The inclination to make some sort of baked good that's braided, twisted, or otherwise twirled this way and that, hits me at least once a year and it struck again this week.
Isn't it funny how the shape of a food can influence one's perception of how good it might taste, how exotic its origin, or how challenging it might be to prepare? There's something special about curvy food. We become literally entangled in its aura.
The way it meanders hither and yon, curling and whirling wherever the recipe takes it. The presence of figure-8 curves lends a certain spontaneity, a sense of adventure, a bit of mystery that normal food doesn't possess.
Heck, what say we just go completely off the rails here and declare it's all a metaphor for life?
About this recipe . . .
Adapted from a King Arthur Flour formula (I seem to be in a King Arthur phase lately, don't I?), this apple-cinnamon bread likes to masquerade as something complicated. But don't be fooled, because this dough is much less labor intensive and far less rich than a laminated dough, the kind that has tons of butter rolled into it--think Danish-pastry or puff-pastry.
I decided to add some chopped dried cherries (yes, from Michigan, in case you were wondering) to the apple filling. I think the cherries were a nice addition in terms of flavor and color; I also increased the cinnamon, and used a little fresh-ground nutmeg. You might consider using dried cranberries or raisins if you don't have cherries. I used about four small Gala apples that happened to be very sweet and crispy, but use whatever apple variety you prefer.
This bread isn't scary to make (I did it by hand; no mixer needed unless you want to use one), though it does take some time from start to finish, what with about four hours of rising time in total (I started it at about 9 a.m. yesterday morning, proceeded in a halfway-leisurely fashion, and took it out of the oven around 2:15 p.m.). Once baked, it is best when very fresh. Since it makes two large loaves, I immediately froze the second one shortly after it was cooled and the drizzled glaze had had a chance to dry. Sliced up, you'll get many servings out of this recipe.
Yield: Two large loaves (approximately 16 slices per loaf)
Ingredients for the dough:
3 and 1/4 cups pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour (I used pastry flour.)
1/4 cup dried potato flakes (mashed-potato flakes) or potato flour (I used Hungry Jack brand dehydrated potato flakes.)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt (I used coarse kosher salt.)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk (I used 2 percent, and warmed it to room temperature.) Ingredients for the filling:
1/2 granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (Or, KAF suggests you use Instant ClearJel; I used flour.)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup apple that's been peeled and grated (I needed four small Gala apples.)
3 tablespoons dried cherries, chopped small
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Ingredients for the glaze:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons cream, half and half, or milk (I used half and half.) To make the dough:
In a large bowl, whisk together thoroughly all of the dry ingredients, making sure there are no clumps.
Add in the butter, vanilla, lightly beaten egg, and milk. Stir with a spoon or fork until the dough looks quite shaggy. Let the dough sit in the bowl, uncovered, for half an hour (per KAF, this will give the flour time to absorb liquid, thus making the dough easier to knead).
Onto a well-floured surface, dump out your dough. Flour your hands liberally, and knead the dough for about ten minutes. If your dough feels too dry, sprinkle it with drops of water; too wet, use more flour on your kneading surface.
The dough, once ready, should be springy, smooth, and elastic. Place it into a large, clean bowl, that's been oiled or sprayed with vegetable spray (I used the latter). Cover the top of the bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap that's also been sprayed, and then cover that lightly with a thin dish towel.
Let the dough rise in a draft-free spot until just about doubled; this may take 90 minutes to 2 hours. (The longer the rise, the better the final flavor of the baked bread, so longer is often better.)
While the dough is rising, prepare the filling.
To make the filling:
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Put the grated apple and chopped dried cherries into a medium bowl and toss them with the lemon juice; sprinkle the dry ingredients over the fruit and stir thoroughly. Set aside.
To roll out, fill, and shape the dough:
Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Deflate the dough gently by folding it over a couple of times. Cut it in half. Dust your surface again, lightly, with flour. Working on one piece at a time, roll the first half of dough into a rectangle that's 10" by 12".
Spoon half of the filling onto the rectangle and spread it all around, leaving an uncovered border of about 1/2" around the edge.
Beginning with the longest side of the dough, roll the dough up into a log.
Seal the long seam tightly by pinching it closed with your fingertips, and seal the ends as well. Now do the exact same thing with the second piece of dough.
Use a sharp pastry wheel (aka pizza cutter/wheel) or chef's knife to slit each log from top to bottom, length-wise.
Now, do this for each split log (so you end up with two loaves): Place two lengths of dough filled-side up, side by side on a piece of parchment set over a baking sheet (I forgot to put my first log, the guy on the left, onto parchment and had to transfer it after it was twisted--yikes!). Keeping the filling-side up, twist the two lengths together, working from the center out to each end. Pinch the dough at the ends together so they won't come apart while baking.
Cover the two loaves loosely with sprayed plastic wrap, and cover that lightly with a dish towel.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Let the loaves rise again until almost doubled, up to 2 hours.
Bake the loaves in the middle of your oven for approximately 30 to 35 minutes. They should be lightly golden on top and darker golden on the bottom. Peek at them after about 20 minutes, and cover the loaves lightly with foil if they appear to be browning too fast.
Let the baked loaves cool on a rack and glaze them when they're no longer warm.
To make the glaze:
In a medium bowl, stir together the confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, and milk/cream until the glaze is the consistency you prefer. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled loaves. (If you like, sprinkle a few pinches of sanding sugar over that to add a little sparkle, while the glaze is still kind of wet.) Once the glaze has dried, you may wrap the loaves now if you are going to freeze them.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
If you'd like to know a bit about me please click here, or look for the tiny photo of a pink cupcake topped by a strawberry, further down, in the "About me"section. You can also reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . . .
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JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
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