Pumpkin Spice Couronne

Pumpkin Spice Couronne – a French sweet dough ring filled with pumpkin, warming spices and toasted pecans – just in time for autumn.

A ring of pumpkin spice couronne glazed with icing

“I have Pumpkin Kringle at my desk,” she confided conspiratorially. All I could envision was an obscene mishmash of holidays that somehow culminated with a roundly obese Santa Claus in a pumpkin costume shacked underneath her desk. “Who exactly,” I wondered, “is Pumpkin Kringle?”

“You know what pumpkin kringle is, don’t you?” she inquired when I responded with a blank stare. (Ah, thank goodness, she said “what” rather than “who.” Pumpkin kringle, whatever it was, wasn’t a person at all!)

A kringle, I discovered that day, is a ring of Danish pastry dough filled with nuts or fruit, in this case pumpkin, which is baked and then iced. Racine, Wisconsin is the mecca of kringles and, hers, thanks to Trader Joe’s, was an ideal specimen of Racine’s baking prowess.

Now please don’t be confused, the recipe below is decidedly NOT a kringle. The recipe below is a Couronne, a French filled sweet bread. I only mention the kringle because it was the impetus for my foray into couronne baking this weekend. After I nibbled a bit of the kringle…okay, full confession, after I devoured two thick slices, I started dreaming about enriched yeast doughs, I started dreaming about breakfast sweet breads, I started dreaming about Paul Hollywood’s apricot couronne (which I’ve been meaning to make!), I started dreaming about pumpkin spice season (now!) and well…this just happened.

There’s really nothing more lovely than hand-kneading a supple enriched yeast dough.  I love the texture of it under the heel of my hand, which is a good thing since my Kitchen Aid Pro Mixer died last week.


Pumpkin Spice Couronne

  • Servings: One Couronne
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A rich French sweet bread filled with pumpkin, spices and toasted pecans.


Ingredients

    Dough
  • 2 cups strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons fast-rising yeast
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon full-fat milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Filling
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 Tablespoon white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground clove
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • Zest from ½ of an orange
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup toasted chopped pecans, plus more for topping
  • Glaze
  • ⅓ cup apricot jam
  • ½ cup powdered sugar

Directions


1. Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the salt to one side and the yeast on the other (salt can slow yeasts reaction so keep them separate in the beginning). Add the butter, milk and egg and stir to combine.
2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 6-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and supple. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rise until at least doubled in size (1-2 hours).
3. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a medium saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar and heat over medium heat until melted. Add puree, flour, cinnamon, ginger nutmeg, clove and salt and stir over medium heat until mixture is thick and sticks to the spoon. Remove from heat; add orange zest, vanilla and pecans. Set aside.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll the dough into a rectangle, 13” x 10”. Spread the pumpkin filling evenly over the dough to the edges. From the long end, roll up the dough tightly, jelly-roll style. Roll it back and forth lightly to seal the edge.
5. Cut the dough in half lengthwise, leaving it joined just at one end – like a pair of legs. Twist the two dough lengths together, somewhat tightly and then join the ends together to form a circle. Transfer to a baking tray and cover with plastic wrap or a plastic baking bag.
6. Let proof for at least an hour or until the dough has doubled in size. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes (internal temperature 185). Place on a wire rack to cool.
7. Heat apricot jam in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, sieve and brush over the couronne to glaze. Mix the powdered sugar with enough water to make an icing. Drizzle over the couronne and sprinkle with remaining pecans.

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Favorite Banana Bread

Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread.  This recipe ticks all the boxes: easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.

Sliced Banana Bread with melting butter

It’s no secret I’m an Anglophile, especially in my choice of TV programmes (I couldn’t resist). My current favorite, to no one’s surprise, is the Great British Baking Show. Saturday mornings, before getting my own bake on, I treat myself to an hour of Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, a tent-full of amateur bakers and those classic only-in-Britain colloquialisms, such as “scrummy” and “oh my giddy aunt,” that I’m dying to introduce into the common American lexicon.

