Hot Cross Bun Cinna-Swirl Loaf

Hot Cross Bun Cinna-Swirl Loaf2

Easter Sunday’s in a couple of days. When I was growing up, it was a huge to-do. Me and my sisters all got brand spanking new dresses (most of which were pretty ugly because, 90’s kids fashion) and shoes. I had a great mom who usually made sure we also got Easter gift baskets to wake up to. We’d go to church, where the services were specially centered around the Resurrection.  Then it was back to my grandparents’, or a restaurant where there was a nice brunch or dinner that would give us all food comas for the rest of the day and evening.

Nowadays, things are much… quieter. But if there’s still something I do try to keep going for myself at Easter, it’s good food. That, you never grow out of.

Making Easter bread is something that’s become somewhat of a yearly tradition for me. I do it because there are quite a lot of different types from various cultures and places to try. I do it test and improve my bread making skills. I do it because most of them are really yummy and not too difficult to pull off. I do it because I like it.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always had a ‘thing’ for hot cross buns ever since I was a kid and heard about them for the first time in a British nursery rhyme. They just looked yummy in the picture and for years, I always wondered what one would taste like. I recently read a comment on another food blog that called them the first and earliest ‘food fad’, which I thought was funny.

It was two years ago I think, when I took my first shot at making Hot Cross Buns for myself. Mine had a slight twist on the original with the addition of chamomile tea to the dough, which gave them a delicious flavor. I decided then and there that it wouldn’t be the last of my hot cross bun baking. This HAD to happen again.

I briefly considered just making plain Hot Cross Buns, but then I noticed a recipe on Williams-Sonoma’s blog that looked very intriguing; Hot Cross Buns translated into a a single loaf of bread.

I don’t know what it is about me, but I have trouble sticking to the ‘script’ of a recipe if I feel comfortable with it. I just can’t leave well enough alone. The original recipe just called for a single rectangle of dough to be rolled up then placed in the loaf pan and baked off to form one swirl.

Yeah, I know. I didn’t do that.

Look guys, I know it looks complicated, but it isn’t. Really.

I started with the one cylinder, then randomly took my bench scraper and split it in half. I then used it to split THOSE halves in half. Then, I just arranged the individual cylinders side by side in the loaf pan with the cut side facing the pan. That’s it. You let the loaves rise and get puffy, then bake them off where they actually rise and get even MORE puffy. Then by the time they’re done and cooled off, BAM. You’ve got a loaf of bread that not only smells amazing, it’ll have everyone you share it with scratching their heads wondering how the heck you pulled this off.

(Which never fails to be great feeling by the way.)

Now, let’s get down to taste. I added a cup of whole wheat flour to the dough, which gives it that hearty, nutty flavor that I personally love. Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg give it an ‘umph’ of warm comforting spice that will make your kitchen smell like a bakery. The sweetness of the dough’s cinnamon brown sugar filling is also very well balanced from the tartness of the cherries and/or currants and the orange zest. You don’t have to add the icing, but come on: why WOULDN’T you add it? Icing is one of life’s pleasures and don’t you try and say it’s not; no one believes you.

There are so many ways you could eat & enjoy this bread. Plain and all on it’s own. Toasted & smeared with butter & jam. Sliced very thick and used for FRENCH FRIGGIN TOAST. You could even use the leftovers (should there even be any because, I mean, come ON)  as the base for a delicious bread pudding.

Quite simply guys, this bread hits allllll the right spots. Find out which one is yours, asap.

Happy Easter, Resurrection Sunday, Passover & Fiesta Friday #167.

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Hot Cross Bun Cinna-Swirl Loaf

Recipe Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

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Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup dried cherries or currants
  • 1 tablespoons finely grated orange zest

Filling

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon water

Icing

  • 1 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar
  • A few tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions

In a small saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Add the whole milk and white sugar and heat to 110°. Pour this into the bowl of a standing mixer. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for about 10-20 minutes, until mixture is frothy and proved.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the flours, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. After yeast mixture is ready, add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl, and combine using the dough attachment, about one cup at a time.

Add the eggs, cherries and orange zest and continue to allow to mix/knead on medium for about 10 minutes until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and is smooth. Grease the bottom of the bowl, place dough back inside. Cover with plastic wrap & a damp towel and set in a warm place to rise for 90 minutes to 2 hours. Meanwhile, spray two 9 x 5 loaf pans with cooking spray and line with one wide strip of parchment paper or aluminum foil each; spray the paper/foil as well.

