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Stress Fix

February 24, 2011

So, I don’t think you’ve heard from me in a while.  Let me give you a little recap of my life for the past three weeks.  Homework…um yeah that’s all.  Trust me, things are not all that exciting here and I thought I’d spare you the misfortune of delving into the mind of a person bordering the edge of insanity.  But the thought of spring break in a week has made the prospect of doing some recreational writing a little more bearable.

But I have noticed that the diet of a stressed person (aka me) is a little different than a normal person’s.  Stressed people loooove carbs, and a lot of them.  We love thick slices of toast in the morning slathered with jam and peanut butter.  We love hundreds of pieces of naan from the dining hall slathered in hummus.  We love a cupcake every other day slathered in icing and chocolate.  And we also have new really intense cravings for potatoes with butter and sour cream.  Oh and tonight was grilled cheese slathered in, well, cheese.  Yeah, it’s a pretty good place to be, this carb-y/bread-y world.  When I go into it, I can temporarily forget all things papers and projects.

Speaking of carbs, I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite ways to indulge its glory.  It’s my dad’s poppy seed bread and no, it’s not a quick bread with some sort of lemony-ness that everyone always assumes, but for-real sweet yeast dough swirled with sticky poppy seed filling.  I have no idea where the recipe originated.  All we have is a photocopy for “sweet roll dough”.  Its supposed to be used to make these orange things but somewhere along the line someone thought it would be better with poppyseeds.  It’s a good, old recipe though, one that makes you feel like your preparing some passed down dish, cause the paper has stains and creases that cover it completely.

I just made it three weeks ago to share with my food writing class and the few slices I had leftover were a perfect addition to my bread fix.  They worked their way nicely between preparing my presentation on beans and late-night video editing in the lab.  This bread is awesome because it’s kind of like dessert, but not necessarily.  The bread itself is rich and buttery and slightly sweet.  It has super high moisture so it dissolves in the mouth and has this sort of silky texture.  It’s nice.  The poppy seeds make it a little sweeter but not overwhelmingly so.  It’s good toasted for breakfast with some butter, as a little mid-day snack, or, like a said, as at post-dinner treat.  It looks really pretty too, black swirls amongst creamy white fluffiness, which just adds to that enticement factor.  It’s nostalgia and delicious, all in one perfect package.

My Dad’s Poppy Seed Sweet Bread

6 to 7 cups all-purpose flout
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup water
1 cup milk
½ cup (1 stick) butter1 egg
1 12.5 oz. can poppy seed filling (recommended brand: Solo)

In the bowl of a mixer, combine 3 cups of the flour with the sugar, salt and yeast and stir to combine.  Set aside.  Then, in a small saucepan, heat the water, milk, and butter until 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit and the butter is completely melted.

With the mixer on low (and using the paddle attachment, not the dough hook), add the warm liquid and the egg to the flour mixture.  Continue on low speed until everything is moistened, then increase to medium for 3 minutes.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and, with a wooden spoon, mix in 2 ½ to 3 more cups of flour.  Feel the dough with your hands.  When ready, it should be sticky, but pull cleanly from the sides of the bowl and feel slightly lumpy and scruffy on the outside.

Lightly flour your work surface and your hands and knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes while slowly incorporating ½ to 1 more cup of flour by sprinkling it overtop and working it in.  To knead, use both hands and place your fingertips on the edge closest to you.  Firmly, but not so much that the dough tears, press down on the dough and push away from your body, letting the dough roll from the fingertips to the bottom of the palm of your hands.  It should be an even gliding movement, gentle, but deliberate.  Continue this motion about three times then, fold the dough in half, give it a quarter turn clockwise and knead again.  Repeat until the dough is smooth and elastic and once it stops sticking, discontinue adding flour or else the bread will be too dry.

Put the dough in a greased bowl and cover it loosely with a clean kitchen towel.  Place the bowl in a warm spot, like the inside of the oven with just the light turned on or by a window with the sun shining through, until the dough doubles in size.  Punch down the dough with your fist to remove the air bubbles and divide the dough in half.  Each half makes one loaf.  If you wish, take a small handful of dough from each half so you can make miniature loaf  (I always do this for some reason…I guess so I can have a hot little roll to eat straight from the oven while I wait for the big loaves to cool).  Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into roughly a 18×12 inch rectangle.  For the mini loaf, simply stretch it out with your fingers.

Use half a can of poppy seed filling for each loaf.  Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving ½ inch of clear space on each edge.  It’s also good if you replace this with honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon, whichever you prefer.  Then, starting from the bottom, roll the dough into a log (this is what gives the bread the swirled effect), making sure that it retains an even thickness and that it is very tight to prevent interior gaps in the baked loaf.  Once rolled, very firmly seal the open edge shut, pinching it together with the surrounding dough.  This will be the bottom of the loaf.  Seal up the ends too and then tuck them under so that the extra flaps are also on the bottom.  Pinch the edges of these flaps with the surrounding dough too so that there are no openings at all.  Place the log into a greased bread tin (seam sides down) and proceed with the other half of the dough.  Cover the bread tins with the towel, and leave them to rise for an additional 45 minutes, until doubled in size.

Cook the bread in a 375 degree oven for around 30-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bottom of each loaf sounds hollow when tapped.  If the top browns too quickly, cover the bread with foil for the remaining cooking time.  Once cooked, remove the bread from the tin and let it cool on a rack ideally until room temperature. The mini loaf will help with the waiting but if you are my family or just really impatient, it won’t do too much damage to cheat a little and cut the big loaf while it is still slightly warm (it tastes best this way anyway).

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 26, 2011 11:34 am

    you know..this looks very much hungarian:)

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