Did you hear that big noise yesterday morning? That was the explosion in my kitchen. I don’t know what got into me, but I went into a cooking/baking frenzy pretty much the moment my feet hit the floor. Let’s not question it. Let’s just eat the results.
I had been wanting to experiment with this Pull-Apart bread for awhile now but couldn’t get a whole morning to myself till yesterday. So the second I woke up, I started the dough. And then while standing there watching it rise, it occurred to me that I could better spend that time batch cooking. Two big packages of Costco hamburger and four Costco trays of ground turkey were waiting in the fridge, so I pulled them out. And that’s probably when you heard the explosion.
Bowls, baggies, spatulas, choppers, cutting boards, onions, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, frying pan … out it all came. And over the next three hours, I made up three 5-cup containers of Mexican mix, two 5-cup containers of Italian mix, 35 turkey patties, two Cottage Pie casseroles (what you’d think of as Shepherd’s Pie, except true Shepherd’s Pie uses lamb … and that’s just wrong, when you think about it), and the Pull-Apart Loaf.
I’ve seen dozens of variations of this recipe on the net lately. Here’s how I tweaked mine:
Cinnamon Browned-Butter Pull-Apart Loaf
- 3 cups flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 1/4 tsp dry yeast (one envelope, if you buy it that way)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 4 TBSP (half a cube) of butter
- 1/3 cup half-n-half (you could also use whole milk)
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 eggs at room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
- 4 TBSP (half a cube) of butter, browned
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 TBSP cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if you can do that)
In mixer, blend the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Set aside while you deal with the wet ingredients.
In a pan, melt the butter in the half-n-half (or milk … I just happened to have half-n-half I needed to use up) and water just until butter is melted. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Test with your finger in about five minutes. If it’s slightly higher than body temperature (or 115-125 degrees on a thermometer), it’s ready to go.
Add wet mixture to dry and blend.
Add eggs and blend well. Note: If you forgot to bring your eggs to room temperature before you began, you can set them in a bowl of warm-to-hot water for about 10 minutes and that will do the trick. It really does make a difference to have eggs at room temperature.
At this point, the dough will be on the sticky side. Here’s how mine looked:
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to double. This will take about an hour. Note: if you want to make the dough ahead and leave it in the fridge overnight, you can do that after it has risen. When ready to use, let it warm on the kitchen counter for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
While the dough is rising, prepare your browned butter. This is very simple to do, but you need to watch it carefully. And just because I know you’re wondering, let me tell you about the joys of browned butter, which is also known as beurre noisette. Know how you love regular butter? Well, something magical happens when you let it brown. As some of the water evaporates and the milk solids and salt begin to brown, the remainder takes on a deep, nutty flavor that just makes you want to grab a straw. Or so I’ve heard.
You want to make sure to stir the butter the whole time it’s browning, because otherwise, the milk solids drop to the bottom of the pan and burn. Then you don’t have browned butter — you have bitter butter. Which is fun to say, but not to eat.
When the dough has risen sufficiently, deflate gently …
… and set on a clean counter sprinkled with a little flour. Knead for a few minutes, adding just the tiniest amount of flour if you must. But try to resist.
Leave to rest for 15 minutes. While the dough is resting, prepare the sugar/cinnamon mixture. In the picture below, I mixed white sugar with the cinnamon. But I know better. I always use brown sugar in my cinnamon rolls and just think it comes out better. Next time that’s what I’ll do.
Now, roll out your dough until it is roughly 12″ by 20″.
Spread with the browned butter …
Sprinkle with the sugar …
… and smooth with your hand to make sure every inch is covered.
Now, cut the dough in six strips.
Don’t worry if your strips aren’t exactly even. I kind of like the random, messy look of this bread when some of the leaves are a little off.
Lifting carefully, stack these strips on one another. You’ll probably have to readjust the sugar after each stack.
Then cut this stack into six pieces.
Now, begin to stack these six piles in your loaf pan, which you have by now sprayed w/Pam or greased up w/butter. It helps to turn the loaf pan on its end and stack them that way. Arrange them carefully so the leaves fill up your pan pretty evenly.
I left that curly one on the left because it made me happy.
Cover loosely and let rise till almost doubled, 30-60 minutes.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for at least 35 minutes. The top may look done but the center still be doughy, so you don’t want to pull it out too soon.
Let rest 15 minutes if you can. Otherwise, ease it out of the pan onto a serving plate, drizzle with the gooey juices in the bottom of the pan, and have yourself a party. I had planned to glaze this with a cream cheese frosting, but Dave stopped me.
There’s nothing not to love about this. The edges are crunchy in the most perfect way possible; the inside is soft and inviting; and the entire thing is delightfully browned-butter nutty.
Next time I’m making a lemon pull-apart loaf. Can’t wait for that.
And in other news …
A few of you have asked about retreats. Here’s a link to the audio from the retreat I did last weekend in Yelm, Washington:
Calvary Fellowship’s Women’s Retreat 2011 ~ “Bearing Fruit That Remains”