YEAST BAKING : RISE TO THE CHALLENGE
I started my bread-baking career (all right, truth be told, it is part-time at best and I earn nothing more than the occasional compliment) with those famous Cranberry Muffins in 7th-grade Home Economics class, a recipe found in a promotional booklet put out by Crisco products and passed out by the teacher. I fell in love.
But after a disastrous re-edition of these muffins for my family a year or so later when I mistakenly blended in 3 CUPS of solid shortening instead of the required 3 tablespoons, producing a muffin top afloat on a pool of liquid fat, I pushed this new-found love to the back shelf like a rejected suitor, and didn’t dare make an attempt to produce a baked good until my college days.
My next efforts were quick breads, sweet zucchini raisin, spicy pumpkin, banana chocolate chip, muffins studded with fruit, smooth and easy, using only baking powder or soda as leavening. Then my old roommate’s sister’s cranberry-orange-walnut bread for Thanksgiving found it’s way into my repertoire and the bug settled in. There was no turning back.
My first attempt at yeast bread was two small loaves of Challah for one Thanksgiving dinner I hosted with my brother. Turned out very pretty, but, as my understanding of yeast was limited, they were fairly hard and dry. So, of course, it wasn’t until several years later, young, newly married and in love, I tried yeast-risen dinner rolls with pretty much the same result. I threw up my hands in discouragement and decided that yeast baking was not for me. I simply must not have the magic touch.
But now, 20 odd years later, having finally decided that it was time to truly understand the process, to overcome my fears and shortcomings, I feel that I have mastered the pizza/foccacia dough, the sweet coffee cake and cinnamon bun dough, even the light and fluffy dinner rolls, with more and more success.
Now I am a food blogger and am trying to participate in as many challenges, contests and dares as is reasonably possible in a month, and I love it! It has forced me to try new recipes, new ingredients, new processes that I normally wouldn’t try. Now, I had heard about Yeastspotting and have been toying with the idea of jumping aboard, but didn’t think that I had time this week. But in a quick back-and-forth with Zorra of 1x umrühren bitte, I learned that she is hosting Yeastspotting this week and I know that she will be quite pleased with all the participation that we can muster.
For you, Zorra, I would bake anything.
So off I go to the kitchen I go, fueled by the Marshmallow Peeps-flavored lip balm I am sporting and the smiley face sent over to me by Zorra, to blend, knead, roll and bake loaves of Cinnamon-Sugar Swirl Egg Bread with Chocolate Chips.
CINNAMON-SUGAR SWIRL EGG BREAD with Chocolate Chips
This recipe was given to me by my great friend Rachel of Chocolate Crinkle Cookies fame and based on a recipe found in the 1989 Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.
4 ¾ - 5 ¼ cups (590 – 655 g) flour
1 package active dry yeast (2 ¼ tsp, ¼ oz, 7.5 g)
1 1/3 cups (340 ml) milk
3 Tbs sugar
3 Tbs (45 g) butter or margarine
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup (100 g) sugar + 2 tsp ground cinnamon
mini chocolate chips (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour and the yeast.
In a saucepan, gently heat the milk, sugar, butter or margarine and the salt together, stirring, until warm (about 120°F/50°C) and the butter is mostly, but not quite completely, melted. Remove from the heat and stir until the butter melts.
Pour the warm milk mixture over the flour/yeast and, using an electric mixer on low speed, beat for a few seconds. Add the eggs and the vanilla. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds until combined, scraping the bowl when necessary.
Increase the beater speed to high and beat for 3 minutes.
With a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as possible, until it starts to pull together into a soft dough.
Turn out on a floured work surface and knead in as much of the remaining dough until you have a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic, kneading for 6 to 8 minutes total. I used a total of 4 ¾ cups (590 g) of the flour for this bread.
Form the dough into a smooth ball. Grease a large mixing bowl, place the ball of dough into the bowl, turning once to grease the surface of the dough. Cover (I cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a clean kitchen towel) and let rise in a warm, dry place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Turn out the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface and punch down. Cover with the kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Lightly grease two 8 x 4-inch or one 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with oil.
Flatten the ball of dough slightly then form into a rectangle. Roll out the dough, making sure the surface under the dough is lightly floured, into a long rectangle but no wider than the loaf pan (I used a 9 x 5-inch pan and ended up rolling out a 9 x 15-inch rectangle).
Brush the surface of the dough lightly with water, then sprinkle the entire surface with the cinnamon-sugar mixture generously and evenly. Sprinkle on the mini chocolate chips, if using, and gently press them into the surface of the dough so they don’t move when the dough is being rolled up.
Roll up the dough, starting with one of the short sides, gently but tightly. Place, seam-side down, in the prepared loaf pan, cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
Or divide the dough in 2 and roll out and shape into two loaves.
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
After the second rising (geez, no pun intended), pop the loaf pan(s) into the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top and, when tilted out of the pan, on the bottom as well (tapping on the bottom should give you a hollow sound).
When baked, tilt out of the loaf pan and allow the bread to cool on a cooling rack.
1 cup (120 g) sifted powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 1 tablespoon milk
Mix powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until drizzling consistency. Makes 1/2 cup or enough to drizzle over two loaves of bread. I placed the bread on a sheet of plastic wrap to catch the overflow.