Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sugar? Bread? Why Wouldn't You?!

My dog is kind of a weirdo.  Evidence:
There was a bag on the floor, and he climbed right in.  He did a few turns and plopped down inside.  Weird.

What's not so weird about him is his absolute terror when he sees lightning.  You see, when he was just a puppy, a puppy not even the least bit concerned about thunderstorms, a giant ball of lightning hit the pecan tree outside our house.  It made a spectacular bang and obviously was very bright.  Since then, Puddin just hasn't been the same.  Now when there's lightning he comes into my room.  I think it's harder to see the lightning from my window, so he lies down and goes to sleep.  Poor baby.

Ya know what makes me feel better when there's lightning?  Cinnamon bread.  Specifically, Joy the Baker's cinnamon sugar pull-apart bread.

Um, yes.  It's warm.  It's full of cinnamon spice.  And boy does it ever give you a sugar high.  Or maybe it was the three cups of coffee I had with it.  Whatevs.  Just know you want to make this.  Like yesterday.
The dough is a simple sweet yeast dough.  Don't be afraid of yeast.  It's your friend.  You need: Active dry yeast (duh), all-purpose flour, sugar, milk, eggs, butter, salt, water (not pictured) and vanilla extract.
Start by melting your butter into the milk in a small saucepan.  I probably could've sped up this process by cutting the butter into smaller pieces.  Hindsight is 20/20, no?
While the butter and milk are getting friendly, mix up 2 cups of the flour, 1/4 c sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and the yeast.  Give it a whisk.
When the butter is fully melted, take the pan off the heat and add 1/4 c water and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Let it cool slightly to somewhere between 115º-125º.
Pour the milk mix into the flour mix and stir to combine.
Break the eggs into a separate bowl and give them a little whisking action.  Pour them into the flour mixture and stir.
It'll look a little gloopy after you add the eggs but do not fear!  Keep stirring a little bit and add the remaning 3/4 c of flour.
See?  It looks more like dough now.  Give a large bowl a light coating of veggie oil and place the dough in it.  Cover with saran wrap and a dishtowel, then place it in a warm spot.
After an hour or so it should double in size.  Woo!  Punch it down and knead an additional two tablespoons of flour into the dough.
See how smooth and pretty it is?  It shouldn't be sticky anymore.  Let it rest for about 5 minutes.
Roll it out on a lightly floured surface.  I got mine to about 20"x12", maybe a smidgen larger.
Filling time, yo!  Sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter.  The good things in life.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan until it's browned.  Take it off the heat and get ready to brush it on the dough.
Whisk together a cup of sugar, 2 tsp of cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg.
Brush the brown butter straight onto the dough.  Gaaaah, it's so good.
Spread the cinnamon sugar over the buttered dough.  Don't be afraid of the sugar.  It's vital.
Slice the dough vertically into six relatively equal strips.
Stack the strips on top of each other.  Don't worry about sugar falling off.  We'll put it to use later.
Now slice the stack into six squares (odd rectangles?).  Try to make them square-ish I suppose.
Now it's time for the little squares to go in a greased loaf pan.  Cover with a dishtowel and let it rise one more time.  This bread is an exercise in patience.
Remember that sugar that fell on the counter?  Sprinkle it over the bread before you bake it.  It'll make a yummy sugar crust.  Bake it in a 350º oven for 30-35 minutes.  You want the top to be a deep golden brown to ensure the middle has baked through completely.
Don't even try to tell me you don't want some of that.
When it's cooled a bit transfer it to a plate.  Of course I had to have some right away.  Der.  It's best when it's fresh out of the oven.  But a little nice hunk the next day (if it lasts that long) zapped in the microwave for 15 seconds isn't bad either.  In fact, it's the opposite of bad.  It's so, so good.  Oh and it's about to get seasonal up in here.  Look for a pumpkin version soon!

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread (makes 1 9-inch loaf)
Courtesy of Joy the Baker

2 3/4 c all-purpose flour + 2 tbs
1/4 c sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 c milk (I used 2%, Joy uses whole)
1/4 c water
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 c sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 oz (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • In a large bowl, whisk together 2 c flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and set aside.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter into the milk.  When butter is melted, take off heat and add vanilla extract and water.  Let stand until it reaches a temperature between 115º and 125º, a minute or two.  
  • Pour the milk mixture into the dry mixture and stir with a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs and stir until eggs are incorporated into the batter, then add the remaining 3/4 c flour.  The dough should come together and be a little sticky.  Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with saran wrap and a dishtowel.  Place bowl in a warm spot until doubled in size, approximately an hour.  
  • When dough has risen, punch down and knead in 2 tbs of flour.  Let the dough rest about 5 minutes.  It should look smooth and elastic.  Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about 20"x12".  In a small saucepan, melt the butter until brown.  Take off heat and set aside.  Whisk together cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg.  Brush melted brown butter over the dough.  Then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the buttered dough.  Try not to drool.  Slice the dough vertically into six equal strips.  Stack the strips on top of each other.  Slice the stack into six squares.  Layer the dough stacks into a floured and greased loaf pan.  Cover the pan with a dishtowel and let rise until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes.  
  • Sprinkle any fallen sugar on top for a sugary crust.  Bake bread in a 350º oven for 30-35 minutes or until deeply golden brown.  
  • Remove from oven and let rest 20-30 minutes.  Invert bread onto a clean board and invert again (carefully!) onto a plate or cake stand.  Or you can be a daredevil like me and use a spatula and your bare hands.  Whatever works for you.  Serve warm with a warm beverage.  Bread can be stored at room temperature for up to two days.

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