Sprinkle a small amount of flour or powdered sugar on a clean surface. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Keep the other half covered with the plastic wrap while you work with the first. Flour a rolling pin & roll out the half to an 8  1/2 inch rectangle.

Combine the softened butter, light brown sugar and ground cinnamon together in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Divide the mixture in half.

Using a spatula & your fingers, spread and press the half of the sugar mixture over the dough evenly. Starting from the short end, roll the rectangle into a cylinder as tightly as you can, pressing the seam securely to seal. Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, divide the cylinder in half, then divide each half into four rolls. Place the rolls, cut side up in the bottom of the loaf pan in two rows of four. Repeat the above process with the other half of dough. Cover both pans with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Let rise in a warm place until rise and puffy, 60-90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Place a shallow pan of water on floor or bottom rack of the oven. In a small bowl, combine the beaten egg and the water. Using a pastry brush, brush the mixture over both loaves. Place in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, covering with foil if browning too quickly on top, until inner temp of the loaves reaches 195°-200°.  Allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then use the sides of the parchment paper or foil to lift out of the pan. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, for about one hour.

Combine the powdered sugar with the milk and vanilla until slightly thick. Use a fork to drizzle the icing over the top of the loaves. Allow to set for about another hour before slicing thick and serving with butter or jam.

Honey Wheat Harvest Loaf

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I don’t really remember when exactly it happened, but somewhere along the way, I stopped liking straight white sandwich bread. I don’t mean *all* white bread; I still bake with white flour when making biscuits, rolls, challah and whatnot. I mean that when it comes to specifically eating sandwiches, I will give a hard pass to white bread.

I don’t even know how I ever ate white Wonder Bread at all anymore, there’s such a sour, acrid after taste to it for me now that is just…nah. These days I prefer whole grain, wheat, five seed, or oatnut flavored bread when building my epic sandwiches. I like the nutty earthy flavors in the whole wheat flour much better.

Whenever a long time passes where I don’t make homemade bread, I start getting an ‘itch’. Suddenly, bread baking becomes all I think about, where my thoughts automatically start to wander, all I want to do. My taste buds suddenly crave bread more than anything else.

Actually, no. That’s not one hundred percent accurate. My taste buds want and crave bread/carbs ALL the time, in general. Which is simultaneously annoying and glorious. But y’know, whatever.

This time around to satisfy my bread baking itch, I turned to this recipe from King Arthur Flour that I’d had my eye on for a while. The original calls for it to be made in a bread machine. I don’t have one of those, but bread machine recipes aren’t that difficult to adapt to using with standing mixers, so that’s what I did here. The ingredients were all things I had on hand in the house at the time. It made a single loaf and it was all very easy to throw together.

Honey wheat breads are probably my favorite, flavor-wise. There’s a perfect balance of the nutty grains with a slight sweetness from honey that just works. I will say though that breads that are based in whole wheat and bread flour (like this one) do tend to be more dense than those made with white. They’re often not light and/or fluffy; think chewy, heartier textures. Because they’re denser, they also can require longer proof times before the dough will rise. Just be patient with it because if you do it right, the results will be worth it.

Apart from being made with whole wheat flour, there’s also 1/2 cup of mashed sweet potato in the dough, which is a sneaky yet tasty way to get a serving of vegetables in; y’know, just in case the angel on your shoulder is trying to make you feel guilty for eating carbs instead of a carrot stick.

Not that EYE would know anything about that, I’m just trying to help you guys out.

I really wish there was a way I could transmit the smells of this loaf baking in the oven to each and every one of you guys. It just smelled SO good. It took a lot of patience on my part before it was cooled down and I could cut into it. I toasted two thick slices, smeared them with some  Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter, made some eggs & sausage and had myself a delicious Breakfast for Dinner. Although, this bread would work very well for french toast too, methinks.

Linking this post with this week’s Fiesta Friday #162, co-hosted this week by Sarah @ Tales From The Kitchen Shed and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons.

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Honey Wheat Harvest Loaf

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup warm milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup mashed cooked yam or sweet potato
  • 1 1/2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins, packed
  • melted butter for brushing on top, optional

 

Directions

Combine the warm water and milk with the instant yeast. Sprinkle the 1 tsp of white sugar on top. Let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the white whole wheat flour, bread flour, rolled oats, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer use the whisk attachment to combine yeast mixture with the unsalted butter, mashed sweet potato and honey and mix until well blended.

Using the dough hook attachment, fold in the flour mixture. Half way through, add the raisins. Mix until dough is smooth and surface of bowl is clean, about 8-10 minutes.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Grease a 8 x 4 loaf pan.

