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.

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

Hot Cross Bun Cinna-Swirl Loaf

Recipe Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Print

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.

Pane di Pasqua {Italian Easter Bread}

Pane di Pasqua9

Much like I do every year around Easter, I’ve spent the last few weeks expecting and even somewhat planning to make either challah or hot cross buns. This has always been kinda funny to me, as when it comes to the traditional religious affiliations with both breads, they’re kinda opposed. but whatever. I wanted to try and make a unique variant to the originals, as I’ve already posted a regular Challah recipe on the blog in past years, as well as a Vanilla Bean Challah. Additionally, last year, my Easter bread were these Hot Cross Buns.

Pane di Pasqua2

I was drawing closer and closer to this weekend and still hadn’t decided on a particular recipe to try. My previous Challahs have only been three-braided ones, so I thought about maybe challenging myself by making a variation that had 4-6 braids and was like, coated in cinnamon sugar or something and calling it “Cinnamon Toast 6 Braid Challah”.

And although I still think that sounds friggin amazing and I really just may try it in time for Passover this year, this particular week, just thinking about trying to pull that off wore me out. It was a no-go.

Pane di Pasqua3

After that idea was out, I considered doing a variation of Hot Cross Buns that were a vanilla overload; a vanilla scented dough, a thin vanilla glaze and a even a vanilla flavored ‘cross’. But that ended up just feeling like meh too. I wanted to do something REALLY unique this year. And pretty. So I started researching other Easter breads to experiment with and lo and behold, I came across something that caught my eye.

Pane di Pasqua4

I first heard of Pane di Pasqua through Allrecipes.com, although the variation I saw there was just a regular braid with drizzled icing and sprinkles on top. I still bookmarked it because I thought it looked pretty and it got great feedback. Then, I read a random article in The New York Times about a famous Italian style bakery that makes the stuff each year that really got my attention. Their variation featured individual loaves of bread that they shaped around dyed Easter eggs.

It was just BEAUTIFUL.

I saw it and I immediately thought,”I gotta try that.”

Pane di Pasqua7

So what I ended up doing was taking the recipe I bookmarked from Allrecipes.com and adapting it in the similar style of what I had seen the old Italian bakery guy pull off. The best part is, it really wasn’t as complicated as I thought it would be.  The most time consuming part of the whole thing for me was dyeing my eggs ahead of time, and then shaping the loaves themselves. However, as you guys can see, I made loaves that were filled with the Easter eggs as well as loaves that I decided to leave empty and just sprinkle with the nonpareils. This was partly because after egg number six, I just got tired of dunking them in and out of the pink/yellow dye. It was also partly because I had read accounts from other bakers who had attempted this recipe only to have the dye on their eggs slough off and stain the bread and got spooked. I wasn’t sure of whether or not the dye would stay on my eggs once they were in the oven and so, just to be on the safe side I did it half and half.

Pane di Pasqua5

Well fortunately, I had minimal staining from my egg dye and the overall results if I may say so myself were just PHENOMENAL. These loaves baked up light, fluffy and golden brown with no trouble whatsoever.

And can we talk about the smell that filled my apartment while these were in the oven? It was like being IN an Italian bakery. Which outside of Bath and Body Works candles is pretty much the best aroma that could fill your pad, bar none.

I’m sure you guys notice how I keep rambling on and on just to have an excuse to keep throwing pictures of this bread at you. Sorry. I can’t help myself. I feel like the guy who has the prettiest date at the prom and just wants to show her off to everyone.  Come on, doesn’t just looking at it make you want to try this recipe yourself? OR, at least  just make you crave ALLLLL the carbs?

Pane di Pasqua8

There’s still time to try this recipe before Sunday and I HIGHLY recommend that you do. This is a great tack-on project for after you  finish dyeing Easter eggs with the kids and want an especially fun and gorgeous way to serve them up for dinner.

Happy Easter everyone! Also, Happy Fiesta Friday #112, and a big thanks to Natalie @ Kitchen, Uncorked and Hilda @ Along The Grapevine for being our co-hosts this week.

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

Pane di Pasqua{Italian Easter Bread}


Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Print

Ingredients

Directions

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and yeast; stir well. Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan; heat until milk is warm and butter is softened but not melted.

Gradually add the milk and butter to the flour mixture; stirring constantly. Add two eggs and 1/2 cup flour; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. (This is where you may need the extra flour; my dough was too wet and I added just enough until it pulled away from the sides of the bowl and was staying attached to the dough hook of my stand mixer. Don’t add the extra all at once; about 1/4 cup at a time until it’s the right consistency).

When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Pinch off 12-14 small dough balls, then roll them into long, thin ropes about 13-15″ long. (This is going to take some patience. Have a small cup of water handy just in case your dough loses its moistness–it’s easier to roll out when it stays moist.Dip your fingers in the cup of water and rub a little bit of the water over the dough balls before you roll them out. Also, don’t worry about it if the ropes shrink a little bit after you roll them out; it’s not that big of a deal.)

Once you’ve rolled out two ropes at a time (don’t do them all at once) braid them together into 1 segment then pinch the ends together to form a rather close ring/wreath. If you are using dyed eggs, place your egg in the center of the egg. Try to form the ring so that at least some of the egg is sitting on dough. You don’t want the whole thing to be sitting on the sheet pan. Repeat with the other dough balls and eggs. I doubled the above recipe and got 14 rings, but your results may yield less or more than mine depending on the size of your dough balls and rings.

Place your rings on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, cover with plastic wrap, then a clean kitchen towel dampened with warm water. Let rise for about one hour, until the rings have doubled and are puffy.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat the remaining undyed egg in a small bowl with the 1 tbsp. water. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the rings. Sprinkle the nonpareils  over the dough.

Bake in the oven for about 22-25 minutes, until golden brown and inner temp of bread rings is in the 190-195 degrees Fahrenheit range. Let cool completely and voila!