Vegan Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Well, it finally happened: I’m sick. I must say I’ve had a pretty good run: I avoided the flu that went around the office, the stomach bug that hit a few of my friends, and colds that seem to strike Brad every few weeks…but the most recent one he brought home finally nailed me. A pounding headache that’s strangely centered at the base of my skull has been clinging to me since yesterday. My neck continues to be sore despite Brad’s best messages (thanks for trying babe!) and my eyes water with the slightest glare or breeze. It’s a strange germ that’s assaulting my body these days that’s for sure, but I’m thankful it seems to be just a head-cold.

On Friday, when Brad was just beginning to get sick – and I was blissfully optimistic that I’d avoid this one too – I went to the store to get some goodies. Basket full of fruit, cheese, crackers, and…er…dark chocolate KitKats (they don’t sell them where I come from, ok?) I was on my way out when I spied an interesting sign by the bakery. The sign advertised cinnamon-swirled bread and, true enough, the loaves displayed had cute little swirls of dark brown cinnamon running through them. I was *this close* to buying one before I convinced myself that it couldn’t be all that hard to make at home (my Chocolate Babka attempt giving me courage) and I decided to give it a try.

A quick note: I adjusted this recipe to how I made it the 2nd time (just more paste) but the photos are all from the first attempt. Therefore, you should expect about double the coverage from your cinnamon-sugar paste than what you see in my photo. Also, if you aren’t concerned with dairy, substitute 2 T of melted butter for the oil in the cinnamon-sugar paste. The butter will make for a richer flavor – I used oil only because I wanted to share the bread with a friend of mine whose IBS doesn’t allow dairy products of any kind.

Vegan Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Ingredients:

4   Cups   unbleached white bread or AP flour, plus extra

1½   t   instant yeast

1   t   salt

1½   C   water, plus extra as needed

2 T + 1 t, separated,  neutral vegetable oil (like Canola) plus extra as needed

1   T   cinnamon

1   T   sugar

Procedure:

1) Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until well mixed. Add the water and 1 teaspoon oil and stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to made a slightly sticky dough. If the consistency is off add just a bit of flour or water – whichever is needed – at a time until you get a soft, easily kneedable, dough.

2) Turn out the dough base onto a generously floured surface to kneed until it is smooth and satiny (or, alternatively, use a stand mixer with dough-hook attachment). The dough should feel slightly springy and very soft to the touch. By hand this should take roughly 10 minutes of hearty kneeding or 5 by stand mixer.

3) Shape the dough into a ball and place into a clean, dry, and floured (or oiled if you prefer) bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a garbage bag and let rise in the warmest area of your home until doubled in size. Depending on the temperature of the dough expect to wait around 45 min – 1 hour or longer. In the dead of winter at my old, leaky apartment I would have to wait nearly 4 hours – hurray for a modern building!

4) Once dough has risen, tip it out onto a floured surface and gently kneed a few times to pop any bubbles and redistribute the yeast. Reform into a ball and repeat step 3 up to 4 times for added flavor and texture. Once you’re satisfied with the rising process, gently roll out the dough onto your floured surface until it is about as large as a sheet of paper (8.5 x 11″) and 1″ thick. In a small bowl mix together the cinnamon, sugar, and 2 Tablespoons oil to form a thick but spreadable paste – add more oil if needed but be careful: you don’t want soggy bread! – and spread the paste over the dough using a pastry brush or spoon as evenly as possible. Beginning at one side, gently roll up the dough width-wise as tightly as you can without deforming it. Once fully rolled, carefully transfer the dough to a bread pan, cover with a clean dish cloth, and let it proof until it has doubled in size once more – about another 30 minutes. As the bread is proofing, preheat your oven to 500°F or its highest setting.

5) When the bread is ready for the oven (it should spring back into shape if gently poked and be roughly double in size), brush the surface with a bit of water – or, even better, use a spray bottle if you have one – and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes adjust the oven temperature depending on the following: if the crust still looks very pale, turn the heat down to 400°F. If the crust is browning: 350°F. If the crust is browning quickly: 325°F. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap on the bottom of the pan – 40 to 50 minutes.