When dough is finished rising, gently turn out on a floured surface and deflate it. Divide in half and roll each half into a log. Wind the two haves together in a loose braid, pinching the ends together. Place braid in the loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap/damp towel and allow to rise for another hour or so.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the bread and brush with the melted butter. Bake for about 45 minutes, tenting with foil if browning too fast. Bake until golden brown and the inner temp reads 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cool completely before serving.

Demerara Sugar Buns

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Everyone knows that little kids love to wake up bright and early on Christmas morning so that they can dive right into the presents, while the adults just wish they could sleep in, am I right?

Well…what if I’m not?

What if there were something that would make us grown-ups want to get right out of bed early on Christmas morning and come clambering down the steps like excited rugrats too?

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If there’s anything that can do it, I’d say it be food. And in the personal case of THIS adult, (short of, I don’t know loan forgiveness or a winning Powerball lottery ticket) then I’d think more specifically, it would be the smell and anticipation of a good Christmas breakfast.

I’ve had some of the shortest sleeps of my life the night before I know I’m going to eat good the next day. At times, it really can be like being a little kid struggling to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. I’ve put roasts in the slow cooker late at night, then absolutely woken up bright and early the next morning, rushed into the kitchen and lifted the lid just because the smells coming out of it were too tantalizing to leave alone and I had to see/taste the results.

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Baked goods are a major Achilles Heel of mine. Always have been. Rich, buttery doughs that are slathered in thick icing/glaze or sugar make me salivate at the mouth and weak at the knees (not to mention chunky in the derriere, but let’s just focus on positives here, shall we?)

The smell of them is a very close second to the taste. To me, the smell of baking pastries is just how you’d imagine Christmas morning would smell if you could capture it inside an air freshener. It makes me kinda curious as to why no one’s gotten on that yet; surely some company out there must be able to do better than those sugar cookie flavored candles that really just  act as triggers for your gag reflex.

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You know what smell would make an *awesome* holiday candle?

Demerara Sugar Buns.

Come on: doesn’t it just sound like it belongs on a candle label? (Either that, or used as the stage name of a Burlesque dancer.)

The presents underneath the tree are always going to be what gets the kids out of bed–but I promise one thing and it’s that the smell of these buns baking in your oven will prooooobably be enough to make the adults curious enough to at least wake up and call out what’s for breakfast. It’s just…glorious, you guys.

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The dough is both all purpose and whole wheat based, which gives it a faint nuttiness that pairs very well with the nutmeg that I added to give it an earthy spice. For shaping, I couldn’t make my mind up between wreaths and spirals, so I did both. The spirals proofed and baked prettier than the wreaths and in the future I’d probably just stick to the spirals, but you can shape these into whatsoever shape your heart desires; heck, you could even just leave them as simple balls of dough if you’d like. It won’t affect the taste, promise.

Aside from it’s awesome flavor, you can probably guess that the best part of biting in one of these babies is that crunchy layer of demerara sugar that sprinkled on top. Because it’s sprinkled on before baking, it also becomes caramelized in the oven, giving an even richer, sweeter flavor to the buns overall.

I know I don’t need to state the obvious, but I will anyway: these are delicious. Slice one in half when piping hot, slather with butter and jam and you’ll swear it’s a Christmas miracle.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

Day 7: Demerara Sugar Buns

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Demerara Sugar Buns

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

  • 1 ¼-ounce envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
  • 2/3 cup whole milk, warmed
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus melted for brushing (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided (plus more for sprinkling)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup Demerara sugar, plus more

 

Directions

Whisk yeast, milk, and maple syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer just to combine. Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon of white sugar on top then let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Whisk in eggs and the 6 tablespoons of butter.

In a small bowl, combine the salt, whole wheat flour, 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, and nutmeg.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the mixer and mix on low speed with dough hook until a shaggy dough forms. Increase speed to medium and mix until dough comes together into a smooth ball and pulls away from the sides of bowl, 10–12 minutes.

Place dough in a buttered large bowl and cover. Let sit in a warm spot until doubled in size, 1–1½ hours.  Meanwhile in a small bowl combine the 1/3 cup of demerara sugar with the 1/3 cup white sugar in a small bowl. Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 3 pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time and keeping the other pieces covered in plastic wrap, roll out dough into about a 12 x 8″ rectangle. Sprinkle with one-third of sugar mixture and cut crosswise into 4 pieces (you should have four 8 x 3″ rectangles). Roll up each piece to make a long rope; squeeze ends gently and pinch along seam to seal. Tug rope to stretch so it’s about 10″ long. From here, either roll the ropes up into coils (like you would a spring), or shape into wreaths (there are MANY tutorials online that will show you how to do this).

