"Happy Bread"

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Pinterest is one of those websites in which you can get lost.  I'll sometimes go on with the intention of locating a certain recipe or piece of clothing only to find that 45 minutes have passed and I can't really say what I've been looking at.  Sometimes this aimless viewing of "pins" leads to great things, including this "Happy Bread".  I was drawn in initially by just the look of this bread -- it reminds me of a giant flower.  One of my photos of the bread below shows the flower shape... the rest look like a flower sans a few petals because we couldn't resist eating this immediatley!

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I've been in a bit of a cooking slump lately.  It is a combination of being away on the weekends, not grocery shopping, training hard for the Boston Marathon, and the general malaise that inevitably sets in during the month of February.  To me, it feels like it is always dark and that winter will never end.  Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to inspire me to do much of anything other than wish I were on the beach of a tropical island somewhere.  Rob - Hawaii in February 2013?  

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So, I came home last night determined to make something and given the utter lack of ingredients on hand, I went for this simple bread.  The dough comes together in 10 minutes, rises for an hour, is shaped into the beautiful flower in about 10 minutes, rises for another 30-40 minutes, and then bakes for about 20 minutes.  I guess what I am (not so eloquently) saying is that the active time in this is limited and the end result is dynamite.

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I chose to sprinkle my bread with cinnamon and sugar because I was craving something sweet, but if you are looking for savory, I'd sprinkle some cheese and red pepper flakes on top... or stick to simple and just brush it with butter for delicious, basic rolls.

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Happy Bread

Adapted from Food Diva's Kitchen via Eva Toneva

Ingredients

2 teaspoons dry instant yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup warm milk (110

° - 115

° - be sure the milk isn't too hot or the yeast won't rise correctly) (also, as I mentioned above, we were lacking in groceries, so I used a mixture of skim milk and soy milk -- use whatever you have availble)

3 1/8 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading and flouring

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

5/8 cup warm milk (extra)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice

4 tbsps butter, melted and cooled

Glaze

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons milk

Preparation

1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1/2 cup warm milk, cover and leave in a warm place to rise 10 minutes.  If the mixture doesn't get bubbly, don't use it - your bread won't rise.

2. In another bowl, sift the flour and salt together.  Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add beaten eggs, the remaining warm milk, olive oil, vinegar, and yeast mixture.  Knead the dough with your hands or in your stand mixer (using the dough hook) until it separates from the sides of the bowl.  Remove dough, place on lightly floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes until it becomes a soft, pliable dough.  Alternatively, knead the bread in your stand mixer on high for 5-8 minutes until the dough is soft and pliable.  Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with a towel, and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, approximately one hour.

3. Punch risen dough and transfer on a floured surface.  Divide the dough into 2 equal parts.  Divide each of these again into 4, so you have 8 pieces of dough in total.

4. Roll each piece of dough out into a roughly rectangular shape with a thickness of 1/4 inch.  Brush cooled, melted butter over each piece.  Set aside remaining butter for later.  I'd advise watching

this helpful video

to see how the next few steps are done.

5. Place one piece of rectangular dough over another one and start to roll into a cylinder.  Do the same with the rest of the dough.  You will end up with 4 cylindrical rolls.

6. Cut each roll into three pieces by doing the following:  first, slice about 1 1/2 inches off at both ends of each roll and set these pieces aside; second, cut the middle part of the roll into 4 triangles (seriously, it will make so much more sense if you

watch the video

). 

7.  Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease or line a large baking tray with parchment.  In the middle of the tray, arrange the cut ends of the rolls around each other to form a circle, placing the cut sides down.  Arrange the cut triangles to completely surround the middle circle.  Cover with a towel and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for about 30-40 minutes.

8.  Using a fork, beat the yolk with the milk to form a glaze and brush top of the bread with the glaze.  At this point, I sprinkled the bread with 1 tbsp of cinnamon and 1 tbsp of sugar.  You could also use sesame seeds or poppy seeds or allow the bread to bake for 15 minutes and then sprinkle it with cheese and red pepper flakes.  Be creative!  Bake the bread for 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 325°, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.

9.  Brush bread with melted butter as soon as it comes out of the oven, cover with a towel, and leave to cool for 5 minutes before eating (if you can wait).  

Note that this bread is definitely best eaten immediately.  It'd be perfect for a dinner party because everyone could break off their own piece - each section is like a small roll. 

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