Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread

      Doesn't the name of this bread just sound like all of your dreams come true?
      First of all, there's cinnamon sugar.  Like that stuff on cinnamon toast crunch.  Probably one of the most delicious things on the planet.
      Then there's the pull-apart bread part.  Pulling apart bread is the very best part of the bread-eating experience.  Just imagine a fresh bun right out of the oven, and as you tear it in half, an aromatic smell fills your nostrils while the warm steam escalating from the bread envelops you.  So bread specifically designed to be pulled apart?  It's like a dreamy, carbohydrate-ridden version of string cheese.

       Put cinnamon-sugar and pull-apart bread together and you'll have something that will make those munching on cinnamon toast crunch jealous.
       I found this gorgeous photo of Joy the Baker's cinnamon pull-apart bread online, and I immediately knew that I had to make it.  Otherwise, it would haunt me forever and ever.  Seriously.
       To make the bread, you start by making a sticky dough, which you can mix together in a bread machine if you have one, or with a dough hook.  Then, after the first rise, you can refrigerate it overnight.  I did that, so that explains the shift from a night setting to a day setting in the photos below.   Then you shape it into a rectangle, cut the rectangle into strips, layer the strips, and cut the strips into squares while brushing butter and sugar between the layers.  Next you stuff those in a loaf pan, let it rise, and bake it.  And finally you can dig in.  Why haven't I made this earlier?
First you whisk together the dry ingredients (not including the yeast).  Or just put all the ingredients in a bread machine on the dough setting.  
Mix the yeast with some warm water and sugar to activate it.
Melt the butter with the milk and then add the water and vanilla.  Set aside until 115*F. 
Mix the yeast and milk/butter with the flour.
Add the beaten eggs and stir.  Make sure the eggs are room temperature so that they mix in easier. 
The dough will look like this at this point. 
Then add some flour.
And mix for two minutes until it forms a sticky dough.
Cover and let rise until double (about 1 hour)

Deflate the dough and knead it with 2 tbs of flour.  The dough will be very soft, like a puppy. Let rest covered for 5 minutes.  After this you can wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight.  If you refrigerate it, let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before you roll it out.  Refrigerating the dough also makes the rolling out process easier.
Next you start making the filling for the bread.  To brown the butter, just melt it over low heat until it turns brown.  It will smell like the best thing ever.

Whisk together the cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg.  I halved the amount in the original recipe because my family doesn't like things that are too sweet.
Roll out the dough into a rectangle.

Brush on the brown butter.
Sprinkle on all of the sugar.  It seems like a lot, even though I halved the original amount, but don't panic. 

Then just slice the dough (I used a pizza cutter), layer the slices, and slice them again.  

Put the 36 squares of dough into a greased and floured pan so that the cut edges are facing up.

Let the dough rise and then bake it until it is dark golden brown.


Then you have to let the bread cool 20 minutes.  Yes, you have to, I'm sorry.  They may be the most agonizing 20 minutes of your life, but it will all be worth it.  


Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread

makes one 9x5x3 loaf
slightly adapted from Joy the Baker


2-3/4 cups + 2 tbs all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2-1/4 tsp (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Filling: (you can double this if you want a sweeter bread)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 oz butter, melted until browned


  1. (If you are using a bread machine, you can skip this step and steps 2- 5 and just put all the ingredients in the bread machine on the dough setting.)  In a small bowl, whisk the yeast together with a pinch of sugar and 3 tbs of water 105*F to 115*F in temperature.  Let stand 5 minutes, until foamy. 
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of flour, and the sugar and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs.  Set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine the milk and butter over low heat until the butter is just melted.  Remove from heat. Mix in water and vanilla and let sit until the mixture is warm but not hot, 115*F to 125*F.
  5. Pour the milk mixture and the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients.  Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Add eggs and stir until combined.  It is important that the eggs are room temperature so that they mix in easier.  The eggs will seem soupy, but will eventually blend into the dough.  Add 3/4 cups flour and mix the dough for 2 minutes, until sticky but dough-like. 
  6. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.  Place in a warm spot and let rise until double, about 1 hour.
  7. Deflate the dough and knead in 2 tbs of flour.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest 5 minutes. You can now refrigerate the dough overnight, but you need to let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes after this.
  8. Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg for the filling. Set aside. Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. 
  9. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out with a rolling pin.  The dough should be a rectangle about 12-inches tall and 20-inches long (it's okay if you can't get to 20 inches, just go as far as you can).  Brush melted butter over the dough and sprinkle with all of the cinnamon-sugar filling mixture.
  10. Slice the dough vertically into 6 even strips (a pizza cutter works well for this).  Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into 6 more even slices.  The result will be 6 stacks of 6 squares.  Layer these squares in the loaf pan, cup edges up.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes, or until almost doubled in size.
  11. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350*F. Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is a deep golden brown (if it's just light brown on top, the middle probably won't be cooked).  Remove from oven and let cool for 20 to 30 minutes.  Run a butter knife along the sides of the pan to loosen the bread. Then, flip the bread onto a plate and carefully turn it right-side-up again.  Serve warm.
  12. This is best the day it's made, but you can also store it wrapped, at room temperature, for 2 days. 

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