Nov 2, 2011

Recipe of the week: Ginger-Pumpkin Pull-Apart Loaves

The recipe for pumpkin spice pull-apart bread has been making the rounds and for good reason - the results are good and the star ingredient is on everyone's mind these days: pumpkin.

I made two batches of this recipe last week and modified it slightly as each time; in the final analysis I counted three minor changes in my version, below.

Two mini-loaves with glaze

Modification #1.  I added some dough conditioners - lecithin and ground ginger, which isn't just a spice, but it also helps make yeast dough softer and smoother.  Ginger has the added benefit of also adding a tiny bit of zing.
Modification #2.  I made this in two mini-loaf pans instead of one big pan (see photo at right.  They cook a little faster, so you don't need to let the tops get extra-brown in order to ensure the middle isn't gooey.
Modification #3.  The glaze calls for plain rum, which I didn't have. But I DID have a bottle of Bacardi Gold infused with vanilla bean pods, in the process of becoming vanilla.  If you don't have - or care to use - rum, vanilla will work in a pinch, or use just a tiny bit of rum extract.  

Please don't be intimidated by the steps in the recipe; it's actually a relatively fast and easy dough to make up, and the cutting-and-stacking is harder to explain than to do.  I made the dough in two stages, refrigerating it overnight once it raised, then rolling, cutting and baking the next day.  You can do it in one fell swoop - just make sure you have about 4 hours from start to finish (most of the time is spent waiting on the dough to raise or bake.)

Ginger-Pumpkin Pull-Apart Loaves

Dough Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (do not substitute salted butter or margarine)
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup white suar
1 teaspoon salt
1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 teaspoon lecithin (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (do not substitute salted butter or margarine)
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a heavy-bottom small saucepan, heat the butter over medium-high heat until it begins to bubble and foam. Stirring constantly, keep it over the heat until it is the color of dark honey.  Pour in mixing bowl.  Return pan to stove and heat milk just until it begins to froth. Add to the browned butter in the bowl.  Add pumpkin, sugar and salt.  Allow to cool for a few minutes, then add dry yeast and stir.  Wait about 10 minutes until the yeast begins to bubble.  Add flour, lecithin and ginger and knead for 4-5 minutes or use a dough hook.  The dough will be smooth but soft and a little sticky.  Place in a greased bowl; cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap in a draft-free warm spot and let rise for one hour or until doubled in size.  You can refrigerate overnight at this point, or continue to make the rolls.  Refrigerated dough will need to set out for 30-60 minutes or until warm enough to roll easily.

To make rolls, place dough on lightly floured surface and roll to a 12x20 rectangle (I "squared" up the sides with my hands so it formed a fairly neat rectangle.)

Just as with the dough, brown 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan until the color of dark honey. Brush the butter on rolled-out dough, all the way to the edges.  Mix together sugar and spices; sprinkle evenly over entire dough, all the way to the edges. Use a pizza cutter and cut dough in half lenthwise, then each half in thirds (six strips total.)  Stack three strips high, then cut again, first in half, then each half in thirds to create small square pieces.  You can see that the cut pieces were barely taller than the mini-loaf pans.

Generously grease (with shortening) two small loaf pans or one 9x5 loaf pan.  Place the stacks into the pan(s) , holding them in place until the pan is full - they will just fill two mini loaves or one 9x5 loaf pan. Scoop up any splled-out cinnamon/sugar mixture and sprinkle down through and over the top of the loaves.  Cover with a damp (not wet) clean tea towel and let rise for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350. Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool in pans, run a thin blade around the edge of the pan to loosen, then turn them out onto a plate for glazing.

Before serving, heat together 2 tablespoons butter, 1/8 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons half-and-half or milk.  Heat just until boiling; remove from heat and add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1/4 teaspoon rum or vanilla.  Whisk until smooth and pour over loaf or loaves.

My family (and Mr. Official's coworkers) loved this bread.  Even if you're not experienced with yeast dough, this is a good one to hone your breadmaking skills, and the results are well worth the effort.

Happy baking,

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