Gently transfer buns to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap & a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about another 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the 4 tablespoons of melted butter and brush over the proofed buns. Sprinkle with more Demerara sugar. Bake for 12-20 minutes until buns are golden brown and the sugar on top has started to caramelize. Allow to cool for about 10-12 minutes. Serve with butter & jam.

 

Stuffing Bread

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Goodness. Has it been a year already since we did this? Time flies.

If you’re a new follower and are wondering what ‘this’ is, then allow me to fill you in. ‘This’ is the day that we’ll be starting the annual 12 Days of Christmas series on Cooking is My Sport: a series of 12 days of 12 recipes of Christmas themed goodies that I dump on you guys in rapid succession that are specifically designed to make you hungry for carbs/sugar/Christmas cheer. Because I find that is in one of my especially strong skill sets.

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There will (of course) be plenty of cookies and other sweets to come in the following days, but I also wanted to try and incorporate some other types of baked goods into the series as well. Yummy Christmas food comes in sweet AND savory packages. Case in point,  today’s recipe.

We’re coming right off the heels of Thanksgiving where a lot of people cook/eat abundant amounts of stuffing and/or dressing. Our family makes dressing (the stuff you cook all on its own in a separate baking dish, a very safe distance away from the raw, uncooked bird), and we like to eat it at both Thanksgiving AND Christmas. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without it.

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Whether you’re on Team Dressing or Team Stuffing, chances are you’re fond of at least a core set of flavors and ingredients that can be found in both (if they’re any go0d anyway). A lot of times, bread is crumbled and these ingredients and flavors are added TO it along with some egg and chicken broth to moisten it before it gets baked into a kind of casserole.

But what would happen if those flavors and ingredients were mixed together to MAKE a scratch made yeast bread?

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This. This is what would happen. And now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll elaborate. What you’re looking at is a whole wheat loaf of bread that I flavored with poultry seasoning, then rolled up with ingredients meant to remind you of the taste of stuffing and/or dressing: sage, celery, onion, browned sausage and cranberries.

I initially saw this bread on King Arthur Flour as a pull apart bread, similar to Monkey Bread where people can tear off chunks. However, in my rendition, I decided to go a little bit of a different route as I thought there could be some problems with the overall construction of the dough and keeping the filling from just collecting in pools between balls of dough–which could get particularly icky when it comes to baking sausage that will probably leak excess grease (even after you drain it)

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So, my idea of ensuring that I had a loaf that would still rise and bake without falling apart was to see if I could take a similar shaping method that was done for the Pane Bianco I did a while ago and apply it here. The dough is rolled out into a large rectangle, the filling is spread out, then the dough is tightly rolled up into a log. That log is split open, then turned inside out to reveal the layers created by the rolling–which, creates a very pretty presentation if I may say so myself. You’ll get huge kudos and props for a process that is actually fairly simple.

Oh, and I mentioned how delicious this stuff is, didn’t I? No? Oh, well yeah: it’s amazing. Using whole wheat flour as the base creates a nutty flavor of the dough that’s nicely complimented by the herbs from the sage, the savory meaty flavor of the sausage and the sweetness of the cranberries. They all balance one another so well. We ate this loaf both for Thanksgiving and warmed up for a few seconds in the microwave for breakfast in the days that followed and were VERY happy campers. I think that you and your wolfpack will be too should you choose to bake them a loaf.

Linking up this recipe to Fiesta Friday #148, cohosted this week by  Linda @ La Petite Paniere and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Stay tuned for more recipes to come in the 12 Days of Christmas; we’re just getting started!

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Stuffing Bread

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour 

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Ingredients

For Dough

  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

For Filling

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • 3/4 cup cooked pork breakfast sausage
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer, sprinkle the instant yeast on top of the milk. Sprinkle sugar on top of yeast and allow to sit for about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the onion powder, dried thyme, poultry seasoning, salt and flour. Set aside.

Using the dough hook attachment, add the flour mixture alternately with the butter in the standing mixer. Knead for about 8-10 minutes until you have a smooth dough that no longer sticks to sides of bowl.

