Bread for Communion Part VI: Road to Emmaus Pull-Apart Bread

This week’s Sunday School lesson is about Cleopas’s walk to Emmaus, where the newly-risen Jesus appears to him and another disciple, but they don’t know it’s Jesus until they arrive at their destination and Jesus breaks bread with them.  All the lesson plans I read about where about seeing, and involved seeing games, which didn’t really seem quite right.

I feel that way about a lot of children’s Sunday School lessons, to be honest.  They are focused on a secondary element of the story, and because of that, they don’t really foster an understanding of the story or the lesson.  If the story is about Jesus as the shepherd, and the craft involves making cotton-ball sheep, I mean yeah, it’s technically related to the story, but will kids really remember what the story was, if you ask them a week later?

So oftentimes my lesson plans diverge sharply from the script.  This is one of those times.  If the divergence leads me to a baking project, well, so much the better.

I thought it might fit better if the kids had a treasure hunt, leading them to a picnic with bread they can break apart together.  I feel like that fits more with the “revealing” aspect of the story.  A few minutes later, and I knew the perfect bread for the occasion: pull-apart bread, also called Monkey Bread.

I have no idea why it’s called Monkey Bread, and it sounds like no one else does either.  Also, Monkey Bread seems to signify a certain type of rich bread smothered in sugar and butter.  So that’s why I’m calling it pull-apart bread.  Just trying to manage expectations.

I got the recipe from here, but with a lot of variations.

You will need:

3 cups of AP flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, divided in half
2 teaspoons or one packet yeast
1 egg
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt

1. First, grease a round aluminum cake pan or bundt pan.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of flour, the sugar, salt and yeast. Set aside.

3.  In a small pot, melt the milk and 1/4 cup butter on low heat.

4. When the milk and butter mixture is slightly warm, about 120-130 degrees F, mix it and the egg into the flour mixture and whisk until well-combined.  I poured the milk and butter into the flour first, then the egg to ward off curdling.

5. Add the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you have a nice dough that isn’t sticky but is still workable.  Here’s what my dough looked like after one 1/2 cup, and after a cup (I didn’t need the whole extra 1 1/2 cups of flour).  At some point I switched from mixing by whisk to mixing by hand.

Ok, I think I added 1/4 cup of flour after this because I could see it was getting close.

6. I let it sit for ten minutes to let the hydration work its magic and the gluten formation to start.  I stretched and folded it a few times to help with gluten formation and structure.

7. Then I moved it to a floured countertop.

8. Using the bench scraper, I cut the dough into twelve pieces.  Next time, I will probably cut it into 24 pieces, because that’s more fun.

9.  I let them rest for about five minutes, then I rolled them into balls.

10. I let them rest again while I melted the other 1/4 cup of butter in the microwave.  Carefully dip each ball into the butter and roll around to coat.  Then place each ball into the greased cake pan.  You will have butter left over, but don’t throw it away!

11.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap or my new favorite thing, shower caps for covering food:

12. I let them rise for about two hours, until they looked like this:

13. I preheated the oven to 375 degrees F, and used the leftover melted butter to cover the top of the loaf.  Then bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.

I left it in the pan to cool, then dumped it onto a cooling rack.

I’m pretty excited, and I think the kids will love their treasure hunt to reveal this fun bread.  You could make it with any dough I think.  Happy baking!

Bread for Communion part V: Easter Bread

When I was little, my favorite part of Easter Sunday was the children’s story, when we all got a little bun that we could use to tell the story of Easter.  It was the most delicious bread I had ever tasted: sweet, rich, and beautiful with the deep color of the dyed egg contrasting with the light color of the bread dough.  It was a sad year when my parents said I was too old to go up for the Easter children’s story (I think I was 13 at the time, so definitely way too old).  Also if I recall correctly I was wearing a mini skirt to church, so yeah.  I think by that point I was already opting out of church, but once Easter rolled around, I WAS going to get one of those breads, faith or no faith.

Since then, it’s been a long, slow process getting back to church.  What has helped this time around is that it’s been on my terms.  Don’t ever, ever, EVER ask me to lead a prayer circle or a bible study, but bake bread for communion?  That I can do.  I’m still figuring out how I feel about the whole Jesus thing.  But serving others?  That is where I feel happy and capable and spiritual.

Anyway, this year there was a call put out for anyone who wanted to help make Easter Bread, and I jumped at the opportunity.

At the request of the recipe’s creator, I will not be posting about the recipe or the process.

I recently read an article on Jezebel called something like, “This is why we’re the atheist generation.”  The point basically was that people my age are tired of the hypocrisy of organized religion, but are still looking for the elements of worship, specifically things that are meaningful.

While on the surface, making bread for my church could be seen as a chore, to me it’s not at all.  It’s symbolically feeding my community.  Making the Easter breads is my way of connecting my childhood to the next generation of kids, of providing memories of being loved and cared for.  Also, it’s something that only the kids get, so they feel special.

