Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

Sometimes a fresh-baked loaf of sweet bread just really hits the spot. I definitely have a soft spot for bakeries and their wide variety of breads and pastries, but I have a hard time buying things that I know I could and should make myself. So, I decided to make my first cinnamon swirl bread. It turned out great, so great that I was too impatient to wait for it to cool. As a result, my bread separated from the cinnamon swirl just a little bit since it was still too hot. Oh well, it tasted great!

Cinnamon Swirl Loaf
7 to 7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Confectioners' icing

In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour and the yeast. In a saucepan, heat milk, 1/2 cup sugar, shortening, and salt just till warm (115-120 degrees), stirring constantly to melt shortening. Add to dry mixture in mixing bowl; add eggs. Beat at low speed with a mixer for 1/2 minute. Beat 3 minutes at high speed. By hand, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough. Turn out on lightly floured surface and knead till smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball. Place in lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface.

Cover; let rise in warm place till double (about 1 hour). Punch dough down; turn out on lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Roll each half into a 15x7-inch rectangle. Brush entire surface with water.

Combine the 1/2 cup sugar and ground cinnamon. Spread each rectangle with half of the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Roll dough up as for jelly roll, beginning with narrow side. Seal long edge and ends. Place, sealed edge down, in 2 greased 9x5x3-inch loaf pans. Cover and let rise until almost double (35-45 minutes). Bake at 375 till done, 35-40 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on racks. Drizzle with Confectioners' Icing.

Chocolate Souffle

Understanding that a souffle is a work of art, I set about to try my hand at this art. Souffle is not my favorite thing to eat (it's not rich and dense enough), but it is still a yummy dessert. I would say that my first attempt was a success as far as preparation and taste goes. However, the souffle dish was filled a little too full, and thus, my souffle puffed up so nice and high that it spilled over the sides of the dish. So, I don't have a picture of the finished product, but be assured that it was fabulous.

Chocolate Souffle
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
5 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
Whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 1 1/2-quart souffle dish and dust it with sugar. Have a 9x13-inch baking pan ready and put a kettle of water on to boil for the water bath.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of about 1 1/2 inches of simmering water, whisking until smooth. My first choice for chocolate is Scharffen Berger, but if you can't find it, Guittard makes an excellent semisweet morsel that can be found in most grocery stores. Remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks and butter until well blended.

Beat the egg whites and salt with an electric mixer on medium-high speed in a large bowl until the whites form soft peaks when the beaters are lifted. Beat in the sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat just until the whites form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted.

With a whisk or a rubber spatula, fold one-quarter of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly, and pour the mixture into the souffle dish. Place the dish in the baking pan, place it in the oven, and add enough boiling water to the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the souffle dish. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the souffle is set but the center is still jiggly and soft.

Serve immediately, with the whipped cream, if using. I highly recommend using the whipped cream to complement the chocolate.