I truly believe that bread baking is equal parts magical and maternal. Perhaps it’s because I’m making the yeast come alive… letting it grow up… kneading it gently… giving it space to proof and then baking it to create the loaf. Poof! And then you have bread! The whole process from start to finish is a bit of holding my breath and wondering if I’m doing everything right? Sound like parenting?
Baking bread is a perfect project for two. There is a lot of waiting and a friend always helps speed time along. And tea. Get ready to consume copious amounts of tea while chatting about weekend plans, husbands, current book club books, etc. Bee and I couldn’t help ourselves to peek in on the proofing loaf throughout the waiting period. We told the little loaf to “grow up big and strong.” I found myself whispering and tiptoeing around while the little baby loaf was proofing. So much can go wrong but then again, so much can go right. And having a great recipe always helps!
This recipe is from one of our favorite Seattle bakeries, Macrina. If you’re local to Seattle then you probably know this bakery well. If you’re not familiar with the name – I’m sorry to inform you but you are missing out! The bakery has two locations. I’m a bit partial to the Belltown location because it’s the spot where I first tasted their rustic baguette with butter. So simple but so good. God help me if I ever develop a gluten intolerance. I love carbs but I especially love bread. And I love toast. Toast! So it’s no wonder how this amazing recipe is finding it’s way on to our blog. The Macrina cookbook is phenomenal for anyone who has the desire to create lovely bread loafs as well as other delicious treats from the bakery. My copy was a gift from a colleague who understands my passion for baking. She bought it at the bakery but you can also purchase it on Amazon. We’ve made a few minor adjustments to the recipe so for the real deal you’ll need the book.
Yields 1 round loaf
- 1/3 cup whole almonds
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoons dried yeast
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (we used a 70% cocoa bar)
- Cinnamon, sugar, brown sugar
- Spray bottle of water
Cut butter into dime-sized pieces and set aside to reach room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350* F. Place almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
Warm milk slightly in a small saucepan and pour into bowl of stand mixer. Add yeast, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk to dissolve yeast. Then let the mixture rest for about 5 minutes while yeast blooms. Foam should form around the edges of the mixture and it should puff up a bit.
Add remaining sugar, almond extract, eggs, cocoa powder, flour, and salt. Using the hook attachment, mix on low speed for about 2 minutes to bring ingredients together. Increase the speed to medium-low and start to slowly add butter to dough. Continue mixing for 12-14 minutes. Dough should look satiny and stringy. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
While dough is resting, coarsely chop bittersweet chocolate and cooled almonds. Add almonds and bittersweet chocolate to dough and mix on low to incorporate.
Remove dough from bowl on to a lightly floured work surface. Shape into a ball. Place dough into a lightly oiled, medium sized bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and towel. Let proof in warm room p, 70 to 75*F, for 2 hours. Tell your baby loaf to grow up big and strong! Dough will almost double in size!
Remove cover and return dough to floured surface. Gently flatten the dough to work out air bubbles. Then pull the edges of the dough to the top. Continue to work the edges to the center, top of the dough until a compact ball of dough is formed. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and towel. Let dough proof for an hour.
While loaf is proofing, preheat oven to 350*F.
This is a good time to make a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Take a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill half way with light brown sugar. Then fill the remaining space with granulated sugar. Put sugars in small bowl. Add cinnamon to taste. Mix with fork.
Remove cover and mist loaf with spray bottle of water. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture on to loaf. Place baking sheet onto center rack in oven and bake for 45 minutes or until loaf is rich brown and sounds hallow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool on a wire rack.
End result? This loaf is guaranteed to disappear from your cupboard. It’s sweet but not over the top. And it’s especially delicious when toasted, buttered and sprinkled with the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture on top. You’ll never think of skipping breakfast again!