Anyway, so the neat thing about these breads is that each element is symbolic.  The cloves, the rosemary, the cayenne pepper, the egg.  The recipe creator has added to and perfected this recipe over time, and it shows.

Here is what they look like assembled and ready to go into the oven:

Here is what they look like out of the oven (obviously a different set of six buns, ha ha):

I hope I can help make these Easter Breads again.  The experience of making them was deeply meaningful to me.  Happy Easter (and Passover) everyone.

Kugelhopf au Lard

So, as some of you know, Mr. Bread Maiden and I are the proud owners of Jennifer McLagan’s Fat cookbook, and we’ve been working our way through it. Perhaps the most interesting recipe we’ve tried so far is what I made yesterday, kugelhopf au lard. I’ve been on this fruit bread kick lately, so you might be asking why the sudden shift to savory. Well, this bread is actually very similar to the stollen. It uses mostly the same ingredients, in the same order, except at the point where one would add fruit to the stollen, you add instead bacon, shallots and sage.

The reason this recipe jumped out at me initially was the title. This dish comes from the Alsace region, and the German-French fusion could not be more obvious. The dough is very German, with its eggs and milk, but the french added shallots and sage and made it lighter. Brilliant.

Because yesterday I was busy making three recipes at a time, I didn’t get to take as many pictures or pictures of every step. So until I make another one, these will have to suffice.

The milk and eggs in this recipe make the dough so wonderfully light (until you add the grease and bacon). The dough was so oily it was hard to manage. But it rose beautifully both times.

Oh, and before I forget, I think the next item on the docket will have to be this:

Stollen, part II

Last week I promised to post instructions about stollen. Since I am all about keeping promises (except for volkornbrot, which seems to be lost to the winds of time), here it is. I wanted to keep experimenting because there were some things I thought could be improved, but as it is I like this recipe a lot.

That said, there are some things that could be improved. For example, the ingredients are originally measured in volume, not weight, which wastes an awful lot of dishes and measuring tools. Second, it needs more flour than called for. I also like shaping it differently once the almonds are added. Finally, I don’t decorate this baby with anything but the rice flour it was baked in!

Let’s get started.

Here is what you need:

(From left to right: lemon, cinnamon, flour, lard/butter, yeast, milk, sugar, egg, dried fruit, almonds, brandy)

For the sponge:
1/2 cup milk (I measured 112g)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4-5 teaspoons commercial yeast

2 cups dried fruit. I used candied orange and lemon, dried apricots, and cherries.
1/2 cup Grand Marnier, brandy, rum, or schnapps. I used brandy
Zest from one lemon or about 1 tbl orange zest. Last time I used grapefruit zest and this time I used lemon zest.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I measured 290g but seriously this is not enough)
1 tbl sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
4 tbl butter (I ran out of butter so I used 1/2 butter and 1/2 lard)
1/4 to 1/2 cups water
almond slivers, about 1/2 cup

A few bowls, plastic wrap, microplane grater, parchment paper, a thermometer, rice flour

You don’t really need a thermometer but I’m starting to like using it. You need it twice in this recipe.

1. Before you do anything else, set out the egg and the butter/lard to soften.
mmm lard and butter…

2. Now, measure out the milk and heat it in a saucepan to 100 degrees. Here is the first time you will want your thermometer. 100 degrees is slightly warm, but NOT hot. You don’t want to kill the yeast. Now pour in the yeast.

3. Pour the yeast and milk into a small mixing bowl with the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let ferment one hour.

4. While you are waiting on the sponge, combine the fruit, zest and brandy in a bowl or large measuring cup.

The sponge should be really bubbly after about an hour.

5. When the sponge is ready (don’t throw away the plastic wrap!), combine the remaining flour, salt, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the sponge, egg, softened butter, and a few tablespoons of the water. You want to form a soft but not sticky dough. Also, since you are going to be adding the brandy soon, it’s better if it’s slightly dry.

6. Now here is the part I hate. It involves bringing everything together. The reason I hate it is because the dough gets really slimy and hard to work with.

I also add a few handfuls of flour because it’s so wet. I want to find out if I can just add the brandy first and then if the dough needs more moisture add the water.

7. Once it is all incorporated, cover it with the plastic wrap from the sponge and let rise about an hour.

8. Take a sheet of parchment paper and dust it with rice flour. Take your dough and stretch it a little bit in your hands before setting it down on the parchment. Continue stretching until it is in the shape of a rectangle.

9. Now pour the almond slivers over the top.

10. Take the top and bottom edges and gently fold them until they meet in the middle over the almonds. Press the edges together to form a seam.

11. Now take the whole thing and flip it over so the seam-side is down. Gently even up the edges. Now cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise again for about an hour.

