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Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Favorite Bread

Warning: this is a ridiculously long post. Sorry about that, but the bread will be SO worth it.

I originally got this recipe from the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day blog, and it comes from their second book, Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I was looking for something to make cinnamon swirl bread with so I could try out the baker's cinnamon filling I got when I visited the King Arthur Flour shop in Vermont. It came out so well I've been repeating it ever since (and eating half the loaf by myself as soon as it comes out of the oven!). For the sake of you only thinking me a mild pig instead of a severe one, I should note that this recipe makes two loaves, which I make one at a time. I only eat half of ONE loaf. And even that is an exaggeration to some extent...depending on the day.

So, enough about me! Onward to the bread!

First put 4 cups of whole wheat flour and 3 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour in a bowl, and add 1/4 cup gluten, if you have it. I happened to be out, so I added an extra 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour. Note: the original recipe called for white whole wheat, but I don't mind it a little bit more whole wheaty. 
 Next add 1 1/2 tbsp instant/bread machine yeast (NOT active dry. If you use active dry, you'll need to instead dissolve it in the warm water you'll be adding later. Do that now while you get the other things ready). Then add 1 tbsp kosher salt. I've used regular and it's come out just fine.
 In that big measuring cup (or something that holds slightly more than 5 cups...this was filled right to the top), put 3/4 cups oil or melted butter, 3/4 cups honey, 2 1/4 cups warm water (and your yeast, which should be foaming by now if you're using active dry yeast), and 5 eggs. No, that isn't a typo.
Then you mix it all around a little bit. It will feel like muffin batter.
Don't be shy. Yeast breads don't get tough if you mix them vigorously! Once its well-mixed it should be thicker than muffin batter, but way too wet to knead. Good thing we aren't going to! Scrape it down so it isn't so messy, or else those traces all over the side get nasty and hard over the next 24 hours. Then sing praises to your bowl scraper (or go buy one!) and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

It needs to rest at room temperature for 2 hours before being put in the fridge, and should be refrigerated for 2 hours before using. If you use it right away, it will need at least 2 hours at room temperature again before you should really bake it. I usually make the dough in the evening (I made my dough last night) and put it in the fridge overnight and take it out first thing in the morning and bake it whenever I get around to it.

So this morning I divided the dough in half and put one half back in the refrigerator. No, there is no known benefit of it being in a horizontally oriented container; my tall ones were all in use. Then I let the half in the bowl come to room temperature, about two hours.

When the dough is ready, plop it down on some flour and give it a quick knead, just enough to make the dough roll-able. I add as little extra as possible, because I like bread made from looser dough. Then prepare the filling. I do something like 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon. Possibly a little heavier on the sugar. In this batch you can see some extra brown stuff at the bottom of the measuring cup; that's brown sugar. I thought I'd see if it got all gooey and caramely like monkey bread. It did! But I think I prefer the original.

 Then squish or roll the dough out; shape isn't important. Then sprinkle a good layer of that filling right on top of it. If you're the type that could rival me for love of butter, feel free to melt a few tablespoons and spread it on before adding the cinnamon sugar. Given my tendency to eat half the loaf in a sitting, I've long since given up the right to butter in this bread. I think it's still heavenly!
 Then use your giant spatula to help you roll up the bread, especially if you're like me and didn't add much flour. It should be well adhered to the counter by now.
 Finally, awkwardly and hurriedly lift the log and squash it unceremoniously into the bread pan. Again, shape is not important. You'll see here that I decided to only make half of the loaf into cinnamon bread. This is partly in hopes that I don't eat it all, and partly because we ran out of regular bread and my husband might want a sandwich later. So while I filled the cinnamon half (I only used about half of the filling you saw in the measuring cup), I had to get creative so the other half of the dough didn't take over the pan. I did manage to get some butter in between the two lumps of dough so that the loaves should be easier to separate.

Now cover the pan with plastic wrap and let it rest for 45 minutes to an hour. Toward the end of that time, preheat the oven to 350.
Beat up an egg, a tablespoon of water, and a dash of salt, and brush it all over the top of the loaf(ves).

 Put it in the preheated oven and check back 20 minutes later. Look at that puffy loaf! Time to cover it with foil and reset the timer for 40 more minutes (yours might need less time; I think my oven is slow).
Just a note about the foil: please be obedient and wait 20 minutes before covering it. On a previous batch I tested to see if it would rise higher if it was covered the whole time. It didn't! It sagged in the middle and the bread took over an hour and a half to finish baking. Don't do it!

 Here we are! take it out of the pan to cool on a rack so we don't get soggy edges. Even better-- rub some butter all over it! Good news-- the two loaves did separate easily, though not very evenly.
Make sure and wait till its almost completely cooled before slicing it open. It makes things gummy. Still tasty, but it's better if you wait.

So now that you've endured such a dauntingly long post, you really should go make this bread!

1 comment:

  1. haha that is a wonderful post, you sound like a professional blogger! It was funny, interesting and educational! I'm inspired to go make the bread, except that it's 8:00 an I already made bread today...which came out kind of weird but luckily my husband didn't seem to notice. Also... he doesn't seem to mind that bread gets all funky if he doesn't let it cool (which he never does) and he always insists on cutting open the middle and eating the center slice, haha