Saturday, October 25, 2014

Browned Butter and Apple Bread #ThreeLoaves

Fall is here - and seems like it showed up early this year. And fall always makes me think of apples.

I'm guessing that when you start talking about apples, the next things that most people think of are pie and cinnamon. Or apple pie with cinnamon. Or maybe applesauce ... with cinnamon.

I know that cinnamon is the perfect companion to apples, but they don't always have to be paired. One of the best apple pies I ever made didn't have a single speck of cinnamon. The flavor of the apples was predominant, and there was just a hint of vanilla to add warmth.

So, when I agreed to make a seasonal bread recipe for #ThreeLoaves, I decided to use apples without cinnamon.

This bread isn't sweet - in fact, it's a little tart because of the apples. It's great for toast, fantastic for French toast, and amazing as a breakfast or brunch bread. But because it's not sweet, it's also perfect for sandwiches, particularly ham or roast pork. Or chicken or turkey or bacon.

Browned Butter and Apple Bread

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 large egg
1/4 cup dry milk
3 cups (13 1/2 ounces) bread flour

Melt the butter in a saute pan and let it bubble up a bit. Let it cook until it begins to brown a bit, then add the diced apples.

Note: You can dice the apples any size that pleases you, but I suggest 1/4 inch or smaller, so they distribute throughout the bread and you'll have some in each slice.

Cook the apples, stirring as needed, until the apples are cooked through, but not soft - you want them to hold their shape in the bread. Turn the heat off, add the vanilla, and set aside to cool.

Put the bread ingredients in the bowl of your food processor, or into a large bowl if you intend on mixing and kneading by hand. If you're using an active dry yeast brand other than Red Star, and it has large granules, you'll want to let it soften for a minute or so in the water before you mix; if you're using Red Star, you can toss it all together without pausing.

Knead the dough with the dough hook until it becomes elastic. Or, mix in a large bowl, then knead by hand.

Once the dough is elastic, add the apples and all of the butter. Knead until the butter is completely incorporated into the dough. Cover the bowl and set aside until the dough has doubled in size - about an hour.

Spray a 9x5 bread pan with baking spray and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Knead briefly, then form the dough into a tight log about 8 inches long, to fit into the bread pan. Cover the pan and set aside to rise until the dough rises slightly above the top of the bread pan - about 30 minutes.

Uncover the pan and slash the dough as desired. Bake at 350 degrees until the dough is nicely browned and the interior of the loaf reaches at least 195 degrees on an instant-read thermometer - about 45 minutes.

Removed the loaf from the pan and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.