Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Inspiration for Break Fast or Breakfast: Three Breads to Celebrate (and a Recipe Too)

For centuries, great thinkers have written about the mystical nature of bread. I’ll let them lead us on this week’s bread journey:
Avoid those who don’t like bread and children. - Swiss Proverb 
It’s a perfect analogy: bread and children are the embodiment of pure, authentic joy. Unless you've got a serious gluten allergy or you were raised by wolves, you have no excuse for not appreciating these things. Just ask MFK Fisher:
“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight...

It does not cost much. It is pleasant: one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with peace, and the house filled with one of the world's sweetest smells. 
But it takes a lot of time. If you can find that, the rest is easy. And if you cannot rightly find it, make it, for probably there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”
M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: make the time to make bread. It is one of the most gratifying processes you will ever experience, and your family will thank you too – if you choose to share. Although there are some great artisan bread bakers out there, nothing is more homey and inviting than the smell of a warm yeasty loaf coming out of your own oven, and there are an infinite number of ways to enjoy it.
“I am proud to be an American. Because an American can eat anything on the face of this earth as long as he has two pieces of bread.” - Bill Cosby
It’s true. Just spend a week eating with my husband. It's due to quotes like these that, no matter what the hour or the current decade, Cosby Show re-runs reel me back to the couch again and again. Viva la Cosby. And viva la sandwich!
“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” - Mahatma Gandhi
Who can deny that baking and sharing bread feels like nestling up to godliness? Whether you hunger for enlightenment or physical nourishment, bread is a symbol of sustenance and a source of fulfillment. And if god can reside in bread, the act of creating that bread becomes an act of meditation and thanksgiving. At this season of reflection for Jews and Christians, it seems the perfect vehicle for our attention.
So whether you’re breaking your Passover fast, celebrating the end of Lent, or just in the mood for a sweet treat at breakfast time, I give you three breads:
Rustic Potato Loaf -- also makes great buns for burgers

Gooey cinnamon-raisin swirl loaf

White loaf -- good for a Cosby-inspired sandwich or just plain toast

Below is the recipe for the white loaf and the cinnamon/swirl loaf. You can find the recipe for Rustic Potato Loaves here or in the Baking with Julia Cookbook.  Be sure to check out other TWD bloggers’ posts about the potato loaves.
Note: the time it takes to read through each recipe is actually longer than the hands-on time for making any of these very straightforward breads. Go for it!
Dinner and Breakfast Loaves

Adapted from Baking With Julia, by Dorie Greenspan. Contributing baker, Craig Kominiak

Makes two, 1 ¾-pound loaves: one plain white, one cinnamon swirl

2 ½ cups warm water (105 – 115 degrees)
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
7 cups (approximately) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon salt
½ stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the cinnamon swirl loaf:
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon

½ cup raisins, boiled in water for 3-5 minutes, until plump (optional)
¼ cup flour (approximately)

½ tsp sugar

1 Tablespoon butter, melted

Mixing and kneading (both loaves)
Pour ½ cup of the water into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, sprinkle in the yeast and sugar, and whisk to blend. Allow the mixture to rest until the yeast is creamy, about 5 minutes.

Working in the mixer with the dough hook in place, add the remaining 2 cups of water and about 3 ½ cups flour to the yeast. Turn the mixer on and off a few times, just to get the dough going without having the flour fly all over the counter and then, mixing at low speed, add 3 ½ cups more flour.

Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat, stopping to scrape down the bowl and hook as needed, until the dough comes together. (If the dough does not come together, add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time.) Add the salt and continue to beat and knead at medium speed for five to ten minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. If the dough starts to “climb” the hook or the mixer seems to be struggling, remove the dough from the bowl and, with the mixer on low, replace it, a large pinch at a time, until it comes back together. If you prefer, you can knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured surface for 8 to 10 minutes.

When the dough is thoroughly mixed (return it to the mixer if necessary), add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until incorporated. Don’t be disconcerted if your beautiful dough comes apart with the addition of butter -- beating will bring it back together.

First Rise
Divide the dough into two equal parts and shape them into balls. Place one ball into a large buttered or oiled bowl (one that can hold double the amount of dough). Turn the dough around to cover its entire surface with butter or oil, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and trace a circle on the wrap with a marker to indicate the beginning size of the dough. It’s also useful to write down the current time on the surface of the wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature until it doubles in bulk, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

First rise for cinnamon swirl loaf:

Place the boiled raisins in a bowl and combine with some of the flour to lightly coat.

