Friday, December 19, 2014

Apricot Cream Cheese Flower Loaf

It's been a while since I've been able to bake along with the BBBabes as a buddy, but I am so glad I found the time this month!  If you want a really spectacular bread to share with guests for Christmas or whatever special occasion you like, I highly recommend this one.  You may have seen it going around blogs recently or pinned as a Nutella Flower or Star.  Check out Bread Experience for the hosting kitchen's post.  Those flowers really are quite stunning.  Now, I do love Nutella, but for this time I decided the recipe would lend itself very well to a special breakfast bread, so I chose an apricot and cream cheese filling.  The scraps baked up so deliciously with a little dollop of each filling, that I will make it that way always.  I can get my Nutella straight from the jar.  Oops, did I write that out loud?  Don't tell.
In addition to the change in filling, I made the wonderful brioche dough just a touch less rich, with one less egg and two tablespoons less butter.  It turned out perfect for my taste, rich and light, but with a tiny bit of chew left.  I think it will keep longer as well.  Toward that end I also added a tablespoon of potato flakes to the sponge.  Potato enhances moistness and shelf life of bread.  Here is a picture of the loaf without the glaze, so you can see the beautiful effect of the twists in the flower shaping.  It's really not that difficult and so worth the extra time it takes.  No more work than making cinnamon rolls and just as delicious if not even more impressive.  You could definitely do a cinnamon filling for a giant cinnamon flower bun too!

Here is the recipe, I am including the fillings that I used, but bear in mind that it will make more filling than you will need by almost half again as much.  They were something I used last year in a delicious babka recipe from Brown Eyed Baker.

Filled Brioche Flower
makes 1 large flower loaf

Adapted from:
Nutella Brioche Flower by and
Poor Man’s Brioche from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

For the sponge:
½ cup (2.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
½ cup (4 ounces) whole milk, lukewarm (90-100º F)

For the dough:
3 large eggs, slightly beaten I used 2 eggs
3 cups (13.75 ounces) all-purpose flour I used 2 cups all purpose and 1 cup light spelt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons sea salt
½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted I used 6 tbsp
1-2 teaspoons milk, if necessary to form a smooth dough

For the filling and glaze:
Nutella or similar hazelnut chocolate paste for the filling
1 tablespoon milk plus 1 tablespoon water for glaze
Icing (confectioner's) sugar

Apricot filling:
1½ cups dried apricots
½ cup orange juice
1/3 cup lemon juice
4 scant tbsp sugar (more than the original for this recipe)

Cream cheese filling:
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
To make the sponge, stir together the flour and yeast in a large bowl or stand mixer.  Pour in the milk and whisk or mix with the paddle until all of the flour is hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment for 30-45 minutes, or until the sponge has risen and falls when you tap the bowl.

To make the dough, add the eggs to the sponge and whisk (or beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment) until smooth. In another bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add to the sponge mixture and stir (or continue mixing with the paddle on low speed for about 2 minutes) until all of the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes to let the flour hydrate and begin to develop the gluten. Then mix in the melted butter by hand, using a wooden spoon, Danish dough whisk or with the mixer on medium speed using the dough hook. Add in a couple teaspoons of milk or water if the dough is too dry.

Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead for about 8-10 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth. It shouldn't be too sticky to handle.

Form the dough into a ball and place it in a clean bowl. The butter should keep the dough from sticking to the bowl. Let the dough proof in a warm place (70-75º F) for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, make the fillings if not using an already prepared filling.

To make the Apricot Filling: Combine dried apricots, orange juice, lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Cook uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apricots are softened and liquid is reduced by half.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  When cool, transfer mixture to a food processor and process until a puree forms. Cover and set aside at room temperature.

To make the Cream Cheese Filling: In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and lump-free. Add the egg yolk, vanilla and salt.  Stir to combine.  Cover and set aside at room temperature.

Meanwhile, cut out a circle of parchment paper about 30 cm (12″) in diameter. Place the paper on a baking sheet.  I used a pizza pan, upside down, and parchment.

To shape the flower, turn the dough out onto a surface, punch it down and knead for 3-4 minutes. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and form each piece into a ball.

Roll a ball of dough out into a circle measuring about 25 cm (10″) in diameter. The dough should be about 3-4 mm (1/8″) thick.  I went about a ½" larger to have some room for trimming.

Place the dough onto the baking paper and use an offset spatula to spread on a layer of Nutella or other filling, leaving a small gap at the edge. Don’t make the layer too thick but be sure to evenly cover the dough.

Roll out a second ball of dough, place it on the first layer and spread with Nutella.  Repeat with the third and fourth balls of dough but do NOT spread filling on the final layerI used apricot for the first layer, cream cheese for the second and apricot for the third.

