Monday, February 20, 2012

Glazed Orange Pull-apart Bread

Mercy me, I'm finally over whatever pestilence was lingering around my person, and the sun is out again.  Is there a better time to introduce a recipe inspired by something I loathed as a child?

 Oh good, I got your attention.  Remember those cinnamon rolls with orange frosting?  I HATED those.  But my sister liked them, so every now and then I would get the fake out and think we're having warm, cream cheese-y cinnamon rolls when in actuality we'd have cinnamon rolls with a weird fake orange frosting.
There's nothing fake about this pull-apart bread.  Real orange juice and real orange zest all up in this piece.  It completely erases the bad memories of those creepy cinnamon rolls and replaces it with genuine orange flavor and warm cinnamon.
I've made pull-apart bread before, see here and here.  Same method, different flavors.  I'll go through all the steps, but you'll have a couple of other references in case something needs clarifying.  The bread needs: yeast, flour, vanilla extract, orange zest, water, eggs, milk, butter, sugar, and salt.
Start it out by whisking the flour, sugar, and salt together.
Heat the butter and milk in a small saucepan until the butter has melted.  No need to let the milk get too warm, we're just getting it to the right temperature to activate the yeast.
While the milk and butter are doing their thing, zest your orange.  Yup, the whole thing.  It's going to give the dough a beautiful speckled effect and make it super orange-y.  You can go ahead and mix the zest, water, and vanilla in a small bowl.
Add the milk and butter to the bowl.  Now, my mixture was just the right temperature to add the yeast.  If your mixture is hot or you're not sure if it's the right temperature, measure it with a candy thermometer to check that it's between 110º & 115º.  Roughly.  I'll be honest, I just do a finger check.  A little warmer than lukewarm but not hot enough to even think about burning my finger.
Man, leave that yeast for 5 minutes and it'll look like a science experiment.  Which it kind of is.
Add the yeast mixture to the flour and stir it in.
Beat yo eggs, (wo)man!
Stir in the eggs until they're incorporated.
Then add a little more flour.  Stir it up.
You should have a dough that is slightly sticky to the touch.  As in, when you pick it up and set it down, your hand should not be covered in dough.  It should hold together well.  I made this bread on a particularly humid day, so I added in a few extra tablespoons of flour.  The key is to add the flour a little at a time (i.e. a tablespoon) until it reaches the right consistency.  If it's a drier day, you probably won't need the extra flour at all.  We were due for rain that afternoon, so everything was holding a little more moisture than usual.  No big deal, y'all!  At any rate, grease a bowl and cover the dough with saran wrap and a clean dish towel to let it rise.
After about an hour the dough should've doubled in size.  Punch that bad boy down.
Knead in another couple of tablespoons of flour.  The dough should no longer be sticky.
Smooth and elastic.  Let it rest for 5 minutes.
Take those five minutes to make the filling.  More orange zest, butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar are all you need.
 Combine the cinnamon and brown sugar first.  Try to work out any big lumps of sugar.
Add the orange zest and whisk around.  The coarseness of the brown sugar will rub against the zest and help it release the oils that make it smell and taste so good.
Roll out the dough to about 20"x12".  Try to make it more or less a rectangle.  Imperfection is what makes this bread, so don't sweat it if it's not all straight lines.  I'd have given up long ago if that's what had to happen.  Btw, I love that you can see the specks of orange zest in the dough!
 Melt the butter and pour it over the dough.
Spread it out to the edges.
Sprinkle the filling over the butter and press it down lightly into the dough.
Cut the dough vertically into 6 even-ish slices.
Stack the slices on top of each other.
Cut the stack into 6 even pieces.
Now imagine each little stack is a book and place each "book" spine down so that the "pages" are facing up.  That was convoluted wasn't it?  Oy, just make it look like the picture.
It has to rise again, so cover it and let it more or less double in size.  It'll look more substantial after the second rise.  Bake it until the top is deeply golden brown to be sure the dough cooks all the way through.  Let it cool in the pan 15-20 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge to loosen the bread, then invert it onto a board.  This thing pretty well stays together, so I imagine you could just turn it over with your hands and it'll be fine.  Or you can be like me and take it out with a knife and your hands.  Whatever makes you feel good.
Can't forget the glaze!  It's super simple.  Powdered sugar, the juice from one of those naked oranges, vanilla extract, and little orange liqueur.  If you're not comfortable using alcohol, feel free to use orange extract.  I'd take the measurement down to a teaspoon using the extract though, just to be on the safe side.  You can always add more.
This is apparently the only picture I took of the glaze.  This is the juice from the orange.  Whisk it into the powdered sugar.  Then whisk in the liqueur and vanilla extract until it's smooth.  Easy peasy.
This is the glaze from the lemon bread I made a little while ago, but it's pretty much the same.
Pour the glaze over the cooled bread.  Some of it might sink in; that's okay.  This thing is full of creases just waiting to hold some sugary glaze.
 I must say, this is rather perfect with a cup of tea and an episode of Downton Abbey.  Have you watched it yet?  They have season 1 on Netflix and this season on the PBS website.  I'm kind of obsessed.  Oh my word, the fashions!  And the great Maggie Smith!
I love that the orange is visually present as well as being the dominant flavor.  It's so much more satisfying than a tube of weird cinnamon rolls.  I can eat it for breakfast or dessert.  Or a snack.  Or a late-night snack.  It's ultra-satisfying.