Grease bowl with cooking spray or oil, place dough back inside, cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel and allow to rise until doubled in size about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, make filling: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onions, and cook until the vegetables are softened. Remove from the heat and add the sausage, chopped sage, poultry seasoning, and cranberries. Cool to lukewarm, then stir in the eggs. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble: Gently deflate the dough. Flatten and pat it into an about 22 x 8 1/2 rectangle.  Sprinkle sausage/cranberry filling over dough, leaving about 1 inch of a border clear the top.

Starting with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way, away from you. Pinch the edges to seal. Place the log seam-side down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Using kitchen shears, start 1/2 inch from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1 inch deep, to within 1/2 inch of the other end. Keeping the cut side up, form an “S” shape. Tuck both ends under the center of the “S” to form a “figure 8;” pinch the ends together to seal.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes. While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Uncover the bread, and bake it for 30 to 35 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.

Rollos de los Muerto (Rolls of the Dead)

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I first heard of & learned about Dia de los Muertos when I was in the eighth grade. There was an assembly where a traveling performance group put on a show for us that was supposed to be about a Mexican holiday in October that when translated into English, was called The Day of the Dead.

Basically, it’s a holiday that honors the passing of loved ones. The indigenous peoples who it originates from believe that on October 31st, the gates of Heaven are opened at midnight and the spirits of deceased children will be able to briefly reunite with their families for 24 hours. The spirits of deceased adults come next on November 2nd. Elaborate altars are made to both remember and honor the deceased loved ones with pictures, delicious food, presents and candles.

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I was intrigued by it then and I still am now. I love the idea of a holiday centered around honoring loved ones who have passed away. I love the elaborate, colorful sugar skulls that get decorated and sold. I love the beautiful face makeup designs; works of art in and of themselves , really.

And yes. Of course: I love the food aspect of it too.

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Probably the most well known food from Dia de los Muerto is the Pan De Muerto, translated into English as the bread of the dead. They’re sweet egg breads typically molded into large loaves with shapes of skulls and bones on top.

I made a loaf of Pan De Murerto for the first time two years ago, and posted it on the blog. This year I found myself thinking about it again and how I wanted to give it another go,  this time maybe giving it a different spin.

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So this year, instead of making one big loaf of pan de muerto, I decided to go ahead and make a batch of rollos de los muerto: rolls of the dead. This is a dough that in my research I’ve seen is often flavored with anise. I included a full tablespoon of anise seeds in mine to really make sure the flavor came through.  Although the original recipe for this calls of orange blossom water, I didn’t have any on hand and to be perfectly honest also didn’t feel like buying an entire bottle of the stuff only to end up using one teaspoon’s worth for just one recipe(because that stuff really packs a punch even in small doses). I found that the cheaper and much more readily available option to most people is just going with the option of using the zest from an entire orange. It isn’t the exact same floral flavor as the orange blossom water, but it’s still nonetheless just as yummy.

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Lastly, most pan de muerto just calls for white sugar to be sprinkled on top of the dough to finish. With this batch of rolls, I decided to add on an orange flavored syrup that gets brushed on them at the very end of their baking, THEN sprinkled with white sugar on top once they’re taken out of the oven. The flavor combination of the anise and orange is one that works EXTREMELY well. The dough has that subtle licorice flavor that’s then given a fresh citrusy aftertaste from both the orange zest and the orange syrup. The white sugar gives it a pleasant crunch on the outside to compliment the soft chewiness of the dough inside.

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With shaping, I decided to keep things simple. I rolled out individual balls of dough, then pinched off smaller balls that I split in half to form the crosses. In retrospect I was a bit concerned that they resembled hot cross buns a bit too much. Then I remembered that Hot Cross Buns are made for another holiday that celebrates a resurrection of the dead of sorts. In thinking of it that way, the resemblance seemed kinda ironic.

These really are delicious. The sugar on the top does give a sweetness to them, but they’re not overly sweet. I think they’d still work very well to eat alongside a salad for lunch or even a heavier main course for dinner.

Happy Dio de los Muertos/Halloween, and Fiesta Friday #143, cohosted this week by Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju and Maggie @ Spoon in a Saucepan!!!

Rollos de los Muerto (Rolls of the Dead)

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

  • 1 ¼-ounce envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
  • 5⅓ cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon anise seeds
  • teaspoons kosher salt
  • Zest from one large orange
  • ¾ cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon, divided
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus 6 tablespoons melted, divided
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray

For Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • Granulated or coarse ground sugar

Directions

Mix yeast, 1/3 cup  of flour, 1/4 cup warm water in the bottom of a standing mixer bowl with a wooden spoon or spatula. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of white sugar on top. Let it sit uncovered for about 35 minutes, until the mixture is frothy and begins to form bubbles on top.