Before bed, when I’m brain-dead and in need of mindless comfort, nothing beats Escape to the Country; Brits house-hunting for their perfect “chocolate box” countryside cottage. I’ve picked up a few British idioms during my viewing of this show as well – like the aforementioned “chocolate box” as well as “homely.” “Homely” to the Brits doesn’t mean the same as “homely” in the states. It’s their term for homey, comforting, cozy. “The snug with wood-burner is quite homely.”

Combining the two shows leads me to this recipe, which can only be described as “homely baking” – I can almost imagine pulling freshly- baked tins of quick bread from my “range cooker” in my exposed-beamed Yorkshire kitchen, thatching optional.

Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread. This recipe from Saveur ticks all the boxes – easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.


Favorite Banana Bread

  • Servings: One 9” x 5” loaf pan
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This moist banana bread is quick to make, packed with flavor and my go-to recipe when overripe bananas are on hand.


Ingredients

  • Butter for greasing pan
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for pan
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • ⅔ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan with butter and dust with flour; set aside. In a small bowl, combine milk and white vinegar and set aside
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, curdled milk, vanilla, egg and egg yolk. Pour wet ingredients over dry and whisk until just combined. Fold in nuts and mashed bananas.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the loaf comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Gibassier

aquiA basket of Gibassier
Oh, little-known gibassier, how I adore thee!

I’ll never forget the December 2013 morning when I met my first gibassier (pronounced zee-bah-see-ay) over cappuccinos at Portland’s Pearl Bakery. While I devoured these knots of breakfast bread goodness in mere seconds, their sugar-crusted memory lingered with me long after. Best consumed with a steaming hot drink, these yeasty little fists of dough are subtly flavored with olive oil and orange blossom water and studded with candied orange peel and anise seed. Once they emerge hot from the oven, they are given a bath of clarified butter and coated with granulated sugar, giving them a sandy crust worth licking from one’s finger tips. If I could pop one of these in my mouth every day along with my morning cuppa, life would be grand.

But, alas, my waistline doesn’t allow such indulgences and, with an overnight pre-ferment and almost 4 hours of proofing time, my usually hectic schedule does not either. So, starting in 2014, gibassier has become a special Christmas morning tradition – a crackling fire, Ray Coniff Singers’ “Sleigh Ride”, mugs of not-too-sweet mochas, and a heaping platter of oven-warmed gibassier (as well as a loaf of gratuitous marzipan stollen).

Pure contentment – It’s no wonder we’re always late to the mid-day holiday festivities.


Gibassier

This 2017 version has been slightly adjusted from my original 2014 recipe, which was adapted from Ciril Hitz’s Baking Artisan Pastries & Bread.

Ingredients

    Overnight Starter (Biga)
  • 90 grams all-purpose flour
  • 90 grams bread flour
  • 110 grams whole milk
  • 2 pinches from a packet of instant yeast (I use Fleishman’s)
  • 1 large egg
  • Dough
  • Remainder of packet of instant yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons water at 107⁰ F
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoon orange flower water
  • 200 grams all-purpose flour
  • 200 grams bread flour
  • 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 85 grams unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons anise seed, toasted and slightly crushed
  • 70-90 grams candied orange peel, cut into ¼” dice – it’s worth making your own
  • Topping
  • 50 grams granulated sugar (don’t use superfine)
  • 113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)