6) Let the bread cool completely before removing from the pan and slicing. I know, I know, it’s hard to wait – especially with the wonderful smell! – but trust me, you’ll be glad that you did.

Beezer’s Notes:

Well, aside from my guy teasing me that my swirl didn’t come out symmetric (and he thinks I’m the perfectionist?), I am very pleased with my spontaneous bread experiment. The first loaf turned out to be quite pretty…but really didn’t taste like anything other than fresh white bread – very nice, but not the strong cinnamon-sugar swirl I was going for. The second attempt – with a full Tablespoon of both the spice and the sugar – gave me what I wanted: soft, fluffy white bread with a sweet cinnamon swirl throughout. Excellent toasted with a bit of butter or even to spice up my all-time fav: PB&B. New recipe + money saved? Win, win.

Overall Enjoyment: ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

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Applesauce Cupcakes with Vanilla Cinnamon Buttercream

 

I had my very first bite of buttercream on a trip to New York City a few months back. Unlike my previous trips to NYC, this one was rather spontaneous: my father is a pilot and happened to have a layover in Manhattan for a weekend. He invited my brother and I up to stay with him and explore the city. Now, as many times as I’ve been to the Big Apple I’ve had the poor luck of 1) never being free when the Met was open and 2) never going to a fantastic bakery. I determined this time around to check both off my list.

We went through the beautiful and thoroughly amazing Egyptian exhibit at the Met our first day there. They had the expected artifacts – a decorated sarcophagus, large and small busts, carvings of animals – but they also had full walls of hieroglyphics, pottery and glassware, and incredibly detailed jewelry. I haven’t watched a Discovery Channel special in years (no t.v.), but I really don’t remember ever hearing about the Egyptians wonderful work with glass.

We also made it to two incredible bakeries in between The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway (!!) and shopping outings with a local friend. First, my friend took us to Two Little Red Hens bakery where their blackout cupcake made me want to pack up and move to the city right then and there. No joke, this cupcake is heaven and hell in a pretty papery cup: if I lived even remotely close to them I would be drawn to them like a moth to a flame and would probably have a heart attack by the time I’m 40 since I would have no power to stop the indulgence. I’m warning you, this cupcake’s dangerous, haha!

The second bakery we visited was one I had heard a lot about: the Magnolia Bakery was packed when we arrived in the early afternoon. We ordered lemonades, a few cupcakes, and their famous banana pudding. Their banana pudding is nearly as dangerous as the blackout cupcake at Two Little Red Hens, but I did manage to put the spoon down eventually. The cupcakes were delicious as well, but entirely different animals from the previous ones; they were light, airy, smallish cakes with generous swirls of buttercream on top (see? I’d get back on topic eventually). Unfortunately my camera’s battery died right as I was trying to capture proof of my visit, so I’m sorry for the lack of a photo. You’ll have to make do with this one of a cookie at Dean & Deluca’s instead


Anyway, my first introduction to buttercream was a happy memory and so when I decided I wanted to make Deb’s applesauce cake a few months later – but yet didn’t want to shuffle to the store for the cream cheese required in the frosting – I came up with the crazy notion that I’d give buttercream a try since all the ingredients were already at my fingertips. Now, in retrospect (and after eating my creations) I highly suggest the ORIGINAL cream cheese frosting for these babies. I wouldn’t call my experiment a failure, per say, as both components were very tasty….but they simply do not go well together. I’ll explain below in Beezer’s Notes, but please just trust me on this. I’ll provide the recipes for both cupcakes and buttercream since that is what I’ve learned, but in the future I hope to make them with equally complimentary counterparts for each.


