Before life consisted of "family life" and the hustle and bustle of raising kids, before I ever even touched the oven for the very first time--during the latter years in high school when my first baking attempt was a swirled chocolate vanilla biscotti--I was desperately interested in baking cakes and yeast breads. It was a dream. A silly and elusive bit of my childish imagination, playing itself out like ribbons of old film that saw no end.
To this day my passion for the two is ever growing. Having been fueled by the need to eat a pastry almost every day (oops), and equally having the need for an outlet to remain creative, I enjoy sharing my yeast breads with family and friends. Normally I aim to share with friends more, but Selah, Tabitha, and Greg all enjoy my yeast breads so much that an entire loaf might be gone within two to three days.
From time to time I receive messages here or on Instagram from people who so want to bake yeast breads, but not surprisingly, they also feel overwhelmed by the thought of even trying. Here's my two cents. If you want to make yeast breads work smoothly, give yourself about 3 hours that are forgiving. For example, if you're letting the dough rise, you can easily take some time to clean, make yourself a cup of java, or go out for a stroll with your munchkins. This will ease the burden a little bit. Furthermore, when making yeast breads that require more than just water, flour, and salt, I suggest breaking down the steps into different times of the day or throughout the span of two days. The filling doesn't have to be made on the spot. It will hold up in the fridge just perfectly even when it's mixed days ahead of time. Same goes for the crumb top, as is the case with this recipe.
Please join me in this new yeast bread baking series which I have whimsically dubbed #MuchBreaderTogether. Together we will be going through different flavors, textures, and cultural breads step by step (or as much as time allows). It would be so amazing to see us support each other and follow along with this series! I hope you give these recipes a try and, if you're on social media, tag your creations #MuchBreaderTogether and I will feature them on my Instagram Stories. Have fun and thank you for reading, friends!
Pear cinnamon swirl bread with a crumb top
Makes one regular sized loaf
Ingredients for tangzhong (flour paste)
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1. Put water in a small sauce pan over medium fire. Slowly whisk in the flour and keep whisking every 20-30 seconds, especially as it gets near the end. Keep whisking until it forms a very sticky and glue like paste. Turn off heat and set aside to cool.
Ingredients for dough
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I've been using King Arthur for both flours)
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 packet active dry yeast (I've been using Fleischmann's)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
tangzhong (glue like paste)
1 large egg
3 tbsp softened butter (melted is fine too)
1/3 cup milk
*a bit of all purpose flour and butter for preparing the loaf pan
1. Find a warm surface like the top of a refrigerator to set the rising dough on. The slight and constant heat will help the process. However, this will take much longer than my usual method. I prefer to turn on the oven or toaster oven to about 200 F degrees (93 degrees celsius). Do this before making the dough.
2. Place both types of flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Give it a quick mix.
3. Add the tangzhong (flour glue like paste), egg, butter, milk and start mixing on low speed until everything sticks together. Little by little raise the speed to a medium, and eventually to the highest speed available until the dough starts slightly "slapping" the sides of the bowl. The dough will be somewhat sticky and if you touch it, it will stick to you like webs of gluten. But it shouldn't be so sticky that the entire dough stays in your hand.
4. After about 2 minutes, turn off the equipment and leave the dough in that bowl. Set the bowl on the already heated warm surface. Cover it with a damp towel or cloth. Let it rise for approximately 40 minutes if it's on a warm surface like the 200F oven. Longer if on top of the refrigerator.
Ingredients for filling
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
a little over half of a pear, chopped
1. These will simply be sprinkled on the dough before rolling.
Ingredients for crumb top
1 1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat flour
1/4 cup room temp butter
1. Mix sugar and both flours in a medium bowl. Then piece in the butter into the dry ingredients, breaking it up and mixing it with a fork. It will be a little bit dry and crumbly, but it will come together into chunks after it's been baked.
1. After the dough has risen for about 40 minutes on a warm surface, punch out the air as much as possible. This will help you roll it out flat. Then pre-heat the oven to 350F degrees (177 degrees celsius).
2. On a flat surface, roll out the dough into the width of a loaf pan and the height of the dough can be anywhere around 1/2 inch. Use sprinkles of flour as necessary if it gets too sticky.
3. Sprinkle all the filling ingredients, chopped pears, and even a small portion of the crumble (about 1/3 cup). There will be plenty of crumble left!
4. Making sure the dough is facing you length wise, carefully take the end on the opposite side of you and slowly roll it in towards yourself. Try to not leave too many "holes" or spaces because it's easy to do with the pear chunks or when you're in a hurry.
5. *Butter the loaf pan and sprinkle with flour evenly. This will ensure the loaf will brown nicely and come out without too much fuss. Place the rolled dough into the pan. Liberally place the crumble on top, completely covering the dough in a thick layer. Let the dough rise for about 15 minutes.
6. Bake in the middle rack for approximately 42 minutes lightly covered in foil. The foil helps because the crumble browns more evenly. After 42 minutes, take off the foil and bake for another 12-15 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned. Insert a knife or chopstick to see if it's completely dry in the middle. Baking time might vary slightly depending on the oven that is being used.