each stacked piece vertically into the pan, loosely staggering to fill all the space in the pan.  Cover and let rise for 45-60 minutes, until the pieces have risen and filled the pan completely.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F.  Bake loaf 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool in the pan. Let cool at least 10 minutes before removing from pan.  To make glaze, stir together powdered sugar, orange zest, and enough orange juice to achieve desired consistency.  Drizzle over the bread and serve!

*If making the savory version of this bread, replace cinnamon and sugar with 1 Tbsp each finely chopped thyme, chives, and parsley.  Stir into softened butter and salt and pepper to taste.  Continue to make recipe as written, omitting glaze.

*******

On baking with bread flour. This is the second time in just over a month that I’ve asked you to use specialty flour, and I can understand if you’re getting frustrated.  Though relatively inexpensive, flour is particularly difficult to store, especially when it only gets used on special occasions.  So I thought I better explain myself. Bread flour is a type of wheat flour that is particularly suited for, you guessed it, bread making.  This is because it is high in gluten, the main protein in wheat.  To compare, cake flour has about 6-7 percent gluten, all-purpose has 9-11 percent, and bread flour has 11-13.5 percent.  As the flour is worked, by mixing and kneading the dough, this protein breaks down and forms an elastic network within that helps the bread become chewier as it bakes.  All-purpose flour, though the next best substitute, has less gluten and will have a less fully structured elastic network.  And this is important.  It’s the chewiness really makes bread so enjoyable.  So if you can stand it (or, as the case may be, store it) bread flour is the best choice for this loaf!


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