Whisk eggs, anise seeds, kosher salt, orange zest and 3/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl until the mixture starts to look foamy and sugar is dissolved. Then, add this egg mixture to the yeast starter along with the remaining 5 cups of flour. (Note: don’t add the flour all at once, about 1 cup at a time is what you want to aim for).  Using the dough hook attachment, alternate adding the flour with adding the softened butter, beginning and ending with flour until a soft dough forms, about 5 minutes.

Increase speed to medium and and continue to mix until sugar is dissolved and the dough is elastic, 8-10 minutes.

Take the dough out of the ball and lightly grease the bowl with 2 tablespoons melted butter or canola oil. Transfer dough back to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Let rise in warm, draft free place until doubled in size, 2 hours.

Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and coat the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.

Punch down onto a well floured work surface. Pinch off a piece of dough slightly smaller than a tennis ball and shape into a round. Pinch off a second piece that is about the size of a ping pong ball, the divide this piece in half. Roll each half into a long rope that will extend over the sides of the tennis-ball dough round. Arrange each rope in a criss-cross  shape over the dough and tuck the ends underneath the ball to keep from shrinking. Place the finished round on the parchment paper.

Repeat the previous step with the remaining dough. Brush the rolls with the 6 tablespoons melted butter, then cover them with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Let rise for 45-minutes to an hour. (Note: they may not double in size during the proofing time, that’s okay. Mine doubled in size while baking.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. While dough is proofing, make the glaze: Combine the sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and continue stirring and cooking frequently until it has reduced to a syrup, about 5 minutes. If it bubbles up, just take it off the heat for a few seconds then put it back on. Remove from heat.

Bake the rolls for 20 minutes, then remove from oven. Brush generously with orange syrup then return to the oven for about 5 minutes more. Remove from oven (inner temperature should be 190 Fahrenheit degrees for fully baked rolls), then sprinkle immediately with white sugar so that it sticks. Allow to cool before serving.

   

Pane Bianco

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You guys ever take a look at where your life is at and think back to what it was like a year ago? I can’t be the only person who does that, right?

It’s nearing the end of August and more than once I’ve stopped and thought about what was going on in my life a year or so ago. This time last year, life was somewhat hectic as we were just on the cusp of my twin sister’s wedding. She was hella stressed out and me and my older sister (as joint maids of honor) were doing everything that we could to keep her as calm and ‘together’ as possible….which at times seemed like Mission Impossible.

(Sorry Jas. But you know I’m speaking truth.)

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Fortunately, everything with the wedding turned out just fine. It was a great day and honestly all of us are kinda amazed that one full year has already went by since it happened. Hectic, stressful situations can seem like a handful when you’re in them and a trick I always try to do for myself to make things easier is to just imagine myself on the other side of them a year in advance, looking back on it and thinking, “Yeah. I guess that wasn’t so bad. It all turned out fine.  (and hopefully, even great).”

This is relevant to the here and now because I’ve actually been running around like a chicken without a head for the past few weeks, which is a huge reason why I didn’t get the time to put up a post last week. Last year’s hectic/stressful/big to-do was my twin’s wedding. And this year, it’s the hectic/stressful/big process of a move. A rather big move.

2.361 miles, to be exact.

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I’m moving to California, y’all.

I’m moving to California. I’m moving to California. I’m moving to–

Sorry. I keep having to say it to myself more than once because (despite the fact that my flight leaves in less than ten days) it still just does not feel real to me. Excepting the first eight months of my life (when I lived on an Army base in Montana and I really don’t think that counts) I’ve never lived *anywhere* else but the Mitten State. And now, in typical Jess-fashion of extremes, the second place I’m going to live in in my entire life is clear across the country and a polar opposite place/climate/vibe. It’s pretty typical of my life.

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Newsflash you guys: moving across the country is a very trying and at times, exhausting undertaking. There’s a LOT of t’s to cross, even more i’s to dot and still more loose ends to tie up. Packing. Shipping boxes of stuff through the US postal service. Packing. Transporting a car. Packing. Pinning down just the right flight to take for traveling with a toddler (which is more complicated than it sounds.)

Oh yeah, and still more packing.

Needless to say in the midst of all the bustle and running around, I’ve needed to find effective means of staying calm, chilling out and avoiding the much less practical alternative of ripping all my hair out. Baking is a practical and effective alternative, I’ve found.

