Although you can get apples year-round, autumn is the best season for them and overcast, rainy days always make me want apple desserts. Apples are my rare exception to including in desserts rather than having the fruit only in its natural form. Apple cobbler is a favorite comfort dessert and almost the only kind of pie I'll eat is apple. I normally don't like any kind of fruit in bread either and when we made panettone in culinary school, I persuaded our chef instructor to let me make it with chopped up chunks of milk chocolate instead of the traditional fruit. (Although I don't necessarily like chocolate and bread together either, that version of panettone turned out pretty well.)
Upon reading this recipe, it struck me as a form of monkey bread, something else I also want to make someday. The basic elements are the same: let the dough do a first rising, break off chunks and roll into dough balls, (for monkey bread, you also roll them in butter/cinnamon/sugar). put together in the pan and do a second rising. For this recipe, the hardest part was rolling the dough into balls because the apples got in the way and made it messy. I ended up cutting into chunks and squishing together in the pan without doing a lot of rolling. Oh and I skipped the apple pie filling - from a can, are you kidding? When it's the prime season for fresh apples? Instead, I large-diced 2 Fuji apples, cooked them until crisp-tender with 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and used that as the filling. Skipped the egg yolk entirely.
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After all that, I really want to say that this turned out great and will become an autumn staple in my baking arsenal. Sigh. Not so. This didn't turn out like how I wanted and I'm not sure how much is my fault and how much is due to the recipe since I messed up enough to shoulder the entire burden. First, I wasn't sure how viable my yeast was and I didn't have enough time to proof it to check before I used it. Second, since I was short on time, I only let it rise long enough as dictated by the recipe, not by how much I maybe should have depending on how it looked after the first and second rising. Third, never make any yeasted product when you don't have enough time. The biggest problem with this bread is, because either my yeast wasn't active enough or I didn't let it rise enough or both, the bread came out too dense and heavy. The texture wasn't bread-chewy. It was more like really heavy, dense bread that didn't rise enough..... because that's what it was.
It also didn't have as much flavor as I expected considering the fresh apples, the melted butter slathered on all over and the cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top of that. With all that and I still didn't think it was sweet enough, you know there's a problem. But I really want this recipe or some semblance of it to turn out so I will likely try it again at a later date - when I have more time. Ugh. I almost didn't blog this one and wanted to ignore it so I wouldn't have to admit to the failure but this blog is about my baking odyssey, not about just the ones that turned out. Failures are important to acknowledge and learn from as well, in baking, blogging and life. Even when I don't want to admit it :).
For the bread
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
¾ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 ½ ounces fresh yeast or 3 ounces dry yeast
3 cups bread flour
For the filling
2 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
¾ cup canned apple pie filling
1 egg yolk
For the glaze
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Butter a 7-cup loaf pan and place it on a baking sheet. Butter a large bowl.
2. Make the dough: In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the water, salt, sugar, butter, yeast, flour, and egg at low speed for 8 minutes. Remove the dough to the buttered bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a large circle, about 14 inches in diameter and 1/8” thick.
4. Add the filling: Place the cinnamon, sugar, apple pie filling and egg yolk in the center of the dough. Fold one side of the dough over the filling, then the other, as though you are folding a letter. With a large knife, chop the dough into 1-inch pieces. Using your hands, lightly toss the dough pieces together, turning them over. Push the pieces of dough back together into a loose loaf and transfer to the pan.
5. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until the dough is 1 inch above the pan rim, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
6. Heat the oven to 350⁰F. Bake the loaf until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack.
7. Make the glaze: While the bread is still warm, set the wire rack and bread on a sheet pan. Thickly brush the bread on all sides, including the bottom, with melted butter. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a large shallow dish and roll the loaf in the cinnamon sugar. Return the bread to the rack and let cool completely.