At this point, you may want to trim the edges for an even circle.  Cut the brioche into 16 segments but leave a small (3 cm/1½”) area in the center of the dough uncut.  Use a small glass or ramekin to mark that area in the center to prevent cutting into it.  Mine was more like 3 inches.

Take a pair of adjacent segments. Lift and twist them away from each other through 180°. Lift and twist through 180° again, then twist through 90° so that the ends are vertical. Press the edges together firmly. Repeat this process for all pairs of segments.  This blog has a beautiful picture of the finished Nutella loaf but more importantly, an excellent video showing the twisting technique at the end if you need a visual.  The Bread Kitchen

Place the flower in a large plastic bag or cover with lightly oiled film. Leave in a warm place for 1-2 hours to rise.

Brush with the milk glaze then bake at 160°C/320°F fan oven, 180°C/360°F conventional oven for 20-25 minutes.  I baked mine at 375ºF for 15 minutes, then turned it down to 325º and baked it another 5 minutes.

Place the bread on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled, dust lightly with icing sugar, if desired.  I made a powdered sugar glaze with a touch of vanilla for my flower.

Let cool completely before cutting.  Reheat after cooling if you want to eat it warm.  Enjoy that burst of fruity creamy filling!

I am submitting this loaf for yeastspotting!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Festive Yule Wreath

'Tis the season for baking, and what a wonderful recipe to use to catch up on a BBB post that I missed in 2008.  For beautiful step by step instructions, go to Sweet and That's It to see the most recent post.  The BBB originally baked this beautiful bread in December of 2008.  I used a mix of all purpose and spelt flour for my wreath and found that the wonderfully soft and delicate dough didn't show off the interior rings like the other loaves that I have seen.  Still, I love how it turned out.  For the almond paste, I made a half batch of homemade, which was still double what I needed.  I also added a tiny bit of butter/sugar brush for crunch and sparkle, and sliced almonds before baking.  Actually, when I look closer, it is that sugar topping mixture that has puffed during baking and is obscuring the filling rings, along with the almonds.  Oh well, it's still beautiful and I can't wait to dig into this almond filled pastry!

Yule Wreath
makes 1 almond ring loaf

1 package active dry yeast (7 g)
¼ cup (60 ml) lukewarm water (100°F/37°C)
¾ cup (180 ml) lukewarm milk
¼ cup (50 g) sugar I added ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
¼ cup (55 g) butter, softened
1 large egg at room temperature
About 10-15 cardamom pods (optional) I used a heaping tsp of cardamom seeds
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (if you do not use the pods, use ½ teaspoon)
½ teaspoon salt
3¼ to 3½ (455 g – 490 g) all-purpose flour I used 2 c all purpose and 1½c + 1 tbsp light spelt

Almond filling:
½ cup (125 g) almond paste (or make your own: In a food processor finely grind 8 oz (225 g) blanched almonds. Process in 8 oz (225 g) powdered sugar. Then knead in 1 egg white. Store in the refrigerator.
¼ cup (60 g) packed brown sugar (I used 30 g light brown and 30 g dark brown sugar)
¼ cup (55 g) softened butter

1 cup (115g) powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon hot water (helps the sugar clumps dissolve!)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract I used almond extract


Open the cardamom pods and remove the seeds.  Lightly crush them and add them to the milk.  Warm it up just below boiling point.  Cool to lukewarm (about 100°F – 37°C) and strain the seeds out: you don't want the crunchy seeds in your dough.

In the bowl of your mixer (or in a large bowl), dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the milk, sugar, softened butter, egg, ground cardamom and 2 cups of flour (280 g).  Beat with the paddle attachment until smooth and then mix in the salt.

Change the paddle to the dough hook.  A little at a time, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a smooth dough.  Knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning to grease all around. Cover and let rise in a draft-free place for 60-90 minutes.

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling:
Mix together the almond paste, brown sugar, and softened butter until smooth.

Shaping and Baking:

When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle of about 15 x 9-inches (38x22cm).  Gently spread the filling over the dough leaving ¼-inch border (6 mm) all the way around.

Roll up tightly, beginning at the wide side. Pinch the edges to seal well. Stretch the roll to make it even, and with sealed side down, shape into a ring on a lightly greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Pinch ends together to complete ring.

With scissors, kitchen shears or a sharp knife, make cuts 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1-inch intervals (2.5 cm). Then turn each section on its side (90 degree turn), to show off the pretty swirled filling.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about 40-50 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350°F (175C°).

Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. (If it browns too quickly, cover loosely with parchment paper or foil).

While the wreath is baking, prepare the glaze.  Keep it well covered or it will dry out.

Once the wreath is baked, carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool down.  Drizzle with glaze and decorate as you wish with nuts, dried fruits, marzipan fruits, sprinkles, or whatever you like.

I am submitting this loaf to Yeastspotting!