Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Easy Cinnamon Bread

Do you love cinnamon rolls? Do you wake up and crave the cinnamony goodness that oozes out of the hot, iced roll? Do you lack the time and effort it takes to prepare homemade yeast rolls first thing in the morning? If you're like me, you answered yes to all of the questions above. Added to that is the fact that my kids could eat sugary, yeasty goodies every morning of the week (sorry teachers!) and beg me to bake something of that nature daily. I have to admit that one of our favorites is Pillsbury's Orange Rolls that you purchase in the can in the dairy section. Gasp! :) Seriously, don't knock it until you have to get two kids on the bus at 6:45 in the morning! Who sets these time schedules anyway? Goodness, but I'm barely coherant that early in the morning.

Oh, but I digress! In the evenings, after the kids are tucked snugly in their beds, I often grab a cookbook off the shelf and sit and read through it. There's nothing more relaxing than perusing through cookbook after cookbook picking up hints and tricks for cooking and baking as well as bookmarking tasty recipes to try on my gullible (I mean-willing) family. One book that I pick up often is "The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion". If you don't have this one in your library yet, add it to your wish list, beg and plead for it or make up a special occassion that will give you a reason to run out right now and buy it. Seriously, it's a must have.

The other night while reading through the "yeast" section of the cookbook, this recipe leaped off the page at me. "Easy Cinnamon Bread". Hmmm? Yeast. Cinnamon. Sugar. AND...cinnamon chips!! Holy Yum! Delicious cinnamon roll taste in bread form. I HAD to make this bread! I set aside some time the next night and whipped up this very simple to make bread. Oh the smells that lofted through our house as this was baking. The kids and I were practically drooling just waiting for it to finish, but once we did get a nibble of the fresh baked was well worth the wait! The bread was wonderful the day of baking and the following day. After that, it was a tad stale, but we toasted it up, smoothed it with butter and enjoyed the remainder of the loaf. I'm thinking that I'll try baking up a loaf on a Wednesday or Thursday, slice it up into large slices and plan to fix Cinnamon-French Toast on a Saturday morning. Doesn't that sound divine?

From the heart of my kitchen to yours, may your experience be fun and the food always flavorful. Enjoy!

Easy Cinnamon Bread

3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) warm milk
1/4 cup (2 ounces) butter, melted
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (6 ounces) cinnamon chips
Cinnamon-sugar, for topping

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, yeast, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, and egg. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, beating until smooth. Cover and let the batter rest at room temperature for 1 hour, then stir in the baking powder and cinnamon chips.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spoon the batter into a greased 8 1/2 X 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle the top with the connamon sugar.

Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the bread from the oven, let it rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer it from the pan to a rack to cool completely. Don't slice the bread while it's hot; it will slice much better when it's completely cool.

Source: The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

Monday, February 1, 2010

Garlic-Herb Braid

I have always loved baking homemade bread but haven't always had the best of luck with yeast. Baking, for me, is an exact science; follow directions precisely and the end result should be a perfect creation of my detailed efforts. However, yeast is entirely different and can seem extremely tempermental. When proofing the yeast, if the temperature of the liquid is too hot, you can "kill" the yeast. If it's too cool, the yeast won't activate. Add too much flour, your crumb may be too dense. Not enough? Too sticky. This can be a daunting task for the home baker like me. I've come to the conclusion that working with yeast and bread baking is one of those tasks that you just have to pull yourself up by your boot straps, jump in with both feet and bake, bake, bake. As I consistently tell my children, "If you want to be good at anything, it takes effort, lots of time and practice". :)

This bread recipe came from my latest "Simple & Delicious" food magazine. Staying true to its cover title, this bread recipe was a cinch to throw together, took no time at all to rise and had a deliciously moist crumb that suited our Italian meal perfectly. The combination of herbs and garlic would compliment many varieties of main dishes. Not to mention, it makes a beautiful presentation for the everyday meal or would impress your dinner guests for a lovely, more formal evening.

If you're like me and are little wary of working with yeast, this would be a perfect recipe for you to throw into the ring as a practice bread. The yeast is not proofed in any liquid but is added in with the dry ingredients and then the wet ingredients are mixed in. Simple! The dough is needed by hand, which can be very theraputic and then braided and rests for 25 minutes. Short, sweet and perfect for any night of your week.

From the heart of my kitchen to yours, may your experience be fun and the food always flavorful. Enjoy!

Garlic-Herb Braid

4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 pkg. (1/4 oz. each) quick-rise yeast
2 tsp. dried basil
1-3/4 tsp. dill weed
1-1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
3/4 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 egg
1 Tbsp. butter melted

In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast and seasonings. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, water and cubed butter to 120-130 degrees. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add egg; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 4-6 minutes. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Divide dough into thirds. Shape each into a 15-in. rope. Place ropes on a greased baking sheet and braid; pinch ends to seal and tuck under. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 25 minutes.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.

Source: Taste of Home's "Simple & Delicious" Jan/Feb 2010