Applesauce Cupcakes with Vanilla Cinnamon Buttercream

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:

For the Cupcakes…

2   C   AP flour

2   t   baking powder

1/2   t   baking soda

1/2   t   salt

3/4   t   cinnamon

1/2   t   ground ginger

1/8   t   ground cloves

1   stick unsalted butter, softened

1   C   packed light brown sugar

1   t   vanilla extract

2   large eggs

1½   C   unsweetened applesauce

For the Buttercream Frosting…

1   C   sugar

4   large egg whites

26   T   butter, softened (3 sticks + 2 T)

2   t   vanilla extract

1/2   t   ground cinnamon

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter 2 jumbo non-stick muffin tins. I didn’t bother with paper cups since I was right in guessing that the heavy cake batter doesn’t rise all that much, but feel free to use them in lieu of greasing if you’d prefer.
  2. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until pale and fluffy – about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each, before adding in the applesauce.
  3. At low speed slowly blend in the flour mixture until just combined. Deb warned the batter will look a little lumpy and mine certainly did, but she’s also right that it will turn out delicious and smooth once baked.
  4. Pour batter into cupcake pans and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool for at least 15 minutes before turning them out to cool completely on a rack.
  5. While cupcakes are cooling, beat up the buttercream: whisk egg whites and sugar together in a double-boiler or (if you’re like me) in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Keep heating and occasionally whisking until you can’t feel any sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.
  6. Transfer the egg mix to a stand mixer and whip on High until it has turned white and just about doubled in size. Add the vanilla and whip until fully incorporated. Finally, add 1 stick of butter at a time, whipping well between each. Continue whipping (it does take some time!) until the frosting has pulled together and develops a smooth sheen, about 5 minutes. Also, while I haven’t tried, I’m sure this can also be done using a hand-held electric beater and a LOT of patience. Has anyone succeeded this way?
  7. Top the cooled cupcakes with the buttercream frosting. Top with ground or freshly grated cinnamon if desired. Will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.

Beezer’s Notes:

I can’t call these cupcakes a failure even if they were somewhat unsatisfying. It wasn’t their fault. The cake was exceptionally moist and full of spiced flavor. It had a similar consistency to banana bread and I could easily convince myself that this could count as one of my fruit servings for the day. The buttercream was just about as impressive, it had a sleek shine to it and a wonderfully light billowy texture. The flavor of the buttercream was easily overpowered by the cupcake, though, and the two so completely opposite densities made eating the cupcakes a little awkward.

In the future I would love to make these cupcakes again. They are the perfect size and have a hearty structure for carting them around to potlucks and parties. I will definitely choose a more robust frosting, though, to better compliment the dense cake. Having a light sweet frosting with a fruit cake was also a bit odd as the zing of the more traditional cream cheese frosting seems to bring out the fruity flavors more. There was one commenter on Deb’s buttercream post who subbed it for cream cheese frosting on a carrot cake and loved it, so this confirms my suspicions that it may not have only been the densities at play here. Carrot cake is more savory than apple and the sweet buttercream may have balanced it well in that case. With this apple recipe, though, I’m going to try cream cheese next.

Overall Enjoyment: ♥    ♥    ♥

Chocolate Cinnamon Babka

After my first attempt at bread making turned out so well, I couldn’t wait to try a variation. I was planning on making a very simple bread still, perhaps something with toasted sesame seeds and a bit of whole wheat flour…but then I saw this! Shaheen touts it as The Recipe for “yeast-o-phobes” and since I was, I confess, a yeast-o-phobe until just a few days ago I was instantly curious. I now knew how to successfully mix flour, water, and yeast to create something edible, but I was still taking baby steps  and I found her reassurances encouraging. The hook was the fact that her recipe contained over a cup of grated chocolate…need I say more? I literally brought my laptop to the kitchen so that I could bake right away.

(please excuse my very lumpy chocolate filling, it doesn’t look at all appetizing, haha)

 

Chocolate Cinnamon Babka (from The Purple Foodie)

Ingredients:

For the Bread…

2       T      instant yeast

3/4    C     lukewarm milk (I used my 2% and it turned out fine)

6       T     butter

6       T     sugar

1        t     vanilla extract

4   egg yolks

3 ½   C   AP flour

1        t    salt

For the Filling…

1 ½   C   dark chocolate coarsely grated*

1        t     cinnamon, ground

4       T    butter (or half a stick)

*Note: I had plenty of dark chocolate chips, but no solid bars for grating. I decided to chop the chips up as finely as I could which worked, more or less. I highly recommend grating your chocolate though, if possible, because not only will it make the filling easier to spread, but the appearance of the baked babka will be much nicer. **UPDATE: Shaheen made a great recommendation (see Comments below) that – if using chocolate chips – you can melt your filling and spread over parchment or Silpat to set before transferring onto the rolled-out dough.