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I’m subscribed to King Arthur Flour’s email mailing list and towards the beginning of the month, they announced a series of Baking Challenges that they would do every month and share through a blog post. I knew from the time that I got the email and gave the recipe a look over that I would try it out for myself and I’ve already seen lots of you take up the challenge with outstanding results. Plus, baking is wildly therapeutic to me. It was good to take a time out in between cleaning out an apartment, and packing and shipping boxes to get in the kitchen for a few hours and do some DIY therapy.

Especially if said therapy involves carbs. That, I’m always down for.

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I’ll be honest: this isn’t the kind of recipe that I would’ve chosen to make by myself right off rip. I think it’s the first cheese bread I’ve *ever* made before, and the first time I’ve baked with sundried tomatoes, ever for sure.

I made very little modifications to this recipe. It really is just about perfect and easy to follow all on its own. My only change was to add one tablespoon of Italian seasoning to the dough to give it that extra ‘oomf’ of flavor, and the aroma that it creates while baking and even proofing is very reminiscent of an Italian restaurant or pizzeria. The flavors here are outstanding, even better than I’d expected. The basil perfumes throughout the entire loaf, giving it a mild kind of sweetness even though there’s no sugar, while the cheese that pokes through the top of the swirls forms a lovely brown crust on the top of the bread while the cheese tucked on the inside forms these lovely, meltey, ooey gooey pockets of yum. (And this is coming from someone that doesn’t even like cheese that much usually. That’s how good this is.)

So, am I glad that I took the KAF August Baking challenge? You betcha I am.

Happy Fiesta Friday #134. Now let’s all break Pane Biano together and have a great weekend.

**********************************************************

Pane Bianco

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Print

Ingredients

For the Dough

  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour*
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/3 cup lukewarm water’
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning blend

For the Filling

  • 3/4 cup shredded Italian-blend cheese or the cheese of your choice
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes or your own oven-roasted tomatoes
  • 3 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm water, then sprinkle the white sugar on top of that. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, until the yeast is proofed and frothy.

In the meanwhile, combine the milk, egg, and olive oil together in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the yeast mixture, then the flour, Italian seasoning and the salt. Knead using the dough hook attachment until you have a smooth and slightly sticky dough.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 45 to 60 minutes, or until it’s doubled in size.

Meanwhile, thoroughly drain the tomatoes, patting them dry. Use kitchen shears to cut them into smaller bits.

Gently deflate the dough. Flatten and pat it into a 22″ x 8 1/2″ rectangle. Spread with the cheese, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.

Starting with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way. Pinch the edges to seal. Place the log seam-side down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Using kitchen shears, start 1/2″ from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1″ deep, to within 1/2″ of the other end.

Keeping the cut side up, form an “S” shape. Tuck both ends under the center of the “S” to form a “figure 8;” pinch the ends together to seal.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes.

While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Uncover the bread, and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; freeze for longer storage.

  

Six Braid Cinnamon Streusel Crunch Challah

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Oh man, you guys.

Oh maaaaaaan.

Where do I even START?

Well, off the bat I guess I can begin with sending a huge apology to all my followers who celebrate Passover. This post is probably the LAST thing you want to see as we approach a holiday that’s supposed to make the leavened stuff off limits.

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But to the rest of us who don’t, just pop a squat and let me chew your ear off about this bread.

THIS.BREAD.

It’s definitely one of the more ambitious undertakings I’ve encountered in the kitchen, but ever since the idea for it popped into my head a few weeks ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Still, I was slightly intimidated and paranoid that this would be one thing I couldn’t successfully pull off. After all, the most I’ve ever attempted in challah is three braids that I usually wind into a round and bake in cake pans. This would involve much more labor not just in braiding, but also nailing the outer topping that I wasn’t even sure would work with the texture of the bread.

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So when Easter came around, I decided to put it off and make Pane di Pasqua instead. It turned out beautifully.

But I STILL wanted to try and see if I could pull this off; a six braid challah that I dipped in cinnamon sugar, then sprinkled with a cinnamon streusel on top.

So this past week, I sat down and started planning. I remembered a similar brioche recipe I’d seen done at another food blog and decided that if she could successfully pull it off with brioche (a more temperamental dough by far), then I could almost definitely be able to make this work with challah, particularly the laid back/fail-proof/go-to recipe I’ve been using for the past four years or so.

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I did decide to make one key revision to that recipe though, and I have to say it was a random decision that REALLY made all the difference. I swapped out one cup of all  purpose flour in the dough for one cup of whole wheat flour. This was a wonderful idea, as it gave a distinct but subtle earthy nuttiness to the dough that complemented perfectly with  all the sweetness you’re gonna get from the ‘rest’ of it.