Turn the second ball of dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead in the extra ½ tsp sugar and the flour-coated raisins. If necessary, add a little more flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time, to prevent the dough from sticking.

Re-shape the dough into a ball and place it in a large buttered or oiled bowl (one that can hold double the amount of dough). Turn the dough around to cover its entire surface with butter or oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, mark the top of the wrap with the beginning size of the dough and the time you’re starting the first rise. Let the dough rest at room temperature until it doubles in bulk, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Shaping the dough
Butter two 8 ½ inch by 4 ½-inch loaf pans and set them aside.

Combine the sugars and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

For the white loaf: Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a large rectangle about 9 inches wide and 12 inches long, with a short side facing you. Starting at the top, fold the dough about two thirds of the way down the rectangle and then fold it again, so that the top edge meets the bottom edge. (A “business letter” fold.)

Seal the seam by pinching it. Turn the roll so that the seam is in the center of the roll, facing up, and turn the ends of the roll in just enough so that it will fit in a buttered loaf pan. Pinch the end seams to seal, turn the loaf over so that the seams are on the bottom, and plump the loaf with your palms to get an even shape. Drop the loaf into the pan, seam side down.

For the cinnamon/swirl loaf:

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a large rectangle about 9 inches wide and 15 inches long, with a short side facing you. Brush the melted butter all over the top of the dough, then generously coat the entire surface area with a layer of the cinnamon sugar mixture. (The layer should be at least 1/8-inch thick.) Pat down the cinnamon/sugar mixture so it sticks to the dough. Then, starting at the top, tightly roll the loaf toward you and pinch the long seam to seal. Gently stretch the ends of the dough over the swirl and pinch to seal. (If any of the swirl remains showing on the outside of the dough, some of the cinnamon and sugar will ooze out during baking.)

Turn the loaf over so that the seams are on the bottom, and plump the loaf with your palms to get an even shape. Drop the loaf into the pan, seam side down. Sprinkle the top of the loaf with another generous layer of the cinnamon/sugar mixture and pat down gently with your fingertips. (You will likely have some cinnamon/sugar mixture left over. Save it and sprinkle a little on your toast in a day or two.)

Second rise
Cover the loaves with oiled plastic wrap, and allow them to rise in a warm place (about 80 degrees) until they double in size again, growing over the tops of the pans, about 45 minutes.

While the loaves rise, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Baking the breads
When the loaves are fully risen (poke your finger into the dough; the impression should remain), bake them for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the white loaf is honey-brown and the cinnamon/swirl loaf is deeply caramelized. If you like, 10 minutes or so before you think the loaves should come out, you can carefully turn the loaves out of their pans and let them bake on the oven rack or on a jelly roll pan so they brown on the sides. (If the cinnamon/swirl loaf is oozing some of it’s sugars, be careful not to burn yourself!)

The bread is done when an instant read thermometer plunged into the center of the bread from the bottom measures 200 degrees.

Allow the breads to rest for 5 minutes, then remove them from the pans and let them cool on a rack. These should not be cut until they are almost completely cool; just-warm is just right.

Once completely cool, the breads can be kept in a brown paper bag for a day or two. Once a loaf is sliced, turn it cut side down on the counter or a cutting board and cover with a kitchen towel.

Both loaves can be used to make delicious French toast after a day or two.

For longer storage, wrap the breads airtight and freeze for up to a month. Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.


  1. What a great post and all three of your breads look wonderful. Thank you for sharing the recipe for your cinnamon swirl bread and those great quotes.

  2. Love the bread quotes, the photos and the other two recipes, it's great that you made not one bread but three!

  3. You have definitely mastered bread baking! I think my family would love the cinnamon swirl most of all :)

    1. Yes, it was a big hit. Especially on day two, when we made french toast out of it. It didn't even need syrup!

  4. Wonderful post - I enjoyed the quotations you shared. I also love the way you shaped and slashed the potato loaf, it looks professional!

    1. Thanks Teresa, but I don't think I deserve any kudos for the shaping and slashing. Mostly, I just got lazy about reading the shaping directions, so I just did my own thing and threw it into the oven!

  5. I loved the quotations too! All the bread looks lovely.


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