Thursday, January 19, 2012

Remember December

Are you eating salads yet? Are you buttoning your pants or did you switch to elastic waistebands?

I just visited the Target clearance rack to look for anything with a cotton/spandex blend. 100% denim can be unforgiving.

Scant Pantry Pseudo Sweets . . .
On hungry, early January afternoons while trying to resist raiding the pantry looking for delicious things before dinner, I find myself sucking on sugar cubes or baking chocolate and sugar cubes. I purposefully keep my house sweet free due to lack of resolve come 3:00 pm.

While my tummy turns from too many crumbly cubes of chemically tormented crystalized sugar cane, I close my eyes and continue craving something wonderful . . .the memory of Orange Bow Knots on Christmas morning haunts me.

Each childhood Christmas, after stockings but before presents, my mom served up a soft, pillowy knot of white flour, yeast, and butter goodness.

Not to light, not to heavy, not too sweet. Not to blah. Buttery and flecked with orange zest.

Over the crown, a sweet flow of orange peel glaze dripped from the still warm bun providing the perfect balance of tangy citrus sweet over the rich, warm, orange freckled bow.

Then I became the mom and went sour on the citrus wad. Did my mom really get up 3 hours earlier than the crack-of-dawn to mix, knead, rise, knead, form, rise, and bake while mice slept and sugar plums danced? Are you kidding me?!
I dropped this tradition for many years opting for the frozen bag of Rhoades cinnamon rolls or Pilsbury tube of pastry. Easy. Pathetic. Not quite what I yearn for on Christmas morning, which should smell like evergreen and oranges rather than cinnamon scented compromise.

Then came Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Hertzberg and Francois. Measure, mix, let sit for 1 - 2 hours, and stuff in the fridge. Whenever you want fresh bread, simply grab a wad of cool dough, form into a loaf, roll, knot, or braid, let sit for 1 - 2 hours, and bake. Don't worry about over or under rising. Don't knead! Don't hassle. Just enjoy . . . and yearn for more . . . for a whole year.

With a variety of different doughs, I choose Brioche. Loaded with butter and eggs, it's my go to whenever I'm making treats like cinnamon rolls, buns, bow knots, and loaves for breakfast toast with peanut butter. You absolutly can not go wrong with this fabulous dough. Due to the high fat content, it stays soft and delicious longer than the kneaded sandwich white version my mom makes. I could bake them up the night before and glaze them in the morning if I had to. But I won't. The melt in your mouth quality of fresh baked and glazed is what memories are made of.

And can you believe Hertzberg and Francois have a pretzel recipe? If I don't rip the pretzel page out and throw it away, I may never fit into last years' pants again.

The page is still intact.

I live close to Target and the clearance racks right now are well stocked.

 -starting with a modified version of Hertzberg and Francois' Brioche dough from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Before you scroll down and freak out at the length of the recipe, commit to trying this just once. It is easier than you think and will forever change your attitude toward yeast bread. Sooooo easy and delicious!

A traditional kneaded dough becomes smooth by the time you roll-out and cut the dough. However, the no-knead method can be sticky. I find that making sure the dough is in the fridge at least overnight and working with plenty of flour on my board keeps the brioche from sticking. Bake and eat the same day if you can. However, if you have no other option, make sure you don't glaze the bow-knots until the day of the big eat.
This is a HUGE recipe that is easily halved or doubled if you want to have lots of dough left over in the fridge for another morning.

1 1/2 cups luke warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons grandulated yeast (1 1/2 packets, although if you can, buy yeast in bulk and store in an air tight container in the fridge - it will save you all kinds of cash)
 1 1/2 tablespoons slat
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup brown sugar - the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup honey, however, I can't bring myself to dump that much golden goodness into a dough
1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, and cooled
7 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour - plus extra flour for dusting the board
2 oranges
1 lemon
3 cups powdered sugar

1. Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, sugar, and butter with water in a LARGE bowl or loosely lidded container.

2. Mix in the flour just until ingredients are incorporated. The dough will be loose but will firm in the fridge. Don't worry about lumps - the yeast will work them out as the dough sits.

3. Cover, not airtight, and let sit at room temperature until dough rises and collapes/flattens, about 2 hours. However, I've found that the result is the same if I let it sit 2 or 4 hours. Don't stress about it.

4. Put it the dough into the fridge. You can use it as soon as it's chilled. However, the longer you leave it in the fridge, the stiffer it becomes. I have the best results after one to two days. You can leave it up to 5 days. At that point, bake it for freeze it in an airtight container. Let it thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before using.

5. On baking day, grease a 4 standard baking sheets. Set aside. Generously flour a surface you don't mind cutting on. I use a large wooden cutting board. Zest one orange into the flour and spread it around. The dough will pick up the orange zest as you work.

6. Half the dough, dropping one half onto your floured surface and returning the other half to the fridge for another day. Roll dough in the flour forming a ball. Working quickly, flatten the dough using your hands to start with, promptly switching to a rolling pin to keep the heat from your hands from warming the dough and making it sticky. If the dough cracks around the edges, just flip it over and keep working. It will become pliable as you roll it out. Always start rolling from the midlle pushing the dough out rather that rolling back and forth. After several rolls, pick up the dough, flip it, and rotate a quarter turn. Try to roll the dough into a square about 2'x2'. Don't measure. It doesn't matter that much.

7. Cut the dough horizontally through the middle with a pizza-cutter. Begin cutting the dough into strips vertically. I try to get 20 strips (9 vertical cuts). Tie strips into loose knots. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with a greased peice of plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise (about 2 hours). You can tell if they've risen enough if they puff up to almost double in size.

8. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 12 - 15 minutes or until knot begin to brown. If you have any question about doneness, ere on the side of light baking.

9. While the knots bake, make your glaze! Mix powdered sugar with zest and juice of oranges and lemon. Make sure you reserve some powdered sugar just in case your fruit is super juice and the powdered sugar mixture is too thin. You want it to be the consistence of peanut butter.

10. When knots are out of the oven, cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then dip knot into the glaze, face down, up to half-way. Toward the end of the glaze, you can spoon it over the last few knots and spread with the back of the spoon.

Serve fresh with hot chocolate!


  1. In the month of citrus, I find your recipe perfect and up it goes to my to-bake list :) And I would serve it with hot chocolate for sure! Yumm! Good read.

  2. Thanks Crunchy! I've been loving all your citrus recipes on your blog. And here I didn't even know this was citrus month! I must say, I could eat marmalade by the spoonful.