Glazed Orange Pull-apart Bread (makes one 9-inch loaf)

2-3/4 c all-purpose flour + 2 tbs
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c milk
1/2 stick unsalted butter (2 oz)
1 (1/4 oz) envelope active dry yeast
1/4 c water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange, about 2 tbs
2 eggs, beaten
1 c light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Zest of 1 orange, about 2 tbs
1/2 stick + 2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1-1/2 c powdered sugar
1 tbs orange liqueur
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbs fresh orange juice

  • Whisk together 2 cups of flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter into the milk.  In a small bowl, mix the zest, water, and vanilla extract.  When butter has melted, add the contents of the saucepan to the bowl.  When mixture is between 110º & 115º, add yeast.  Whisk and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  • Add yeast to flour mixture and stir to combine.  Add the eggs and stir until eggs are incorporated.  Add the remaining 3/4 c of flour and stir until you have a dough that is slightly sticky to the touch.  If dough is too loose, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.  Lightly grease the bowl the dough was mixed in with vegetable oil and turn dough in the bowl to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and a clean dish towel and allow to rise until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour.
  • When dough has risen, punch it down.  Knead the 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Allow the dough to rest five minutes.  In the meantime, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon to break up any big lumps of sugar.  Stir in the orange zest.  Roll dough out to a 20"x12" rectangle.  Pour the melted butter over the dough and spread to the edges.  Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the butter and lightly press down.  Cut the dough vertically into 6 even slices.  Stack the slices on top of each other and cut again into six pieces.  Lightly grease a 9x5 loaf pan.  Place the dough stacks in the pan with the edges up.  Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size again, about 45 minutes.  Heat oven to 350º while dough rises. Uncover the pan and bake 30-35 minutes or until deeply golden brown on top.  Let bread cool in the pan 15-20 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges and invert bread onto a plate.  Invert again so that it's right-side up.  Using your hands should do the trick.
  • Assemble the glaze.  Whisk together the powdered sugar, liqueur, vanilla extract, and orange juice in a small bowl until smooth.  When bread has cooled, pour glaze over bread, making sure to get the creases.  Serve at room temperature with tea or coffee.  (If you want to heat a few slices in the microwave, I totally support that) 


  1. I have written about my twenty-year search for this recipe on my website blog. It's the BEST coffee cake I have ever tasted! Thank you.

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I'm also really glad you commented because I'd forgotten how much I love this bread!