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Sunday Bread-Baking

I have had two metal bread pans for as long as I can remember. I really don’t know where or when I got them. They have just always been there.

It’s funny. There are some things that I can tell you practically date and time where I got something – the round cake pans were all bought when I did Mike & Debbie’s wedding cake in 1985. I borrowed Debbie’s Kitchenaid mixer to make it and bought my own a few months later. We got our canisters at Macy’s Herald Square in 2001 shortly after moving here – carried them home on the train. My desk came from Ikea in Emeryville, CA in 1998 when we bought our house in San Leandro. Victor’s mirror image desk was bought at Ikea in Plymouth Meeting in March of 2001 when we moved here. He was on a business trip and I was unemployed and remodeling, decorating, and, generally, just spending money on the new house.

Like our Christmas ornaments, there’s a story behind just about everything we have. The pictures on the wall, the salt and pepper shakers from all over the world. The arm bands from the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade in 1995 when we were the honor guards for Ninia Baehr and Genora Dancel  – the two women who were the first to win gay marriage rights in Hawai’i. And the wine rack/booze cabinet in the kitchen that was made by a childhood friend,  Mike Monestere, not long after he got out of prison. We’re surrounded by stories.

The glass Cat That Swallowed The Canary was a birthday gift from Alice Dean LaCroix in 1969.

Alice was a little old lady who I met at Pirro’s way back in the day. She came in several nights a week for her half-order of spaghetti and a tablespoon of sauce. She was a very interesting woman. She was originally from Tarrytown, New York, drove a 1957 black VW Beetle, wrote Black poetry – she was very white but believed she had been African in a former life – and through her I was able to meet Maya Angelou and Gerri Lange. We went out to breakfast at least once a month and as a Christmas present to her in 1970, I took her to the Palace Hotel Champagne Brunch at the ungodly of price of $25.00 per person and supported her when she was part of a marathon poetry reading at City Lights – her reading time was 3am.

She bought me the little blown glass piece because she said it reminded her of me – I always looked like the cat who had swallowed the canary! Basically, guilty but no one could prove it. Almost 48 years later, things haven’t changed much, have they… Who, me?!?

Her daughter and I threw her a surprise 75th birthday party – in 1975 – and she cried like a baby. In 75 years, no one had ever thrown her a surprise party. She was the Belle of the Ball and had the time of her life. When not writing Black Poetry, Alice was a Graphoanalyst doing handwriting analysis. By the time we met she was pretty much retired but was still being called up regularly to be an expert witness for one crime or another. Interesting, indeed.

From bread pans to birthday parties… my, how the mind wanders down that rabbit hole…

And we’re back to bread…

It came about because we were watching an episode of Martha Stewart where she has the culinary students on the show. She is just so pretentious it’s fun to watch, but every once in a while she has a recipe that really sounds like fun. This one was a bread dough that can be made three different ways – and you know me and bread! I immediately printed out the recipes.

What really caught my eye during the show was the cinnamon raisin bread. 2 loaves from the batch of dough. I thought I would make 1 loaf of the regular and 1 loaf cinnamon raisin. What I didn’t realize until I was starting to form the loaves is the basic recipe is for one large loaf of white bread and the cinnamon variation is for two loaves – so I got a loaf of raisin bread and a small loaf of white bread instead of the monster loaf she showed on TV. In the grand scheme of things, that was not a bad thing.

Here are the two recipes:

Japanese-Style White Bread

From Martha Stewart

  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for bowls, pans, and brushing
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  1. Place warm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle over yeast and 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar and whisk to combine. Let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk together 3 1/4 cups flour, salt, and remaining tablespoon sugar in bowl of a standing mixer. Attach dough hook, and mix on low speed adding yeast mixture, milk, and egg. Increase speed to medium and mix until dough comes together, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. If dough does not come together, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, up to 1/4 cup.
  3. Continue kneading for 10 minutes. Add butter and mix until incorporated and dough is smooth, 5 to 8 minutes. (Dough may come apart before coming back together.)
  4. Meanwhile, butter a large bowl. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a ball. Transfer dough to the prepared bowl, turning dough to coat. Cover lightly with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 45 to 60 minutes.
  5. Place dough, top-side down, on lightly floured work surface to deflate. Shape dough into a ball and return to the buttered bowl. Cover lightly with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 45 to 60 minutes.
  6. Butter a 4 1/2-inch-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pan. Place dough, top-side down, on lightly floured work surface to deflate. Pat dough into a 7-inch square using your hands. Fold bottom edge two thirds of the way up, and fold again so that the top edge meets the bottom edge as you would a business letter. Pat dough a second time into a 7-inch square. Roll dough to form a tight log and pinch to seal. Pat the ends just enough to fit into the pan, and place the dough seam side down into the prepared pan.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray. Let stand in a warm place until dough has risen about 3 inches beyond the top of the pan and leaves an indentation when gently pressed with a fingertip, 60 to 75 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (or 400 degrees for a convection oven) with rack set in the center.
  9. Remove plastic wrap, and spritz surface of dough lightly with water. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees (or 350 degrees for a convection oven) and continue to bake until deep golden-brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 190 degrees when inserted into the center of the loaf, about 25 minutes more. If browning too quickly, tent lightly with foil.
  10. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly; turn out loaf. Brush top with butter to coat and let cool almost completely before slicing.

 

Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Bread

FOR THE DOUGH

  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for bowls, pans, and brushing
  • Nonstick cooking spray

FOR THE FILLING

  • 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  1. Prepare the dough: Combine raisins and orange juice in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Drain raisins and place on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess moisture. Alternatively, combine raisins and orange juice in a small bowl and microwave for 20 seconds; let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  2. Place cup warm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle over yeast and 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar and whisk to combine. Let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes
  3. Whisk together 3 1/4 cups flour, salt, and remaining tablespoon sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Attach dough hook, and mix on low speed, adding yeast mixture, milk, and egg. Increase to medium speed and mix until dough comes together, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. If dough does not come together, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time and up to 1/4 cup.
  4. Continue kneading for 10 minutes. Add butter and mix until incorporated and dough is smooth, 5 to 8 minutes. (Dough may come apart before coming back together.) Add reserved raisins and knead to combine.
  5. Meanwhile, butter a large bowl. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Transfer dough to the prepared bowl, turning to coat. Cover lightly with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 45 to 60 minutes.
  6. Place dough, topside down, on lightly floured work surface to deflate. Shape dough into a ball and return to the buttered bowl. Cover lightly with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 45 to 60 minutes.
  7. Butter two 4 1/2-inch-by 8 1/2-inch loaf pans. Prepare the filling: Combine brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and stir to form a smooth paste. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
  8. Place dough, top side down, on lightly floured work surface to deflate. Pat dough into a 7-inch square using your palms and fingertips. Fold bottom edge two-thirds of the way up, and fold again so that the top edge meets the bottom edge as you would a business letter. Cut the dough in half crosswise with a bench scraper.
  9. On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough out into a 7-inch-by-13-inch rectangle. Spread dough evenly with half of the filling using an offset spatula. Roll dough to form a tight log and pinch to seal. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough in half lengthwise. Place one piece of dough, cut side up, on top of the other to form an “X.” Working from the “X”, twist dough together, pinching ends and tucking under dough to form a loaf. Transfer dough, cut side-up, to prepared pan. Repeat process with the remaining dough and filling. Alternatively, the loaves may be shaped by rolling to form a tight log before pinching ends, and tucking under.
  10. Cover each loaf with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray. Let stand in a warm place until dough has risen 1 to 2 inches above edge of pan and an indentation forms when gently pressed with a fingertip, 45 to 60 minutes.
  11. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (or 400 degrees for a convection oven) with rack set in the center.
  12. Remove plastic wrap and transfer pans to oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees (or 350 degrees for a convection oven) and continue to bake until deep golden-brown and they reach 190 degrees on an instant-read thermometer when inserted into the center of a loaf, about 20 minutes more. If browning too quickly, tent lightly with foil.
  13. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly; turn out loaf. Brush top with melted butter and let cool almost completely before slicing.

The cinnamon loaf smells absolutely fantastic. It’s for breakfast in the morning – toasted and slathered in butter.

 

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