And ohhh, the rest of it.

If challah can be improved at all, then it’s got to be when you dip it in cinnamon sugar and sprinkle it with a buttery cinnamon streusel topping. The chewiness of the bread combined with the crunch of the pecan streusel is a mouthgasm of epic proportions.

And when you just HAVE to eat it warm/hot because you just can’t wait any longer for it to cool down after taking it out the oven? Guys.

You.will.DIE.

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I know it may seem like an overload to make this a six braid challah, but in retrospect I can’t see making it any other way. The thing is, the more braids there are, the more of the cinnamon sugar coating that gets wound into the center of the loaf itself. Check out the layering on the inside; you can’t get that with just three braids. You gotta put in the extra work to get all that goodness.

And yes,I know six braids is daunting. It was for me too at first. But as I instruct in the recipe, a simple google search can be your best friend in getting those six braids wound together all nice and pretty.

Just make sure you find the how-to pic/video and have it handy BEFORE you get your hands smeared  messy with melted butter and cinnamon sugar. (Don’t ask why I’m telling you that. It’s not relevant.)

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There is one thing I have to put out there: this recipe yields two HUGE loaves of challah. You will have two HUGE six braid cinnamon streusel crunch challahs on your hands by the time you finish. Just let that sink in. ‘Cause that’s a lot of bread. 

I also refuse to be held responsible for what should happen if you don’t feel the imperative to share the wealth with some friends/family. I know I did. Because I’m not stingy. And because I still want to fit in my jeans.

I’ll leave you with one last thought just in case you weren’t completely sold on making this bread for yourself: Cinnamon Streusel Crunch Challah French Toast

*DEAD*

Aaaaand how about one more time with a full-body shot?

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It came to me. My own. My love.

Myyyyyyy preciousssssssssss.

Follow the heavenly smells and bread crumbs I’m leaving behind me to the Fiesta Friday #115 party where we’re being hosted by  Julie @ Hostess At Heart and Ashley @ Too Zesty.

Six Braid Cinnamon Streusel Crunch Challah

Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com and Half Baked Harvest

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Ingredients

For Challah

  •  2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

For Cinnamon Sugar Coating

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 tsp cinnamon

For Streusel

  • 1 1/2 cups white all purpose flour
  • About 1/4 cup of crushed pecans
  • 1/4 tsp table salt

Directions

Mix the all purpose and whole wheat flour together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over barely warm water. Add 1 tsp of white sugar and let it stand for about 10 minutes until yeast is proofed and puffy.

Beat honey, oil, the 2 eggs, and salt into the yeast mixture. Add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating to kneading with hands as dough thickens.

Knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed. Cover with a damp clean cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk. Towards the end of the rising period, make the cinnamon sugar coating: pour the melted butter and vanilla extract in a shallow dish. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a shallow dish as well.

Punch down the risen dough and turn out onto floured board. Divide in half and knead each half for five minutes or so, adding flour as needed to keep from getting sticky.

Divide each half into six pieces and roll into long snake about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Using a pastry brush, brush the melted vanilla-butter over both sides of the ropes. (You can also just dip it in the butter if you don’t have a pastry brush, just try and shake off the excess.) Then using your fingers, sprinkle the brown sugar mixture thoroughly over the ropes until they have a good coating. Don’t be shy with it, this is gonna get a little messy. Save the leftover melted butter and brown sugar as well- you’ll use it later.

Pinch the ends of the six snakes together firmly and braid from middle. You can google ‘Six Strand Challah Braid’ as I did and find MANY resources that will help you through this process.

Grease two baking trays and place finished braid on each. Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel and let rise about one hour.

To Prepare the streusel: pour the melted butter into the brown sugar and add the all purpose flour, salt and pecans. Stir with a fork until it forms small clumps. Let it sit for about 30 minutes until firm; you may also want to refrigerate it for about 15 minutes depending on how long you let your braids rise.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Take your braids and lightly spray them with a coating of PAM baking spray. Gently sprinkle and press the streusel into the top of the challah braids until there is a generous coating over each.

(Note: you ARE probably going to have leftover streusel. Don’t throw it away! After your bread is done baking, simply spread the leftover streusel out on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake it on its own in the oven for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Use the excess to sprinkle on top of ice cream or yogurt; or you could just eat it all on it’s own.)

Bake the challah loaves at 375 degrees F for about 40 minutes. Inner temp should be 195 F-200 F and the bread should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Cool on a rack for at least one hour before slicing.