12. Now preheat the oven to 350. Transfer the parchment paper to a cookie sheet and put in the oven or put the parchment paper directly onto a pizza stone. Bake 20 minutes, then rotate and bake until the internal temperature is about 180-190 degrees. This takes another 20-30 minutes.

13. Remove the stollen from the oven and let cool before slicing. It tastes amazing with butter. To store it, wrap it in parchment paper and secure it with a rubber band, then store in a paper bag.

Also, here is what happens when you make stollen and give it to friends:

They give you lemons from their grandfather’s orchard in California!


Dear Readers,

I was inspired by my success with the Rosca last week to try other fruit breads. There are several to choose from, of course, the most famous (infamous?) being fruitcake, as well as galette des rois, king cake, panettone, and many more. I have decided to try Stollen.

Stollen has German and Scandinavian roots. While I’m not sure how authentic the recipe I’m using is, I am willing to give it a shot and see how it turns out and most importantly, how it differs from the Rosca de Reyes, even while using basically the same ingredient list.

However, gentle reader, you will have to wait because while the most recent attempt was tasty, there are some things I want to tweak about it. Also I think I forgot a half cup of flour so the dough was really sticky. Also I have a ton of candied fruit from the Rosca that I need to get rid of. So instead, I will lure you in with pictures.

Rosca de Reyes

When I think of Rosca de Reyes, or Mexican Three Kings’ Cake, I always think of that scene in Like Water for Chocolate when the sisters are preparing a huge cake and have to count the eggs they add because the number is so huge.

I don’t tend to use a lot of eggs in my bread. Any, in fact. Egg breads tend to be rich and sugary, and sugar isn’t something we eat a lot of here. But a grad school friend is having a birthday on Wednesday, so I decided to make a cake for her. And in the spirit of the holidays, I settled on Rosca de Reyes.

Rosca de Reyes gets most of its sweetness from fruit, not sugar. And it is more like a bread than a cake. The dough once it’s baked reminds me of a panettone.

I got all my ingredients together into a mise en place.

I had just enough eggs to make the recipe (13 eggs!) I mixed the first set of ingredients together (including three of the eggs) and set it out to rise.

Only thing is, it didn’t rise. At all. I had to decide whether I would proceed to the next step, or start over. I didn’t have enough eggs to start the same recipe over, so I decided to find another recipe that would serve my purpose but would take less time and fewer eggs.

I settled upon the Chilean Christmas Bread recipe from, albeit with a few changes:

1. I used the reconstituted dried and candied fruit that I had prepared for the other recipe.
2. I shaped it into the traditional Rosca de Reyes wreath shape.
3. I decorated the top with dried fruit and almonds
4. A few other things we will get to when we start the recipe.

Ready? Here we go!

For yeast sponge:
pinch of sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup ap flour
1/2 cup warm water

For dough
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1 orange or lemon (we used grapefruit because that’s what we had)
4 large eggs
3 cups ap flour
1 1/2 tsp brandy
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup mixture of candied and dried fruit (we had candied orange and lemon peel, cranberries and apricots)
rice flour
olive oil for greasing

For decoration
two egg yolks, lightly beaten
blanched whole almonds
not-reconstituted dried fruit

stand mixer
parchment paper
shallow baking pan
dutch oven
plastic wrap

1. The very first step is to set out your butter and eggs so they are room temperature.
2. Put all the dried fruit into a cup and fill with hot water to reconstitute. Drain and set aside.

3. In a two-cup measuring cup, stir together the warm water, sugar, and yeast. When it gets frothy, mix in the flour, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until the sponge reaches almost the 2-cup mark, about 20 minutes.

4. If your stand mixer paddle reaches the bottom of your bowl, beat together the butter and sugar for five minutes until fluffy. If not, have fun with a whisk (like we did). Add salt and zest and beat until combined.

5. Now add three eggs, one at a time, making sure to combine after each one. At this point, my dough did NOT look like it was coming together, so don’t worry. Now add the yeast sponge and beat until combined. Add two cups of the flour and mix at low speed. Add remaining one cup flour, remaining one egg, brandy, and vanilla and mix at low speed until smooth.

6. Increase speed to medium and beat dough until smooth and elastic. Add your reconstituted fruit here, and mix at low speed until incorporated.

7. Grease a large bowl and wet your hands with water. Form dough into a ball and place into bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

8. Prepare two sheets of parchment paper with rice flour. Divide the dough in half and shape each into a ball. Poke a hole into the middle and carefully shape into a ring. Place ring onto parchment, and cover with greased plastic wrap. Let rise again 1 hour.

9. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove plastic wrap from one of the loaves and decorate with almonds and dried fruit. Dab egg yolk over the top until well-covered.

10. Transfer parchment paper to baking sheet and put in the oven. Take your dutch oven and turn it upside down, using it as a cover for the dough. Bake like this for 15 minutes.

11. Remove dutch oven and turn temperature down to 330 degrees. Let bake until light brown, then remove to cooling racks. Repeat with other ring.

Happy eating!