Browsing articles in "Yeast Doughs"
Sep 29, 2017

Coffee Caramel Monkey Bread

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Oh, hello! I’m hoping you are either visiting because you’ve always visited and listened to me talk about all manner of life and baking, or that you’ve landed here after watching the Today show. Welcome!

As soon as I get back from New York, I’ll be diving into the fall and holiday chapters of the new book, and testing lots of great recipes to share with you. One of the best things about creating this new book is that the timeline of developing the manuscript is allowing me to bake my way through the year–we just finished a season of light cakes, ice creams, summer fruit pies, cobblers, dessert salads, and way more. And now, after a solid week of unwavering, sweaty, snappy-retort-causing 90-degree-plus temps in Chicago–the heat seems to have finally broken, and from beneath it I can feel some great baking inspiration rising.

And hey, speaking of rising, how are you feeling about yeast-raised doughs at this point in your baking life? (Heyyyy-ooooh! Tip the bartender on your way out!) For the longest time, they scared me in a totally irrational way. It all seemed way too touchy and volatile, and generally way too easy to mess up. So I either avoided yeast doughs altogether, or stuck to the plethora of no-knead bread recipes available on the internet. But now it’s different. I’ve learned that the trick to great bread is to just keep making freaking bread. Lots of lots of bread, much of it bad. And then suddenly, it will stop being bad. You’ll learn what the silky texture of a dough really means and when you achieve it, and if it’s not feeling silky and buoyant, how you must continue to work it to get it there.

You also learn that if you’re me, against all your old-fashioned homesteading dreams, even just 10 minutes of hand-kneading is incredibly boring and that you get better, quicker results from using a mixer for the heavy lifting, and finishing the kneading with just a few minutes by hand, to enjoy the feel of the dough when it’s really in its kneaded prime. And I feel great about that discovery. It’s brought a whole lot more joy to my bread-making life, I’ll tell you that right now.

One of the most adorable and delicious ways to use a homemade white bread dough is monkey bread, that midwestern classic. For me, it’s evocative of many a Chicago-suburbian slumber party in my school days, bake sales and church basements and snow days at other people’s houses (my mother is many things, but she is not a baker. Except for this and this, and these two things are perfect).

The good news is that you don’t need to make from-scratch bread dough to bake up a great monkey bread. Now this doesn’t mean that I think the Pinteresting trends of using canned biscuits and what not are a grand idea in this case. To me, the genuine article when it comes to monkey bread means that the dough is yeasted. So when I’m short on time or the will to live, I use frozen bread dough, either in 1-pound loaves, or the frozen individual dinner rolls that are designed to have a rise time before baking–the rolls are especially great because they require only a crosswise snip with kitchen scissors to make them just the right size.

From there, you can go many different ways–simply rolling the dough balls in butter and then cinnamon-sugar and stuffing them into a bundt pan, or you can gild the lily by dousing the whole buttery, spicy, sugary lot in a sweet caramel syrup to make it even more irresistible. I’ll give you zero seconds to guess which method I prefer.

 

Coffee Caramel Monkey Bread

A few tips for success: First, cold dough will cut and shape much more easily. Second, if the bread begins to billow out of the pan during baking, just carefully and gently press it back down into the pan while it’s in the oven–sometimes the caramel syrup can steam underneath the dough and send it upwards. And lastly, be sure to allow the bread to settle in the pan for about 20 minutes before turning it out.

Serves 10-12

For the dough:

2 pounds (907 grams) frozen white bread dough, thawed but still cold
1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/75 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the caramel:

1/2 cup (4 ounces/113 grams) strong brewed coffee
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/75 grams) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup (8 ounces/225 grams) dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Spray a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan with nonstick cooking spray and set it on a rimmed baking sheet. Cut the dough into small pieces and roll into 1-inch balls.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Lightly coat the dough balls with melted butter, then toss them in the sugar to coat. Fit the dough balls into the pan. Cover the pan with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350°F.

In a medium saucepan set over high heat, combine the coffee, butter, brown sugar, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for two minutes, until slightly thickened. Immediately pour the caramel over the risen dough. Bake until puffed and golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before inverting onto a platter and serving warm.

Apr 18, 2017

Classic Pullman Loaf

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Well, hey! I figure now that it’s April and we’ve all clearly gotten over carb-banning early months of the new year, that we can get real once again and talk about the good stuff in life. Like bread. And let’s just go all in here and talk white bread. YOLOOOOOOO.

