Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread

When the weather finally starts to chill out, all I want to do is eat something warm and cinnamon-y. My folks have been nagging me to make cinnamon rolls again. Been there, done that. Instead, I looked for something similar that’ll please my folks, and give me something new to make.

I’ve been seeing pull apart bread for what feels like ages all over the internet. They’ve always intrigued me but I never really thought about making one. It reminds me a little of monkey bread, another one I’ve seen everywhere. The fact that these recipes are both interactive seemed like a good idea. Little did I know I was in for a bit of a challenge.

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First of all, the recipe itself is a little strange to me. It’s a bread recipe, which I am familiar with, except this one has a different method. The dough is very wet at first and it’ll feel like it’s never going to come together. I was initially concerned midway through the recipe when I saw how sticky it was, and that I barely needed to knead it. The dough actually reminded me of two things: an egg bread, and the aforementioned cinnamon rolls. The only difference was that the cinnamon roll dough wasn’t this sticky (it handled like a dream. I swear I’m not talking about a car).  As I moved further along in the process, it did come together.

Relieved from knowing the dough turned into dough, I moved forward onto the next steps. Let’s talk about this topping for a minute. Cinnamon sugar is super simple to make, and does this thing where whatever it’s on is basically automatically delicious. I don’t know how that works but it does. This recipe calls for a lot. A LOT. Joy (the mastermind behind this recipe) says to use it all. Look, I was as skeptical as you when I read that. I thought about it for quite some time (read: two minutes) and ended up holding back. Listen to Joy, people. Use it all. When stacking the slices of dough encased in sugar, a lot of it fell off. It kind of defeats the purpose of using all of it but make sure you slap on all that butter, too. Sprinkle the leftover sugar on top if you must but use it all up.

Proofed, looking like an accordion

After I got through the messy cinnamon sugar stage, it was time to pop the slices in the pan. I have a regular loaf pan (a 9×5), which is what the recipe called for. Considering my measuring skills suck, my rectangle of dough wasn’t the exact size in the recipe, which means my strips weren’t sliced into six. I had five strips that turned into eight stacks, which ended up backfiring on me a little bit. I gently maneuvered my stacked and sliced sugared strips into the pan and let it rise. It looked like a beautiful, sugary accordion. So lovely. I popped it in the oven and proceeded to clean up my kitchen.

About 10 minutes in, I hear sizzling. Confused about the noise (because since when does bread sizzle?), I turned on the oven light and checked on the bread through the oven door. Pieces of the bread had come out of the loaf pan and onto my oven racks and floor! I dropped whatever I was doing, grabbed the longest pair of tongs in my house, and popped the oven open. I was able to rescue the piece that fell on the rack but the one on the oven floor ended up giving me grief. Since it was covered in sugar, it burned all over my oven floor. It smelled like burnt sugar for a while, too. I guess that was my fault but I wasn’t expecting that to happen! I cleaned up my oven after I finished baking, though. A real pain but it happens.

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Even after all of that, the bread continued to give me grief. It did not want to get out of the pan. Like at all. I buttered it twice, and it still stuck. Again, all that sugar was to blame. It caramelized and hardened a little while it was cooling. After several knife runs and turns upside down, I got the bread out with a few minor injuries (read: the bread fell apart in some places).

Despite the fact that it gave me some trouble, the bread came out absolutely delicious! It didn’t even last the day in my house; it was that good. The top was super crunchy because of all that sugar. The bread itself was light and fluffy, which I guess has to do with the odd dough method. Kudos to that, to be honest. It actually reminded me a lot of a Dominican sweet I can only get when I’m over there called ‘pan dulce;’ which literally translates to sweet bread, and that’s exactly what they are. And like I correctly assumed, it was fun to peel off each layer before devouring it. My folks peeled them off in chunks, and all you heard were approving noises come out of them while they had their mouths full.

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I’m not one to repeat recipes but even though this bread gave me a little trouble, I’d make it again. At least I now know how to handle it!

Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread – barely adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes one 9×5″ loaf

Dough:

  • 3  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sugar topping:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted until browned

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl (I used just the bowl of my stand mixer) whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Set aside. Whisk together the eggs in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted.  Remove from the heat and add water and vanilla extract.  Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the mixture registers 115 to 125 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, it should be a little warmer than body temperature.
  3. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula.  Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter.  The eggs will feel soupy and it’ll seem like the dough and the eggs are never going to come together.  Keep stirring.  Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes.  The mixture will be very sticky.
  4. Place the dough in a large, and well 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.
  5. While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling.  Set aside.  Melt 2 ounces of butter until browned, and set aside.  Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch  loaf pan.  Set that aside too.
  6. Deflate the risen dough and knead about 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.  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. Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough.  Sprinkle with all of the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Emphasis on ‘all
  7. 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.  Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
  8. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, 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.
  9. 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.  Place a cake stand or cake plate on top of the  upside down loaf, and carefully invert so it’s right side up.  Serve warm with coffee or tea.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Rereading the recipe made me realize a very important tidbit I missed the first time. FLOUR THE PAN. Jeez, that would’ve save me a lot of time (and a minor headache). 
  • Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t roll out to exactly the size stated in the recipe. I didn’t and it came out fine. Sorta. 
  • Make sure your loaf is completely cooked through. The bread should be super brown, like almost on the verge of burning. Not only does that leave you with a super crunchy crust, but it gives the bread time to cook through without sacrificing taste. 
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Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Another loaf of bread! I have been definitely getting almost knee deep in some bread dough lately and while it is a challenge, I love it. This is my second documented attempt at sandwich bread. It’s actually my fourth or fifth attempt at a sandwich loaf; the others were not reserved for this blog! I made a lot of mistakes the first couple times, but I kind of have the hang of it now.

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This loaf is very different than the last loaf I posted. There is plenty of kneading time in this recipe but a shorter wait time, which is a way better trade off. As a result, you have the fluffy and soft bread you’re used to buying at your local grocery store but tastier and fresher.

For this post, I knew I wanted to take as many photos as possible because I feel that many are turned off of making bread completely by hand. I know I was when I started, so having visual aids help. To sort of demystify the process, I got creative. I just want to preface by saying that I have very accessible and beginner type equipment. I take my pictures with my little digital camera, and video tape with my rinky-dink handheld. It’s not the best, clearest quality but it still works.

I used my handheld this time, to tape how I formed the dough into a loaf! Loaves are folded using the envelope method, which is folding the dough in thirds, then once again in half before placing into the bread pan. These GIFs will demonstrate the process.

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Turn your dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently flatten your turned out dough, using your fingertips, to about the length of your bread pan. Mine is larger than the standard size; which is why dough is bigger. Starting from the end closest to you, fold it into the middle of the dough and flatten slightly.

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Grab the end furthest to you and fold into the middle, flattening slightly. This is why it’s called the envelope method; because it’s similar to how we fold letters before inserting into an envelope!

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After folding, gently flatten the dough using your fingertips. We’ve got one more fold coming, so the flatter it is, the easier it is to complete the final fold.

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Grab the end closest to you and fold it over; starting in the middle. Kind of like folding a paper in half, make sure the ends are all even.

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Once folded, pinch the edges together. Start at one end, and work your way to the other end. Dust off any excess flour, so that the edges will stick.

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Once the edges are pinched together, roll the log onto its seam. Gently pick up your log and place it into your greased loaf pan. If your dough elongates to a length longer than your pan, do not fret. Do what I did; the “dump and squish.” It’s not a technical term, yet! Place the dough in the pan and gently push it in with your fingers until the dough is comfortably in the pan. Cover and set aside for its second and final rise.

This loaf was tall, dark and very handsome! Sliced, it’s fluffy, nutty and slightly sweetened; thanks to the whole wheat flour and honey. My slices were so large, one slice was enough to make a sandwich! It was so delicious and disappeared very, very quickly. It was such a hit with my family that this recipe will 100% be my standby for loaves. I’m seriously considering not buying store bought sliced bread anymore!

I had fun making this loaf, and the instructional GIFs. I plan on making more instructional stuff  in the future; possibly with better lighting and clearer video quality! I hope that these little GIFs will help you want to try making a homemade loaf of bread. It is a bit labor intensive but the end result is most definitely worth it.

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Honey Whole Wheat Bread – adapted from Gold Medal Flour

Makes two small loaves or one really large loaf

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
  • 1/2cup honey
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 3teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 cups very warm water (120°F to 130°F)
  • 4 1/2cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 3/4 to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. In large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Add honey, butter, salt, 2 1/2 cups very warm water and 3 cups of the whole wheat flour. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl frequently. Beat in remaining 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour.

  2. With spoon, stir in 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 cups of the all-purpose flour until dough pulls cleanly away from side of bowl.

