I have seen recipes for cinnamon and lemon pull-apart bread before. And I was always enticed by the rustic look of this bread. I would imagine peeling away thin slivers of sweet bread laced with flavored sugar and enriched with layers of butter. However, it was not until a friend re-introduced to me a link to the cinnamon sugar version that I made this. And I was *yarely the entire long, sticky, messy process.
First the dough had to be prepared and left to rise. This was pre-rising.
Then the dough had to have a few more tablespoons of flour kneaded in so that it was smooth, & then it was rolled out.
The kneading part was pretty sticky and messy for me. But I was still so excited to be almost having this bread that my enthusiasm kept me persevering. Also, I have been wanting to make something with yeast for a while, so I was kind of fulfilling a lot of things her. (< i did not forget to add an "e.")
Afterwards, the dough was brushed with browned butter. The pastry brush I used kept shedding and little white plastic pieces of brush ended up everywhere; I had to pick them off. I'm not going to lie and pretend it didn't happen. It was pretty annoying, but I still persevered because I was so excited. The orange sugar was sprinkled on after the butter.
Then the dough had to be cut up and stacked and cut and stacked again in the pan. That was kind of the fun. I meant the seeing-the-final-product-in-the-pan-ready-to-be-baked part, not the whole cutting and stacking. That was super messy.
And then the stacks (not shown) were piled on their sides into the pan, and the remainder of the butter was poured over the top to make the most wonderful crust. See the pools of browned butter? The specks of brown are not cinnamon. They are crunchy bits of toasted butter.
And now, I'm sure you're waiting to hear that despite all my determination and excitement, SOMETHING went wrong. But nothing did! I'm so happy!
The baked loaf was gorgeous. It tanned to a perfect golden brown color in the carbon monoxide-filled oven, and the orange-infused sugar granules that had been exposed were toasted to a beautiful crisp. The slices overlapped, and removing one meant carefully twisting it out from underneath another slice. The slices inside were soft, a desired contrast to the crust up top and on the sides. The name of the bread becomes evident as the bread is quickly eaten. Peeling apart each slice provides an inexplicably satisfying feeling as you hear the separation of the piece from the loaf as a whole and see the bits of zest speckle the bread. As the piece increases in proximity to your mouth, the fragrance of the toasted butter and fresh citrus becomes overwhelmingly irresistible.
Don't be intimidated by the long procedure, and please don't wait as long as it took me to make this.
Orange Pull-Apart Loaf
adapted from Joy the Baker.
- 2 3/4 cup + 2 Tb all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 1/4 tspn (1 envelope) active dry yeast
- 1/2 tspn salt
- 2 oz. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tspn vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- zest of one large naval orange
- 2 oz. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- Stir together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.
- Heat butter and milk in a saucepan until butter is completely melted. Add water and vanilla. Let cool to 115 - 125 degrees F. I do not own a thermometer for food, so I just waited until it cooled down enough that there was no steam. Basically, the mixture needs to be warm for the yeast to become active.
- Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture with a rubber spatula.
- Lightly whisk the eggs together. Then stir into the dough with the rubber spatula. This may take a little while. PERSEVERE.
- Add the remaining 3/4 cup flour and continue stirring. The dough will turn out sticky. It's okay.
- Place the dough in a large greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Place somewhere warm for about an hour to allow it to double in size.
- While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Zest an orange into a bowl. Put the sugar in the same bowl and mix the sugar with the orange oils and zest well. Set aside.
- Brown the butter in a saucepan. Set aside.
- Grease a regular loaf pan. By now you're a pro at setting aside, so do yo thang and set that sucker aside.
- Once the dough has risen sufficiently after about an hour, deflate the dough and knead with the remaining 2 Tb of flour.
- Roll out dough to a rectangle that is 12" x 20". My rectangle was 12" x 18", so get as close as you can. Brush the browned butter goodness all over the dough. Sprinkle the orange sugar evenly over the dough and press the sugar down.
- Cut the dough into 6 horizontal strips. Stack the strips on top of each other. NOTES - If this is difficult, cut the strips into smaller sections and stack them, like I did in the picture below. My dough ended up being very sticky, so this method worked for me.
- Once all the strips are stacked, cut the one long strip you know have into 6 "piles."
- Next, turn these "piles" on their sides and place into the greased loaf pan. Stretch and manipulate the dough gently, as necessary, to fit in the pan. If there is any leftover browned butter, pour it over the top of the loaf now.
- Cover the pan with the same plastic wrap and a towel and place in a warm area for 30-40 minutes to rise. You can see how it's peeking up out of the pan.
- Preheat the oven while the dough is rising again. Bake the loaf for about 30-40 minutes, until golden and the center is not doughy. Cover with foil if it is browning too quickly.
- Let sit in the pan for about 25 minutes. Then run a plastic knife along the edges and a little underneath (the caramelization of the sugar and butter will probably have created a crust down there causing the loaf to adhere to the pan.). Wiggle the loaf around in the pan a little with the knife to loosen it before inverting carefully onto a cooling rack and inverting again to make it right-side up.
- Devour at room temperature or warm. Spread with a tangy cream cheese frosting (cream cheese, a little OJ & a little powdered sugar), if desired. Also excellent with butter (so says my mom) and Nutella (so says my brother).
*yarely: archaic word for "eager, ready."