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In which I triumph over cinnamon jumble loaves but in a humble way, like how Jon Snow would.

I may or may not have been watching Game of Thrones when I started this blog entry. And, by "watching," I mean staring at a television while pretending I know what everyone's name is and why they still care so AWFULLY much about the winter that is supposedly coming. Okay, guys. Whatever. Whenever I and my friend, Angie, try to discuss recent happenings on GoT, it always goes something like this:

"You know the girls with the hair and the sand? The ones who killed the boy . . . or prince . . . or whatever. You know, the sand girls."

"He's the guy with the arm. With the scales." "The stone arm?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I don't know. You know, with the blond hair, like the handsome uncle in a movie."

"You know, the guy from season 1 with the accent and the sword." (Because guys with swords are rare on GoT.) (We try not to talk about it much because, frankly, we're exhausted afterwards, like we ran a full marathon uphill.)

So, anywho, back in February, I tweeted to Amazon about ordering Bob's Red Mill spelt flour from them, and they responded by sending me another cookbook--the Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking. (Say that ten times fast.) I looooooooooove this cookbook. It's so pretty! And it just happens to feature the bakers from the season of the GBBO that my husband and I watched first on Netflix--Richard and Kate and Martha and Luis and Nancy and Chetna and Norman and Diana and Enwezor and Iain and Claire and Jordan. (Oh, sure, their names I can remember.) The pictures are gorgeous, and quite a few recipes from the season are featured, including recipes from the technical and signature and show-stopper bakes.

Who knew that spelt flour could encourage such corporate generosity? Is spelt flour the key to achieving world peace? Does it know all of the answers? Does it think I should bleach my hair platinum again?

(We may or may not circle back around to Game of Thrones and Jon Snow again. It's hard to say because I'm not fully caffeinated, yet.)

I realize that my self-imposed baking challenge is to bake all of the recipes in Paul Hollywood's How to Bake, which I still have every intention of doing. However, I get tempted on a regular basis to try the recipes in the Big Book of Baking, as when I tried to make kouign amann, the recipe for which was in the Big Book. I'd been DYING to try the cinnamon jumble loaf, pictured here:

Obviously, given my antipathy towards raisins, I didn't include them, but I was fascinated by the recipe, otherwise, as I hadn't before seen a recipe for fancy "monkey bread."

Ingredients for full recipe:

  • 7 grams fast action yeast

  • 500 g strong white bread flour

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • 2 tsp. caster sugar

  • 250 ml milk

  • 50 g unsalted butter, diced

  • 1 egg

Filling for full recipe:

  • 65 g muscovado sugar

  • 1 tsp. plain flour

  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

  • small amount of milk, for brushing

Icing for full recipe:

  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar

  • 1 tsp. vanilla

  • 1 Tbsp. melted butter

  • 1-2 Tbsp. milk (until you achieve your preferred consistency--I like a thick icing that is still soft)

This person has adapted the recipe here, so you can find the general mixing and forming and baking directions there. However, note that she has halved the roll recipe and that you'll need a fairly large loaf pan for the full recipe (what I make). I started out with a 1-lb. loaf pan but now use a 1 1/2-lb. loaf pan that I bought from Amazon (and LOVE). Also, I don't use milk for brushing the rolled-out dough under the cinnamon/sugar mixture or before baking the loaf--I don't want anything to be extra-crisp. Instead, I brush melted butter on the rolled-out dough under the cinnamon/sugar mixture and brush the finished loaf with melted butter again before icing it--the icing isn't included in the recipe, either, but who doesn't put icing on cinnamon rolls? Also, I don't use muscovado sugar, which is a fancy type of brown sugar. Instead, I use regular ol' granulated sugar. I'm already weird about flours; I don't necessarily want to become a sugar snob, too. I mean, does anyone want to? I don't think there are any kids out there dreaming of becoming hipster sugar consumers as adults, just as there aren't any kids out there dreaming of becoming nerdy English teachers when they grow up. (Wait, what?)

I've now baked the cinnamon jumble loaf several times, and all loaves have been great successes, except for the first time, which went poorly. It looked great but was way under-baked in the center (before I started using my trusty meat thermometer) and then got too dry when I kept putting it back in the oven. That loaf was all style over substance . . . just like King Joffrey on Game of Thrones. (Holy sh*t! I did it!) So how does one achieve a cinnamon jumble loaf that is both beautiful and delicious? In other words, how does one achieve the Jon Snow of cinnamon jumble loaves? Come. I'll show you.

This has ended up becoming one of my favorite bread doughs to work with because it's so squishy after it rises. You can see the difference in the dough before and after it rises for the first time.

After it rises, you have to knock the air out of it and then let it rest under plastic wrap for a few minutes; resting makes it easier to roll out. But then, it should roll out fairly easily. It's quite a stretchy, non-sticky dough, so it's fun to work with and shape into rolls.

I used to hate the next part of this process when making cinnamon rolls because the dough I had was almost always sticky and almost impossible to work with--but not this dough. It rolls up so easily that it's delightful. And I LOVE the resulting softly solid roll of dough. It feels good in the hands, like a stress ball.

As I said, I brush the dough with melted butter and then apply the cinnamon/sugar mixture as evenly as I can. You can use milk, as directed in the recipe, but I don't really understand the point of it.

Then, you get to roll it up, and it's fun.

Then, it's time to cut the roll into many smaller rolls and then to cut those smaller rolls in half.

The first layer of halved rolls at the bottom of the pan should be laid in neatly, but then the rest of them can be sort of tossed in willy-nilly.

And then it's time for the proofing! I covered the pan lightly with plastic wrap and let it rest for an hour. I preheated the oven to 350 degrees while it was proofing.

And then it's time to bake. In my oven at 350 degrees, a loaf takes about 42-45 minutes, but I always end up checking it with the thermometer first at 40 minutes and then again a few minutes later when I take the loaf out to make sure the internal temperature right in the middle of the loaf is 190-200 degrees. I didn't do that the first time. The results were what I would call "poor."

But here is a good result!

If your loaf starts to get too dark on top while it's still raw inside, you can tent it with foil, much like you would when cooking a turkey. I didn't do that the first couple of times, and the top was a little too dark for MY taste, although it wasn't dark enough to be burnt.

And then for the glorious icing!

And that is the whole process, friends, from start to finish. I will mention one more tip: don't apply the icing until the loaf has cooled so that the icing doesn't melt and look unimpressive. If there's one thing we've all learned from watching Game of Thrones, it's that everything deserves to look impressive, even pieces-of-crap characters who die as a result of drinking poisoned wine from a golden goblet. (Yes, I'm talking to you, Joffrey.)

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