Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread

I love to bake yeast breads.  I find the smell of rising bread dough reminds me of being little and making dough with my mom on snowy days.  When we were growing up we always made the same bread – a standard white bread recipe that always made six loaves.  We would make the dough and I would stand on a chair to turn the handle of the dough kneader – a big steel bucket with a dough hook that we turned with a worn wooden handle.  Now when I make dough I use the dough hook attachment for my Kitchen Aid and it takes two or three minutes, it’s quick and does a great job – but I still kind of miss turning that big crank to watch the dough turn into a perfect ball.

This bread is not from the recipe I used as a child – it’s a sweet dough, so there’s sugar there and some spices too.  This is a recipe that Elly used in my high school baking class to teach students about yeast risen dough.  It’s rich in all the right ways and makes a perfect loaf of pull-apart bread.  I’ve mentioned Elly on here in passing a couple of times, she gave me the best recipe for Ginger Snaps I’ve ever tried and she is one of the reasons I still cook.  I remember her coming to school suppers and serving baked beans when I was little and staying until the very end of the meal – making sure everything was put away and the kitchen was spotless.  She was a woman who cooked because she loved to do it, not because it was a chore or something her family needed – sugar and butter were her lifeblood.

Every year when she showed her intro baking classes this recipe she talked about getting up at four in the morning to bake perfect cinnamon buns for her kids and husband because it was the best smell to wake up to.  She’s right, it is the best wake-up smell.  I make this bread every other month or so for BF and I, and even though I don’t get up at four in the morning to have the bread ready by 6:30 I understand her meaning.  That magical scent of cinnamon, sugar, and butter baking in the oven always makes me happy to be awake.  And I know I say this often – but there’s nothing more satisfying on a lazy weekend morning than kneading bread dough and playing with yeast.  It takes a bit of time to bake a yeast risen dough, but the payoff is totally worth it. I promise.

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Adapted from my introduction to baking cookbook where it is written in purple, sparkly pen.

For the Bread:
1 cup warm water
1 Tbs yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
2 1/2-3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon

For the filling:
4 Tbs butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs cinnamon

Combine the water, yeast, sugar, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment and allow the mixture to get a little frothy.
Stir in the vanilla and the salt.
Add 2 cups of flour and combine, on low, with the dough hook.  Continue to add flour in 1/4 cup increments until the dough comes together as a ball.
Continue to stir the dough with the dough hook for another two minutes.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled, large bowl covered in plastic wrap.  Put it somewhere warm to rise until doubled in volume, about an hour.
When the dough has risen dump it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out until it’s a rectangle about 9″x15″.
Lightly grease a loaf pan with butter.
Combine the melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon so they become a paste – I’ve spread the butter then used cinnamon sugar as well, but prefer the paste method.
Spread paste evenly over the rolled out dough.
Cut the dough into strips about 3″ wide.  Stack them on top of each other. There should be about five.
Cut the stack of dough strips into thirds.
 Stack the cut dough in the loaf pan so that the cinnamon side of the dough is touching the non-cinnamon side.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap again and let it rise somewhere warm.
While your dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
When the loaf is ready, about 30 minutes later – it doesn’t need to double this time, we were just letting the flour relax a bit – pop it in your preheated oven.
Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes, until it’s golden brown on the top.
Allow it to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before eating.
This is ideal with a cup of coffee.
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