Procedure:

  1. Whisk the yeast into the milk and set aside to dissolve for about 5 minutes or so.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth.
  3. Add the yolks, one at a time, and thoroughly mix each one in for about 30 seconds or so before adding the next. Add the vanilla and mix until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the flour and salt and continue to mix to incorporate.
  5. Add the milk/yeast mixture and mix until the dough comes together. I had to set aside my electric mixer here and continue with a wooden spoon my dough was so thick. See Beezer’s Notes below.
  6. Knead by hand for a few minutes until you have a “soft, supple, golden dough”.
  7. Place the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for about 2 hours, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerating, remove the dough from the fridge 2 hours before baking.
  8. Shortly before baking, mix the chocolate, butter, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  9. Now, you can decide to make one giant loaf or two smaller loaves. Shaheen suggests dividing the entire rolled dough in half later, but I didn’t have the counter-space to make one giant roll. I made two “small” loaves separately- which turned out to be very large in my case! – and if you’d like to do the same, divide the dough in half here. Roll the dough out (either the half you’re working with or the entire ball) to about a 1/4″ in thickness. Dust with flour as needed to avoid sticking.
  10. Spread the chocolate mixture over the dough (half the mix if making 2 loaves), leaving the very edges uncovered.
  11. Tightly roll the covered dough up and gently flatten it a bit. Pinch the two ends to seal them.
  12. Cut down the middle of the roll lengthwise, leaving about an inch uncut at the top.
  13. Slowly and gently twist the two “legs” of the loaf around each other to mimic a braid.
  14. Repeat with the other half of dough, if making two loaves.
  15. Bake two loaves for 15 – 20 minutes or one giant loaf for 20 – 25 minutes. Note: the dough does brown quickly, but Shaheen explains it’s a result of the sugar content and to not worry. Well, I worried – it being something I do well – and removed the loaves from the oven a tad too early. As a result, the deepest pockets of dough were slightly undercooked. Don’t make the same mistake! The Purple Foodie knows what she’s doing! 🙂
  16. Eat immediately (but carefully!), let cool for a few hours, or let it proof for a day (my recommendation). See below.

Beezer’s Notes:

Although I’m going to skip ahead for a second and tell you that I was ultimately amazed by this bread (or is it technically a “cake”?), it did have me worried. Early on my dough seemed thicker and drier than Shaheen’s soft yellow one. Maybe I had added too much flour as a consequence of working with Cups rather than grams (which I used in my previous bread recipe) or maybe my King Arthur flour is heartier than whatever Shaheen is working with in India. Whatever the case may be, my suspicions were confirmed when I tried a bite of the babka fresh out of the oven: the gooey, melted chocolate was heaven but the baked dough seemed too, well…bread-y. It wasn’t as soft as I had expected and felt odd paired with the dark chocolate. I couldn’t taste the cinnamon either, which bothered me. Disappointed, I wrapped the two loaves up for the night.

I took one of the babkas to work with me the next day, thinking that even with the sub-par taste my coworkers would be glad for a chocolaty snack. To my surprise the entire loaf vanished at a record pace! Even an individual who “isn’t a dessert fan” ripped off a sizable chunk. Curious, I snuck a taste and was just as surprised as my coworkers when it was fabulous, haha! The flavors had proofed overnight and the cinnamon had found a way to shine through the rich dark chocolate. The bread too had improved with sitting and was now soft, slightly chewy, and worked well with the filling. I think I will still be conscious of the flour next time and add only enough to pull the dough together, but my Chocolate Cinnamon Babka redeemed itself overnight to find a permanent home in my recipe box!

Overall Enjoyment: ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥

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