Directions

  1. Night before baking: Combine overnight starter ingredients in the bowl of a mixer. Combine on low speed until well combined. Put in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in a warm place (can be on top of an oven that is cooling from previous cooking) draft free place. Let ferment overnight. It will not rise much.
  2. Day of Baking: Bloom yeast in 2 T. water at 107⁰ F. All remaining liquids (eggs, oil, and orange flower water) should be about 60⁰ F.
  3. In the bowl of a mixer, combine eggs, olive oil and orange water. Mix with paddle attachment. Add starter dough and beat slowly until loose and fairly uniform. Change to dough hook and add flour, sugar, salt, and yeast (don’t let salt and yeast touch). Mix for 4 minutes. Add softened butter to dough in 4 stages, incorporating each before adding more. Mix dough until gluten fully develops – the dough will be smooth and soft. When you pull off a piece, it will pull into a “window” rather than breaking. Add the anise seed and candied orange peel and mix on low until combined. When you remove the hook, it should come out completely clean.
  4. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic. Let proof 2 hours in a warm, draft-free place.
  5. Divide dough into 18 parts 65-70 grams each, shape into rounds, and let rest for 20 minutes covered by plastic or a dishcloth.
  6. Shape into semi-circles about 1/2 inch thick (To make shaping easier, I shape them into a torpedo and then pat them into a semi-circle).
  7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and cut each semi-circle with three long slashes on the outer edge curved side, and then with four short slashes (one in between each of the long ones)*. Gently spread the “toes” and place on the baking sheets (8 each). Let proof for 1 1/2 hours in a warm, draft-free place, covered with plastic.
  8. While gibassier proof, clarify 1 stick of unsalted butter for topping. Set aside. Place oven racks on two top positions. Preheat convection (fan) oven to 350⁰ F. Bake gibassier 12-15 minutes, switching baking sheets half-way through baking. When the gibassiers are golden brown (some parts may be lighter than others), remove to a cooling rack.
  9. While still warm. brush generously with clarified butter (once), and roll in sugar (twice). I freeze leftovers and rewarm them in a 200⁰ F oven for 10-12 minutes. Before serving, I give them a final sugar roll.

*The traditional way to shape gibassier is with the three long slashes in the middle and the four shorter slashes on the curved edge.
Gibassier

Gibassier – ready for baking

Holiday Marzipan Stollen

4 loaves of Stollen
Stollen is a bit lazy. It needs A LOT of rest, plenty of naps on its way to being eaten, a good 12 hours of sleep in the beginning AND at the end, four days of vacation after that. Stollen takes its time. I begin the process the night before baking by making the soaker (all the good bits soaked in dark rum), making the sponge (a bit of flour, water and yeast allowed to party overnight) and candying my own peel. The stollen is packed so full of good stuff, a long, slow rise is essential the next day. After baking, the cooled stollen rests again overnight and then benefits from a rest at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for at least 4 additional days. A clear calendar is essential to ensure the process isn’t rushed:

Night 1: Make candied peel, make soaker and make sponge (Steps 1-3 below)
Day 2: Make dough, proof, bake, coat with butter and sugar, rest overnight uncovered (Steps 4-12 below)
Day 3-7: Wrap tightly in foil at room temperature and allow to rest for at least 4 days (Steps 13-14 below )

Marzipan Stollen

Adapted from Wild Yeast Blog. It’s worth the time to make your own candied peel. It turns stollen from dowdy to delicious.

Ingredients


Soaker Ingredients:
– 120 grams golden raisins
– 90 grams dried figs, chopped
– 60 grams sliced almonds
– 35 grams dark rum
Sponge Ingredients:
– 120 grams all-purpose flour
– 80 grams water
– A small pinch rapid-rise yeast
Dough Ingredients:
– 350 grams all-purpose flour
– 55 grams whole milk
– 3 packages rapid-rise yeast (minus the small pinch)
– 50 grams sugar
– 53 grams egg (about one large egg)
– 8 grams salt
– ½ teaspoon cinnamon
– ½ teaspoon cardamom
– ¼ teaspoon allspice
– ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
– Grated lemon zest from ½ lemon
– Grated orange zest from ½ orange
– 275 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
– All of the sponge
– All of the soaker
– 75 grams candied orange peel (homemade or high quality)
– 75 grams candied lemon peel (homemade or high quality)
– 198 grams (7 oz.) of marzipan, divided lengthwise into four pieces
Finishing Ingredients:
– Clarified butter
– Granulated sugar
– Powdered sugar

