All I can say is: 'Woah! How did this happen?!' I will tell you:
My friend who writes a blog posted a link on a mutual friend's facebook wall. I took one look at it and thought 'I have to make it.' In order to commit to this decision, I also forwarded the link to Jason, who also could only say 'woah'.
Now, as you know, I do not bake. I cook. Baking is for my sister. My hat goes off to her every time her pastry comes out perfect, and her cakes and cupcakes are cheerfully perky and perfectly moist. Now and then however, I go out on a limb and try something in the baking genre. (Navajo Flatbreads, Lemon Yogurt Loaf, cookies, and a few other treats.) This is my greatest baking adventure yet.
It all started on Saturday night. Jason had worked a long day, and I had an amazing yoga class in the morning, so my brain was extremely zen. We picked up the ingredients, and I started to put things together. Now... as usual... I made a few mistakes. The reason I cook, is because it's easy(er) to bounce back from little mistakes such as: putting things in at the wrong time, heating things or cooling things too soon/late, substituting ingredients, etc. This is not so with baking. Baking is a precise science. This is why I failed at my first attempt. Not only did I not let my eggs warm to room temperature, I also didn't wear my glasses while measureing 1/3 of a cup of whole milk, and instead did 1/8 of a cup only to find out after I had tried to mix everything. I finished my first batch of dry, flaky dough, only to decide to throw it out.
Round two. I didn't have enough flour. Jason (being the amazing boyfriend he is,) ran out to the store to get more. This time it went much better. I put the right amount of milk in, my eggs were at room temperature, and my dough came out perfectly! I was so excited, that I couldn't stop smiling and giggling for the rest of the night.
Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Makes: one 9x5x3-inch loaf
For the Dough:
2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Filling:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted until browned
1. In a large mixing bowl (I used just the bowl of my stand mixer) whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Set aside.
2. Whisk together eggs and set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted. Remove from the heat and add water and vanilla extract. Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the mixture registers 115 to 125 degrees F.
4. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula. Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter. The eggs will feel soupy and it’ll seem like the dough and the eggs are never going to come together. Keep stirring. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes. The mixture will be sticky. That’s just right.
5. Place the dough is a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour. *The dough can be risen until doubled in size, then refrigerated overnight for use in the morning. If you’re using this method, just let the dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes before following the roll-out directions below.
While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling. Set aside.
6. Melt 2 ounces of butter until browned. Set aside. Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Set that aside too.
7. Deflate the risen dough and knead about 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out. The dough should be 12-inches tall and about 20-inches long. If you can’t get the dough to 20-inches long… that’s okay. Just roll it as large as the dough will go. Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough. Sprinkle with all of the sugar and cinnamon mixture. It might seem like a lot of sugar. Seriously? Just go for it.
8. Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips. Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again. You’ll have six stacks of six squares. Layer the dough squares in the loaf pan like a flip-book. Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
9. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is very golden brown. The top may be lightly browned, but the center may still be raw. A nice, dark, golden brown will ensure that the center is cooked as well.
10. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and invert onto a clean board. Place a cake stand or cake plate on top of the upside down loaf, and carefully invert so it’s right side up. Serve warm with coffee or tea.
I really like this recipe, because if you want, you can make the dough the night before, and keep it in the fridge until it's time to assemble. This is what I will do next time, because we didn't finish making this until 10:15pm due to the time needed for everything to rise and set. But I will be making this again. And again. And again.
So Much Love,