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I hope you all had a fantastic New Year!  It’s hard to believe that we’re already more than halfway through January, which sadly means my break between semesters is coming to a close.  I go back to school on Thursday, and I am only taking one class this semester, which will most likely seem like a cake walk compared to taking two at a time while also working full-time.

I’m hoping that I might have more time to blog, but I’m not going to make any promises that I can’t keep.  I have been cooking a lot, and one of my friends shares a similar love of technically challenging recipes (we made homemade ravioli last Friday, THAT was an undertaking).  When you have a cooking partner in crime it can definitely help make things seem less daunting.  Brad turns 30 in March, and after much back and forth, and with some inspiration from the lovely Julia Child, I’m hoping to put together a fantastic homemade celebration dinner.  That’s the plan, at least for the time being.

But that’s not what you came here for.  You came here for a recipe!  This cinnamon swirl bread is one of my favorites, and back in 2008 we received a few bread baking books for Christmas from both sides of our family (they knew we had gotten into bread).  This one is pretty easy to make, although no matter how many times I try, it never comes out as big and luxurious as a store-bought loaf of cinnamon bread.  But that’s also probably because while this recipe calls for two loaves, you could easily make one monster loaf.  But I like having two loaves, as nothing beats cinnamon toast in the morning with some good butter and a cup of delicious tea.  It helps get me through these awful winter months.

It’s also perfect for making into french toast for a lovely brunch.  In fact, we had just that this morning, with some home fries cooked up in bacon grease (there’s no other way to do it) and some thick cut peppered bacon.  It was delicious, if I do say so myself.

 

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”

Makes two loaves

For Christmas this year I got a food scale, and I got to play with it for this, which is why measurements are in both cups and ounces.

 

3 1/2 cups (16 oz) bread flour
4 tsp. granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 tb. butter (or shortening)
1/2 cup buttermilk at room temperature (I used powdered buttermilk, always works)
3/4 cup water at room temperature

 

Cinnamon Swirl Filling

1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tb. ground cinnamon

Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and cinnamon into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer (you can also do this by hand, but I’ll be giving mixer instructions).  Add the egg, butter, buttermilk, and water.  Stir together with the paddle attachment until ingredients come together.  Adjust with flour or water if the dough seems too sticky or too dry and stiff.

Switch to the dough hook, and beat on low for about 6-8 minutes.  You want the dough to be tacky but not sticky.  If you have an instant read thermometer (a necessity in every kitchen if you ask me) the dough should be between 77 and 81 Fahrenheit.   Transfer dough to a large bowl that has been lightly oiled.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm draft free place (above the fridge is my go to).

Let the dough rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled.

Divide the dough into two pieces and form them into loaves.  In order to form into a loaf, shape the dough into a rectangle that is about 5 inches long and 6-8 inches wide.  Mix together the remaining sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle on the surface of the dough.  Roll up from the short side of the dough and roll up into a loaf shape.  Pinch the ends and slightly roll to even it out.  Place dough seam side down into a lightly oiled loaf pan.  Form the second loaf and then spray with oil (I use pam).  Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise a second time until at least doubled, or until dough comes close to cresting above the lip of the pan.

Let rise for at least an hour, if not more.  If your loaves are a bit small at this point don’t panic, mine never get to be very large but they still come out delicious and that’s what matters most, right?

Preheat the oven to 350.  Place loaf pans on a sheet pan (and remove plastic wrap) and make sure they are not touching.  Bake for 20 minutes and then rotate the pan.  Bake for another 20-30 minutes until they are golden brown on top.  They should make a hollow sound when you thump them on the bottom.

Immediately remove bread from pans and let cool on a rack for at least an hour (2 if possible) until slicing.  I know it’s hard to not want to slice right into the bread, but it’s sadly for the best.

 

 

It’s hard to believe that I have finally reached 100 posts.  Not necessarily 100 recipes, but 100 posts altogether.  It’s been quite a journey, and I am so glad that so many of you have stuck around to read my blog about my picky eating habits.  When I started this I had no idea what was going to happen, and I am proud to say that since I started this I have been branching out and making tons and tons of new dishes…which I had to do anyway, because I can only talk about my awesome mac and cheese once without boring the pants off my readers.

For my 100th post I wanted to do something a bit fun, and no, I sadly did not make some outlandish cupcakes like I did for my blogiversary.  As you may remember, I was in a bread phase back in winter of 2008/2009.  For Christmas that year Brad (he commented on a post, revealing his mysterious identity, that wasn’t really mysterious at all) and I had received 3 bread baking books.  Which is kind of a lot.  One of them happened to be Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  Since it required a bit of extra equipment (a dough proofing bucket, of all things, not exactly breaking the bank here), I didn’t touch it for over a year.  Fast forward to this winter, when I decide we need to start baking our own bread again.

I happen to own everything else the recipes called for, a pizza stone, a pizza peel.  It was just that silly little bucket.  So after doing some searching at my local stores, I had to turn to handy-dandy King Arthur Flour and order one.  We also took the opportunity to order some sourdough starter, as Brad had let it die when we were closing on our condo.  In his defense we had a lot going on, and keeping that stuff alive was not really a priority.

I also bought a 5 gallon bucket from Home Depot to keep my 25 pound bag of all-purpose flour in.  If you happen to shop at Costco, they carry KAF all-purpose, and it’s dirt cheap, and totally worth it if you have space for it.  Thanks to my handy-dandy cabinets, I do in fact have space for it.