Since relocating to my hometown of Chicago from San Francisco a year and a half ago (!!), I’ve gotten deep into the art of Midwestern baking. What it looks like, what it tastes like, what it means, the roots of it all. It’s been good for the brain, the spirit, the soul. When I left the Midwest in 2003, there was so much about this place that I didn’t realize was special, interesting, or different from other parts of the country. I guess that’s to be expected when you grow up somewhere and just take the little things for granted, and I realize this is not a unique story. But what is unique is getting the opportunity to come back, not just after having spent my entire early adulthood on the west coast, but the early part of motherhood, too.

Because now coming “home” isn’t just about me. It’s about making a real home in the place where my earliest memories live, and suddenly recalling those memories, one after the next like I’ve unearthed a dusty box of Polaroids and Beta home videos, with my kids who are currently forming their own earliest memories. TRIPPY. I even might use the word “meta” here if I felt confident enough about using it correctly?

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Dec 22, 2014

Cranberry and Apricot Stollen

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I’m going Hyper-Christmas™ this year, people. I’m talking going to cookie exchanges, lots of baking and candymaking, cranking up the Bublé (is it just me, or is he the new Bing Crosby?), and making my kids wear matching Christmas jammies because I’m their mother and I only have a few good years to get away with such frippery. Fa-la-la-la-la!!

I’m pretty pumped about the whole thing, and now that my girl is getting old enough to really get into baking with me all the way through a recipe and not peacing out right after dumping everything into the mixing bowl, I’ve been thinking about seasonal things we can make together every year, and start a new little tradition of our own. Of course, every holiday season officially kicks off with a batch of my very favorite sugar cookies, but this year I came across a cozy recipe that absolutely screams Christmas–sweet, colorful, a bit of history from my German heritage involved, and just enough of a process to make it holiday-worthy and not something you’d do on any old weekend. Lately I’ve been so inspired by all the amazing German baked goods Luisa has been sharing on Instagram as she writes her next sure-to-be-fabulous book, and now I’m all, GUTEN TAG, LET’S MAKE ALL THE KUCHEN, BITTE. It’s pure magic, the things she’s been turning out.

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Apr 15, 2014

Chunky Monkey Coffee Cake

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In my last post, I raved about my love of the one-pan wonder at dinnertime. Which, of course, immediately got me thinking about one-bowl/one-dish wonders when it comes to baking. As much as I love pulling out every crazy baking pan and gadget and really getting into it in the kitchen, after months and months of recipe development and testing (and an appalling amount of dishwashing), there’s nothing better than the feeling of a throwing together a recipe that feels as easy-breezy and dump-and-stir as a boxed cake mix, but isn’t…a boxed cake mix.

There are a few one-bowl, minimal dish-dirtying favorites in my arsenal that I go back to time and time again, like these brownies, or this banana bread, that are so simple and satisfying, it’s as though you can feel your all the scraggly edges of your weary soul fusing back together as you stir. In a busy life that sometimes make you want to punch yourself in the face from all its pressures, that’s the good stuff, right there. They’re the kind of recipes that remind me why I love to bake. I just dump everything in and stir, stir, stir my way back to sanity.

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Feb 12, 2014

Little Cocoa Liege Waffles

Little Cocoa Liege Waffles :: Shauna Sever

Maybe it’s because I’m a late February baby, but I’ve always had a thing for Valentine’s Day. Abundance of twee notwithstanding, I just sort of love the idea of a Love Day. Granted, there have been years when I was Valentine-less, but even then I guess it was the hope that one day I would have a Permanent Valentine that buoyed me, along with a legit excuse to get chocolate wasted. These days, I still get chocolate wasted on Valentine’s Day, and this year in particular I’m pretty excited about celebrating some Big Love with our Little Family. There’s a lot that’s happened in the past several months, plenty of ups and downs and stressing until I think I might lose it (and on a couple of occasions I totally have). But we might (maybe? Please, universe?) be entering a bit of sweet spot right now, a little calm before the next inevitable storm. And so I say, bust out the chocolate. Turn dessert into breakfast, or vice versa. And good grief, don’t forget the Champagne.

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Dec 18, 2012

Orange-Scented Cinnamon Rolls

While I hesitate to call it an all-out phobia, I will say that my, um, reticent nature towards baking with yeast has been well-documented in the past. I know I’m not the only one out there who suffers from this fear, and let’s face it–yeast is a funny thing. I mean, it’s ALIVE, for cry-yi. Unpredictable, with a mind of its own! And how do you choose the right type of yeast? What if you only have active dry and the recipe calls for instant? How can you really know for sure if the dough has doubled? The world could explode with such Oprah-esque Life Questions.

