I come from a long line of home cooks who love to make bread. We like to mix and knead dough by hand, then wait impatiently for it to rise and bake before slicing off a big piece and slathering it with butter. In my mind, there’s nothing like a great loaf of homemade bread.
If you’re a bread-baking newbie (as we’ve all been), you’ll become a dough master faster with these tools of the trade by your side:
•Earthenware Mixing Bowl
Mason Cash glazed earthenware mixing bowls have been staples in English kitchens since the 1800s and are a familiar sight to Downton Abbey fans because there are lots of them in Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen. What I like about the Baker Lane mixing bowl is that it’s sturdy yet lightweight; is chip resistant and has a lovely raised patterned exterior not only brings a touch of Victorian style to kitchens but helps cooks maintain a steady grip during the mixing process. $44.99, bedbathandbeyond.com
•Sturdy Dough Board
When I make bread, I hand knead the dough on a reversible pastry board like this. I wish mine had a lip at each end as this one does because they brace the board against the countertop so it doesn’t move. Handcrafted in the USA of yellow birch, this board is also marked with pastry circle guides and worth the investment because it’s made to last. $99.99, williams-sonoma.com
•Trusty Bread Proofer
Like many of you, I’m hooked on “The Great British Baking Show” on PBS and am fascinated with the bread proofing cabinets contestants use to make their dough rise evenly in half the time. For compact kitchens like mine, Brod and Taylor’s folding bread proofer is ideal. Designed for countertop use, it holds up to a 6-quart bowl or two full-size loaves, then folds flat for easy storage. This proofer has with lots of bells and whistles that cooks will appreciate, including that it maintains consistent warmth and humidity for overnight starter dough or pre-fermenting, cultures yogurt and melts chocolate without scorching. $147.95, chefscatalog.com
•Well-Designed Bread Loaf Baker
Made in France of Burgundy clay, Emile Henry’s ceramic bread loaf baker ensures that bread retains the right amount of humidity while baking and has vent holes that allow excess moisture to escape. $99.95, surlatable.com
•Good Go-To Cookbook
What I like about “The New Sugar & Spice” cookbook by Samantha Seneviratne is that it’s filled with easy-to-follow recipes that takes bread from basic-to-beguiling with infusions of exotic (but easy to find) spices. Orange-Clove Pull-Apart Bread is a perfect example. If you’re looking for a tasty new bread to add to your holiday menu or give as a gift, this is it. Yes, it’s that good.
Orange-Clove Pull-Apart Bread
“The New Sugar & Spice” Cookbook
When a piping-hot loaf of bread comes out of the oven, all I want to do is tear into it with my hands (maybe even teeth). Forget about waiting for it to cool or grabbing a knife. Usually, my civilized side keeps me in check. Usually. But the great thing about this loaf is that there’s no need to hold back. The dough is cut into squares so that it bakes up into already portioned slices, each steeped in butter and orange zest, spiced with ground clove, and ready to be ripped apart while still warm. Follow your animal instincts. Bake this bread.
MAKES 1 LOAF
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for greasing the bowl and the pan
1/2 cup whole milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (from 2 oranges)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Lightly butter a large bowl and set aside. To prepare the dough, bring the milk just to a boil over medium heat in a small pot. Watch closely to ensure that it doesn’t boil over. Remove from the heat and add butter to the pot to melt. Put the mixture in a small bowl and let it cool to 105°F to 110°F. (It should be warm to the touch but not too hot.) Add the egg and vanilla and stir to combine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and cloves on low speed. Add the milk mixture and mix just until combined.
Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes. Or, tip the dough onto a work surface and knead by hand for about 12 minutes. You shouldn’t need to add flour. Form the dough into a ball, place the ball in the prepared bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Leave it in a warm, draft-free spot until it has doubled in size. This could take anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours. It all depends on how warm your house is.
Meanwhile prepare the filling. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, orange zest, and salt. Stir in the butter to make a paste. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
Butter a 4 1/2 by 8 1/2-inch loaf pan and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the two long sides. Butter the parchment.
When the dough has doubled, tip it out onto a very lightly floured work surface. Knead it once or twice to expel the air and then roll it into a 9-inch square. Spread the filling evenly over the surface. Cut the square into 4 equal strips. Stack the strips on top of each other, filling side up. Cut the stack to make 4 piles of 4 squares each. Set each stack, on its side like dominoes, in the loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest until it has risen to just under the lip of the loaf pan, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Uncover the loaf and bake until golden brown and puffed, 30 to 35 minutes. Cover the loaf with aluminum foil if it is browning too quickly. To see if it’s ready, give the center slice a wiggle—if it’s set in place, the loaf is ready to come out. If the middle of that center slice seems soft, give it another few minutes. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes then, using the parchment, lift the loaf out and onto a serving plate. Slip out the parchment before serving.
The bread is best eaten warm the day it’s made. Store leftovers, well wrapped, at room temperature, and reheat, wrapped in foil, in a low oven.
Reprinted with permission from The New Sugar and Spice, by Samantha Seneviratne, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2015 by Erin Kunkel.