  3. On lightly floured surface, knead in remaining 1/2 to 1 cup all-purpose flour; continue kneading 5 to 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Grease large bowl with shortening or cooking spray; place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover; let rise in warm place 30 to 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

  4. Generously grease 2 (8×4- or 9×5-inch) loaf pans or one large loaf pan with shortening or cooking spray. Gently push fist into dough to deflate; divide in half. Shape dough into loaves using the envelope method (pictured above) and place in pans. Cover and let rise in warm place; 30 to 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

  5. Heat oven to 375°F. Uncover dough; bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F; bake 10 to 15 minutes longer or until loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove from pans to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • If loaves aren’t your thing, these could easily be split up into rolls. After the first rise, portion into rolls, making sure they are evenly distributed. Cover and let rise as normal. Bake at 375F for about 10-12 minutes.
  • This bread can last up to a week in a bag or large plastic container at room temperature. I’d put it in the fridge after a week, if it lasts that long!
  • Not into two loaves (or a really big loaf) of bread? This recipe can be easily halved. 

Blog updates:

I added a mini Blogroll to the sidebar; I’m going to keep adding faves as I go. So far so good! I also added the Instagram widget (above the Blogroll), so you can see what’s happening in sort of real time! If you’d like to follow me, my Twitter and Instagram links are above that widget; either way, I am @lalaluluj on both sites.

No Knead Sandwich Bread

I know I’ve mentioned this here before (several times, actually) but my family and I are carb lovin’ fiends. We all have this immense love for bread. It’s actually kind of shocking how much bread four people can go through! It is a definite staple in my house, and the fancier the better. The biggest fiends in the house are actually my sister and me. We have the reputation of finishing loaves of bread within a day, often in one sitting. Shameful, I know.

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Sometimes, when we would go food shopping, my dad would pick up a double bag of challah bread from the bakery section of the giant supermarket. The bag brought two moderately sized loaves; enough to probably feed 8-10 people. He’d usually give one away and we’d keep the other. No joke, my sister and I would tear into that loaf and scarf down more than half in one sitting. We’d just keep tearing off chunks and eating until our willpower would show up, and we’d try to put the rest away. I have to say, when my sister and I go hard, we go HARD.

These days, we’re not limited to challah bread. While it is on my baking bucket list, I’ve jumped into more serious forms of bread baking: the sandwich loaf. Coincidentally, we ran out of our store-bought loaves earlier this week, so I jumped at the opportunity to make my own. I tread lightly when it comes to bread, not only because of the carb lovin’ fiend in me, but because it is a lot harder to do everything the good old fashioned way. On one hand, I’m glad I get to really get to know what it’s like to make bread by hand but it is A LOT of work. I wish I had the convenience of a stand mixer or a bread machine but til then, I’m gonna continue to get down and dirty with my dough.

I decided to make it easy on myself, and chose a no knead bread recipe. I’m not really too familiar with the science behind no knead doughs, so I wasn’t sure how this was even going to work. Skepticism aside, it worked and it was a cinch. The only difficult thing about this recipe is the wait time. The bread rises for five hours, proofs for another hour, bakes for about 30 minutes, and then you need to wait ANOTHER hour for it to cool before slicing. I was basically hounded all day by my sister, asking if the bread was done!

It was definitely worth the wait! The loaf filled my house with the aroma of freshly baked bread, which was enough to send us into a tizzy. Hot out of the oven, it resembled the ordinary bread you’d find in the grocery store. When finally sliced, its crackly and crunchy exterior revealed a soft, yeasty and spongy interior. The five hour rise allowed the bread to form a million nooks and crannies (can I even say that if I’m not describing English muffins?) that are just ready to be filled with sweet butter or jam. It doesn’t exactly resemble the spongey bread you’re used to but it is surprisingly chewy, toasts beautifully and makes a mean grilled cheese. It has only been two days, and half the loaf is already gone! I’m planning on making more bread (really soon, actually), so expect more carbs in the coming weeks. For now, let me get back to this loaf before it completely disappears!

