Friday, October 12, 2012

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread brought to you by Chef Clumsy

I have named myself Baker at Law due to my two passions- law and baking.  Yet, most of the time a better moniker would be Chef Clumsy.  I am so clumsy it is sad and I probably should be living in a bubble.  As a child, my mom put me in ballet to teach me balance, coordination, and grace.  I cannot imagine how much more uncoordinated and clumsy I would be without that basic training, though I am still not a ballerina.

On to my kitchen clumsiness, of which standing and walking are not usually my problem.  I am just clumsy in the kitchen, which results in frequent injuries like inadvertent slices of the finger, doing stupid things like cleaning a freshly sharpen knife with flesh and taking hot baking sheets out of the oven without a pot holder/oven mitt, or repeatedly burning the same spot on my right hand on the oven rack, just to name a few.  

Burning myself while baking has become the norm, unfortunately.  Usually, I burn myself sometime in the middle of baking but before the dishes are done.  Then, I am forced to wash dishes in hot water, with a hot burn, which is more painful than just the burn itself.  But, having a good baking session is worth the never ending burns and pain.  I sacrifice layers of skin and endure pain so that I may bake and share treats with those around me.  I must be in love or stupid.  I will call it a love of baking.

Keeping the above in mind, it is most disappointing and even more painful when I get a burn and the baking session was a flop.  It is like going through plastic surgery to come out looking worse than when you went in.  Well maybe not that bad, but the burn is not worth it when the dessert flops.  This dessert is not a flop, it is far from it… Yes, today’s burn was worth it.

However, on Sunday I received a pretty bad burn about the size of a quarter on my right hand.  The cookies I was trying to make on Sunday flopped.  The burn was painful and blistered more than normal, and the cookies flopped.  I was too through.  However, today I decided to take on my nemesis yeast.  I received a burn on my left finger as soon as I put the bread in the oven.  This baking session was either going to be really good or really bad.

The baking session was an awesome success.  I conquered yeast and made a delicious bread, though washing the dishes was painful…typical.  The bread is soft and cinnamon-y and sweet.  The top provides a nice crunch and the glaze gives it a little extra sweetness and flavor thanks to the almond extract.  Best of all, my clumsy behind does not have to pick up a knife to cut the bread; it just pulls apart…Perfecto!

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/3 tsp (1 envelope) “highly” active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/3 cup skim milk
1/4 scant cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
2 oz (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, browned


1. In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, mix together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and set aside.

3. In a microwavable bowl, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted.  Add water and vanilla extract. Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the mixture registers 115 to 125F.

4. With mixer on low speed, pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix.  Add the eggs and turn mixer up to medium-low speed, mixing until the eggs are incorporated into the batter.  Add the remaining ¾ cup of flour and mix until dough comes together slightly. The mixture will be sticky.  Change over to your dough hook and knead the dough for about 2 minutes, until it is no longer sticky.

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.

6. While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and allspice for the filling. Set aside. Brown the butter in a a saucepan until browned. Set aside and allow to cool, though it should still be melted. Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Set that aside too.

7. Deflate the risen dough.  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. Pour browned butter in the center of dough and use a pastry brush to spread across all of the dough. Sprinkle with ALL of the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

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.  If the dough squares do not stretch across the whole pan, places them in askew to cover the width.  Do not worry, the spaces will fill in as it rises.  Place plastic wrap and kitchen towel over the loaf pan loosely and leave in a warm place to rise for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

9. Preheat oven to 350F. Place loaf pan on a cookie sheet or line the oven with foil to catch potential drips.  Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes (I baked mine for 45-50 minutes, until it reached an internal temperature of 190F), 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.  Invert cake bake to its upright position.

11.  If glazing, mix to taste and desired consistency--powder sugar, almond extract (a little goes a long way), milk, cinnamon, and allspice.  For a thinner consistency add more milk (slowly- less than a teaspoon at a time) and for a thicker consistency use less milk.

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