Ingredients


Directions

  1. The night before: Combine the soaker ingredients in a bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 12 hours.
  2. The night before: Combine the sponge ingredients in another bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 12 hours.
  3. The night before: Make candied peel
  4. Heat milk to 105-110 degrees, add the yeast, stir and let set for 10 minutes.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the final dough ingredients except the soaker, peel and marzipan. Mix on slow speed until all the ingredients are incorporated, about 5 minutes.
  6. Continue mixing at medium speed until the dough comes together around the hook and no longer sticks to the sides and bottom of the bowl, about 10 minutes. It’s important to create a strong gluten network.
  7. Add the soaker and peels and mix by hand until they are evenly distributed through the dough. The fruit/peel to dough ratio will be high.
  8. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and let rise in a warm location until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
  9. Turn the dough onto the counter. Divide into four even pieces, pre-shape the dough into balls and let them rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
  10. Shape the loaves into blunt end batards (country loaf shape). With a wooden spoon handle placed lengthwise and just off center, press down firmly making a long trough. Roll the marzipan into a rope about ½ in shorter than the batard and place in the trough. Tuck the short sides of the dough up around the marzipan and fold the smaller section of dough over the longer and seal well (it should look like a hoagie roll when finished). Pick off any fruit on the outside to avoid burning. Place batards on parchment-lined insulated (helps the bottoms from over-browning)  baking sheets (two per sheet). Cover and let rise for 90 minutes in a warm location.
  11. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F. You will need steam during the initial phase of baking, so place a shallow pan of boiling water on the bottom of the oven.
  12. Bake for 10 minutes, open the oven door briefly to allow any remaining steam to escape and carefully remove the pan of water. Bake for another 15-20 minutes. You will need to rotate the position of the baking sheets halfway through the bake to ensure even browning. Cover loaves with aluminum foil if they are browning too quickly. Cool slightly.
  13. While the loaves are still warm, brush them with clarified butter and dredge them in granulated sugar. When cool, sift powdered sugar over the loaves. Leave the stollen out overnight to let the loaves dry out and the sugar to form a crust.
  14. To store, wrap tightly in foil at room temperature. Stollen should be allowed to rest for at least 4 days before eating, so plan accordingly. After the 4-day rest period, stollen can be frozen.
  15. To serve, unwrap, re-heat stollen in the oven, dust with additional powdered sugar if needed, slice and enjoy.

Cranberry Swirl Bread

Cranberry Bread
This recipe is about a week too late. I should have posted it immediately after Thanksgiving – but, after hosting two back-to-back Thanksgiving dinners, I succumbed to post-holiday laziness and didn’t get around to it until today. Apologies for my tardiness. So, close your eyes, pretend it’s Black Friday, you’ve finished shopping and you’re staring at a fridge full of leftovers – including a big Tuppperware of cranberry sauce. My go-to Thanksgiving cranberry sauce makes a generous four cups of the sparingly-used condiment and, after the big T-day, I always have a bowl of leftover sauce hogging fridge space. I have a few recipes for using up the leftover sauce including cranberry panna cotta, cranberry gelato and, my personal favorite, cranberry-cherry tart. Rather than my standard array of dessert fare,  this year I wanted to make a lovely, not-too-sweet cranberry swirl bread that could be toasted, slathered with mayo and layered with leftover turkey and warm stuffing for the ultimate savory post-holiday turkey sandwich. I’m rather happy with the results – I used the bread for sandwiches on Friday, French toast on Saturday and, finally, a creamy bread pudding studded with tart cranberry swirls on Sunday.


Cranberry Swirl Bread

  • Servings: One 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf
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Adapted from Joy of Cooking’s Fast White Bread recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour, divided
  • 2 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 package Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup very warm water (115⁰ – 120⁰ – this is warmer than normal yeast activation temperature)
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup cranberry sauce, drained
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Turbinado sugar (like Sugar in the Raw) or white sugar

Directions

  1. In the bowl of the mixer, add two cups of bread flour, sugar, yeast, and salt (yeast and salt should not touch as salt can retard yeast activation). Add water and melted butter and combine on low to medium speed. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of flour until the dough is moist by not sticky (you may not need to add the entire cup). Knead for about 10 minutes on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes).
  2. Preheat oven to 450⁰. Grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan. Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8-inch x 12- inch rectangle. Cover dough with cranberry sauce..
  3. Starting at the short end, roll up the dough, jellyroll style, pinching the ends closed to contain the cranberry filling. Place the dough in the loaf pan, seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes).
  4. Brush beaten egg over top of loaf, sprinkle with salt and turbinado sugar. Bake in 450⁰ oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350⁰ and continue baking for about 30 minutes more. If the top of the loaf is brown, cover with foil until loaf is fully cooked. Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely on a rack. Slice, toast, slather with mayo and make the best leftover turkey sandwich ever.