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No Knead Sandwich Bread – adapted from Food52

  • 3 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups of water

Directions:

  1. Combine the flours, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add water and stir together with a wooden spoon to form a shaggy dough. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let proof at room temperature for around 5 hours. At this point the dough can be used immediately, or covered with plastic wrap and kept in the fridge for up to two weeks.
  2. Turn the dough out on a floured surface, sprinkle some flour on the dough and lightly knead 3–4 times. Shape dough into a large rectangle. Fold one third of the dough into the center, followed by the other third.
  3. Place seam side-down in a buttered loaf pan. Sprinkle some flour over the top and cover. Let rise for approximately 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  4. Preheat your oven to 450°. Dust the top of the dough with a little more flour and score with a serrated knife. Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until the top of the loaf has just begun to brown. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used a combo of whole wheat and all purpose flour. If you have access to bread flour, please use it! The texture will be different but delicious nonetheless. 
  • The original recipe didn’t say what temperature the water should be, so I used warm (a little warmer than body temp.); just to be on the safe side. 
  • I used a large loaf pan and made one big loaf. Alternatively, you can use two small loaves.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

There’s nothing like a little draft in the air to inspire me to bake. I’ve been having a little bit of a baking cold spell lately. I had a few things planned for the last couple of weeks but life got in the way. Since the summer heat has generally died down, I am ready to go full-on into fall baking.

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I plan a list of things I want to bake during the fall every year, but never seem to go through with it. Even in the winter, concerning the American tradition of making dozens and dozens of cookies for Christmas. I’ve never been one to make cookies anyway, but I digress.

One of the things that always appears on the list is bread. I’ve been on a bread kick as of late and it’s all I want to make. My last two attempts at bread loaves ended with lots of disappointment. They both came out flat and tasted off. I ate both loaves by myself over several weeks. I worked most of my meals around my flat and tangy bread failures. I couldn’t even make a proper sandwich! I knew what went wrong both times but hoped it wouldn’t matter. The culprits were the lack of bread flour and the size of my loaf pan. Accepting my failures, I caved for one of the two items; a smaller loaf pan. I was obviously unaware that the standard loaf pan size is 9″x5″. My first loaf pan, aka my Behemoth, is more like 12″x6″. After noticing that most (ahem, more like 99%) of bread recipes called for a 9″x5″, I gave in and bought one.

My family is a big fan of anything high in cinnamon and raisins. They usually buy those Pepperidge Farm loaves of cinnamon raisin swirl bread at Sam’s Club and gobble it up within days. I planned on breaking in my new pan with this cinnamon bread. Even after reading and re-reading the recipe several times, I neglected the fact that the original recipe called for two 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pans. Thank goodness I had my Behemoth as backup because it suited this recipe perfectly. Despite reading the recipe reviews, laden with rise failures, I trekked on and hoped for the best.

Bread's ready for the oven, after rising in the pan for another hour

Bread’s ready for the oven, after rising in the pan for another hour

Everything worked perfectly fine, even with a few modifications. To combat the rising problems many of the reviewers had, I used my toaster oven as a proof box. I turned my toaster oven on while I kneaded and formed the dough after the first rise. Turn the oven off and let it cool down slightly, before placing the plastic covered loaf pan in there for its second rise. I made sure the oven was warm and not hot because I didn’t want the bread to bake prematurely.

The loaf came out tall, fragrant, and fluffy. It tastes exactly like the packaged stuff, if not better. Yeah, the swirl was missing but it doesn’t even matter when you have bread as easy and as fresh as this. It’s great warm out of the oven but tastes even better toasted the next day.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes one 12″x6″ loaf, or two 8 1/2″x4 1/2″ loaves

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
  • 1 heaping cup dark and/or golden raisins
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water, 110°F
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Combine and heat the milk and butter (on the stove or in the microwave) until just hot to the touch (about 120°F). Transfer to a large bowl and add the raisins or other fruit, oat flakes, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt and cinnamon; stir well and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, dissolve the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar and active dry yeast in the water and let sit until bubbles appear. When the milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast mixture and mix well. Stir in the unbleached flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes by hand, adding additional flour only as necessary to prevent sticking. You can also do this whole process in the bowl of an electric mixer, kneading the dough for 5 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat it on all sides, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a cozy place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. Knock down the dough, knead briefly on a lightly floured surface. Divide dough if using two loaf pans, shape into loaves and place into your two lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until nicely browned. Near the end of the baking time, if the loaves are getting dark too quickly, cover them with a piece of aluminum foil, shiny-side up. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used half soy milk and half 2% milk, with good results. If you’re using alternate milks, please let me know what you use and how it turns out!
  • Chopped nuts, or other dried fruit can also be incorporated into the dough.
  • Make sure your water is not too hot for your yeast! The water should be warmer than body temperature (about 110F/45C) but not too hot to the touch. Use a food thermometer if you have one, and would like the reassurance that you won’t kill your yeast. 
  • If you don’t have a toaster oven to use as a mock proof box, use your regular stove oven. Preheat the oven and then shut it off before placing your bread in there for its second rise. Just make sure it isn’t too hot!