Monday, May 30, 2011

Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-Apart Ricotta Bread

 This bread conjures up childhood memories and comfort food.  When I was little I loved toasting up a couple slices of soft, white bread then spreading them with butter and sprinkling them with cinnamon and sugar.  This is the the totally sophisticated way of doing the same thing. It's actually reminiscent of a cinnamon roll at the same time...sans icing.  Thin layers of soft, white bread that were brushed with a nutty, fragrant browned butter and then coated...literally, coated...with a cinnamon and sugar mixture flecked with freshly grated nutmeg.  Cinnamon-Sugar toast's big sister.  It's far too easy to keep pulling warm, inviting slices from the loaf and washing them down with coffee.  Or cold milk.  The kids also love it...both helping to make it and helping to eat it.  Me thinks this is a fantastic hostess or housewarming gift, if you can plan accordingly.  I mean, imagine opening the door to a warm, soft loaf of Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-Apart Ricotta Bread...the intoxicating smell calmly making itself at home the minute it goes through the door.  Oh. Yes.
Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-Apart Ricotta Bread
inspired by and adapted from both The Bakers Guide & Joy the Baker 
yield: 1 loaf

Dough:
200 g. (¾ cup) water, lukewarm     
100 g. (½ cup) milk, lukewarm
20 g. (1 Tbs.) instant yeast
250 g. (~1½ c. + 2 Tbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour + extra for kneading
250 g. (~1½ c. + 2 Tbs.) unbleached bread flour
30 g. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, at room temp.
150 g. (~¾ c.) ricotta, at room temp.
10 g. (1½ tsp.) fine sea salt

Filling:
1 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
2 oz. (4 Tbs. / ½ stick) unsalted butter

Dough: Combine dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl, the bowl of a stand mixer, or a bread machine. Mix to combine, then knead the dough (either by hand, in stand mixer) until the dough is soft and smooth and very elastic (~15 minutes by hand or ~10 in mixer).  Or stick it in the bread machine on dough cycle and let it do its thing.  The dough will be slightly sticky.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until it doubles in size, ~1-1½ hours.  In bread machine, it will beep at you when it's done.

Filling: Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Melt the butter until it begins to brown and smell all nutty and amazing. Grease and flour a loaf pan (~9" x 5" x 2"-ish).  Set everything aside.
Putting it all together: Deflate the risen dough and knead ~2 Tbs. of flour into the dough.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic and let rest for 5 minutes.  On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out.  The dough should be ~12" h x ~20" w.  No worries if your rectangle isn't exact.  My edges were a bit rounded and shorter, but I think that adds to its rustic charm.  Use a pastry brush to spread all of the browned butter across the top of the dough, edge to edge.  Sprinkle with all of the sugar, cinnamon, & nutmeg mixture.

Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips.  Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six "equal" slices once again.  You'll have six stacks of six squares.  Layer the squares of dough in the loaf pan.  Place a towel or some plastic wrap over the loaf pan and allow to rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.   Preheat oven to 375° F during last 15 minutes of rise time.
Slide loaf onto center oven rack and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is a deep, golden brown.  Don't be tempted to take it out to early or the center will still be doughy.  If you think it's getting burnt, slide a sheet of tinfoil over the top.

Remove from oven and cool in pan on rack for ~30 minutes.
 Slide a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread, then invert it onto a clean board.  Place a serving plate or another clean cutting board on top of the upside down loaf, then quickly and carefully flip it so that it's right side up.
This is most definitely at its best when it's still warm from the oven, but it can be kept at room temperature for a couple of days if wrapped or covered.

I am sharing this post with:
*Bread Baking Day (BBD) #40: Bread w/ Curd hosted at Kochtopf
*Yeastspotting!
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