This recipe is incredibly easy to make, and while I am still tweaking with bread size in order to make the perfect loaf (some were undercooked, too small, too large, etc.), I’ve got a pretty good system down right now.  I also like to experiment with using some wheat flour and sourdough starter in with the main recipe.  There are a million variations, and I haven’t even tried shaping my bread into anything else but a ball.  Having homemade bread is the most amazing thing, and this recipe makes it so easy and fast, you can have fresh-baked bread with dinner ANY night!

Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day

Source: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (cookbook)

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tb. granulated yeast (I use rapid rise, I buy it by the jar)
1 1/2 tb. salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose white flour (I also will use 1-2 cups of whole wheat, making it 4 1/2 – 5 1/2 cups white and 1-2 cups wheat)
Sourdough starter (optional)

In your 6 quart dough bucket, mix water, yeast, and salt.  Don’t worry about dissolving the yeast.  Mix in the flour using a wooden spoon, there is no kneading necessary.  You can mix everything using a stand mixer, but I prefer to just mix it all in the bucket, no cleanup necessary!

The dough should be wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of the container it will be stored in.

Cover the bucket loosely with a lid (do not make airtight).  Let it rise for at least 2 hours, doubling the dough.  Room temperature and water temperature will determine how long it needs to rise, as warmer water makes it harder for yeast to rise as quickly.

At this point I put it in the fridge and wait to bake the next day.

When you want to bake, start by preheating your oven to 450, and place a pizza stone in the cold oven, allowing it to warm up completely.  The book doesn’t have you do this, but my stone would be too cold and cause some loaves to explode, as the bottom wasn’t warm enough.  Also place a broiler pan on a rack below the stone.

Take your dough out of the fridge, sprinkle with some flour, and using a serrated bread knife, cut off a piece that weighs about a pound (about the size of a grapefruit, again, I have been playing with size, as some come out denser than others).

Don’t knead the dough, but shape it into a ball, handling for less than a minute, as you want all the delicious gas bubbles to stay in tact, to make for artisan bread.  Dust your pizza peel with cornmeal, and place loaf on it.  Allow to rise, uncovered, for at least 40 minutes.  You can let rise longer, as apparently that will help the bread be less dense (I haven’t tried this yet, but will with my next loaf).

Once you are ready to bake, place 1 cup of very hot water into the broiler pan, as it will create a steam environment in the oven and make for a crusty and delicious bread.  Sprinkle dough with some flour, and cut slices in the top, about a 1/4 inch into dough, so that it can expand a bit while baking.  Slide dough into oven, and bake for at least 30 minutes, sometimes more, until dough is dark on the outside and the bottom is fully cooked.  Remove from oven and allow to fully cool on a cooling rack.

Store bread cut side down on a cutting board.

Store remaining dough in fridge for up to 14 days, and dough will ripen with age, so the longer it is in there, the more flavor it will develop!

For the sourdough, I haven’t quite gotten the hang of the right proportions, I usually use a cup of starter, but haven’t been changing the amount of flour or water, which I apparently should have.  Bread baking is an art, and in my experience takes a lot of experimentation until you get the right proportions and what works for your oven.

My husband has been in a major bread baking phase for the past month or so.  And he is STILL trying to come up with a post for me about his adventures in sourdough.  His recipe is delicious, but long and slightly labor intensive.  I’ve been seeing tons of no-knead recipes around the web, and decided that for once I would try and make bread.  I also wanted some sort of artisan loaf, as his sourdough is quite dense (but makes the BEST toast you have ever had).  We’ve asked Santa for a few bread baking books for Christmas…I don’t think we’ll ever go back to buying bread at the grocery store, much like we won’t be ordering pizza anytime soon.

I set to the internet to find a good recipe that didn’t take too long, and didn’t make way too much bread.  Some recipes made multiple loaves, but the one I found and tried was perfect, it made just one, and takes very little work.  You do have to start at least 12 hours ahead of time, but that’s the perfect thing about the weekend, you can make the dough on Saturday, and have delicious bread to go with your Sunday dinner.

The recipe I used was from notmartha.org.

3 cups bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant [or Rapid Rise, QuickRise, Instant Active Dry, Perfect Rise, or Bread Machine Yeast] yeast
1 1/4 [1 3/4] teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky (I happened to use my stand mixer with the dough hook).  Transfer to bowl greased with a little olive oil, and let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees (the top of your fridge is a perfect spot for this).

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice (I cheated and kneaded it a little, it’s a force of habit).   Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal (after reading some of the comments, I went WAY overboard with the flour, as you can see by my photo, I definitely didn’t need nearly as much as I used) put dough seam side down on towel(I used parchment paper, I love that stuff) and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger (mine didn’t quite double, but it was still delicious).

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven.  Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned.  Cool on a rack and enjoy.

Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf.

The bread is delicious and airy with an awesomely crusty crust (my favorite), but not super flavorful.  I think next time I might add in a little whole wheat flour to change things up a bit.  But the key is to use rapid rise yeast and bread flour (NOT all purpose)…I can’t really remember why, when my husband goes into the science of bread I kind of tune out…it has something to do with more complex glutens or something.  Just take my word for it, bread flour!

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