Well. Recently I’ve tried to tackle that fear for good, experimenting with different breads, rolls, even cakes that use yeast as their puffing (and flavor) agent. I’ve been inching closer to becoming One With the Yeast. Baby steps.

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Jul 20, 2010

Quick Brioche


All right, so I know I’ve told all y’all more than once about my totally irrational fear of yeast-raised doughs. I don’t know what it is–I suppose perhaps I lack a Bread Thumb or somesuch. Or maybe my standards are too high (insert witty comment from husband here). But for whatever reason, I’ve had way more misses than hits when it comes to making bread. And with all of the amazing artisanal breadmakers here in the Bay Area, there’s little reason to make some myself, other than that nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that I need to conquer my baker’s Achilles’ heel. Oddly, that voice sounds a lot like Justin Bieber. I still haven’t figured that one out.


Anyway, when it comes to breads, I tend to be drawn to recipes that are of the Bread for Dummies sort. The kind that have millions of positive reviews or have things like “Foolproof”, “No-Knead” or “Easy” in the title always catch my eye. And if the recipe is by a baker I love so much I have him at the table of my long, loud lunch daydream along with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Ina, Shirley Corriher and Christopher Kimball, then all the better. Enter Nick Malgieri’s Quick Brioche.



I am a sucker for brioche. My first real taste of it came from the legendary LaBrea Bakery in Los Angeles and it pretty much ruined me for life–I’ve never tasted one so light and delicate, and yet so buttery and rich. Toasted with blackberry jam, oh my Lord, you may never eat anything else again. I didn’t hope to reach such great heights with this particular recipe, but nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. The day it was made, you could find at least one person, full grown or tiny, with a hunk in his or her hand at all times–the whole loaf disappeared within a day.


For a dough that comes together in a flash in the food processor, the flavor and texture here is especially impressive. I’m talking big results for very, very little work, guys. It baked up all fluffy inside and deeply golden with a beautifully glossy crust. Afterwards, the only thing Justin Bieber was dogging me about in the back of my head was the fact that the nice little braid I had going when it went into the oven sort of stretched out and pulled apart unattractively down the center–other than just putting it in a loaf pan next time, any pointers as to how I can remedy this and get this whining, shaggy-haired teeny bopper off my back, friends?

Quick Brioche
Adapted from Nick Malgieri’s The Modern Baker

Note that the butter used here is cold, not softened as in other brioche recipes. Keeping the butter cool here will help it withstand any heat from mixing in the food processor. You can make one large braid, or divide the dough in half and make two loaves with it in two buttered 9×5 inch loaf pans, which may take a few more minutes to bake.

Makes 1 16-inch long braid, or 2 standard-sized loaves

1 /2 cup milk
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

Egg wash:

1 additional large egg, beaten with a pinch of salt

Heat the milk in a small saucepan or in the microwave until it is just lukewarm, about 110 degrees F. Pour the milk into a small bowl and whisk in the yeast. Use a spoon to stir in 1 cup of the flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until it is bubbly and slightly risen, about 20 minutes.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade (or the dough blade, if you have one), combine the butter, sugar, salt, eggs and egg yolks. Pulse until the butter is finely chopped and equally distributed throughout the mixture, which will appear curdled and separated (but won’t worry–it will come back together when flour is added).

Scrape the yeast mixture into the food processor and pulse 6 times to mix. Add 1 cup of the remaining flour and pulse until the mixture is smooth. Scrape down the bowl. Add the rest of the flour and pulse again until well-mixed. Let the dough rest in the food processor for 10 minutes.

After the rest, start the processor and let it run continuously for 10 seconds. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. With the help of a bench scraper, knead the dough 5 or 6 times, or until it is slightly more elastic.

With the bench scraper or a knife, divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each each piece into a thick, even rope about 12 inches long. If the dough is too sticky to work with, refrigerate it for 20 minutes and start again.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the three ropes lengthwise on the sheet, with about 1/2 inch in between them. Starting in the middle of the loaf, braid the ropes together towards you, pinching the ends together gently and tucking them under the loaf. Rotate the pan and repeat, braiding the rest of the loaf.

Cover the braid with a towel or buttered plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours, depending on how warm the room is.

When you’re ready to bake, position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees.

Just before baking, brush the braid lightly all over with the egg wash, being careful not to let it puddle in the creases of the braid. Bake until the bread is well risen and beautifully golden and glossy, about 35 to 40 minutes. Slide the parchment onto a wire rack to let the bread cool before slicing.

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