“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”

James Beard (1903-1985)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Apricot Almond Twist

I have all these jars of jam. Apricot jam, rosehip jam, lemon-pear jam, reine-claude jam, strawberry freezer jam.....Some have been given to me by thoughtful friends, others I have made myself. It's almost as if I collect them because all these jams do is multiply in my cupboard and fridge. They hardly ever get eaten. I have a sweet tooth alright, but somehow jams are just not part of my breakfast repertoire.

More so, I feel guilty for opening a jar of jam when they all look so pretty and comfortable in their glass containers. Their colors vary from golden yellow to ruby red and are often a reminder of summer. They're like a blank notebook: the possibilities are endless. And yet, when I finally open a jar and help myself selfishly to its contents, it ends up sitting there for ever and ever without being used up. The only good thing about this is, I guess, that jams are so sugar-riddled that they very seldomly go bad before I end up using them out of sheer pity for something else than a bread topping.

So, too, this almost empty jar of apricot jam. I love apricot jam on toast....about once or twice a year. I've been confronted by the sight of this violated, purpose-less jam jar every time I've opened the refrigerator door. It's been silently begging me to put it out of its misery, to empty out its half leftover life and to use it to its final glory. And so I did. Finally. Today.

When Canela Y Comino announced that it was hosting Bread Baking Day #27, I visited the website, took duly note of the requirements for this monthly baking event and quickly scrolled down to see what else was on the site. Wow! A gorgeous bread, succulent with orange marmalade and walnuts called Twisted Orange Nut Bread, was proudly displayed on the front page. And no wonder, go see for yourself. As soon as I saw that bread, I knew I was going to make it even though I abhor orange marmalade and I didn't have any walnuts in the house. A replacement was easily found: I would finally honor the remainder of that apricot jam. Any jam would be proud to end up as the key ingredient to this beautiful creation!

Gretchen's recipe calls for over 4 cups of flour: I reduced the recipe in half and still ended up with a huge bread, enough to provide a coffee treat for eight or more.

Apricot Almond Twist

For the dough
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons of milk, warm
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter, melted
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
2 tablespoons of warm water
1 egg
2 cups of flour

For the filling
1/2 cup of apricot jam
1/2 cup of almond slivers

For the topping
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon of demerara sugar

Proof the yeast in the warm water. Add to the flour in a bowl and quickly mix, then add the warm milk, the butter, the sugar, the salt and the egg until everything is incorporated, about three minutes. Take the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead until soft and supple, about five minutes. Oil a bowl, place the dough inside, turn over so that the top of the dough is coated with oil and cover the bowl. Set aside in a warm place and rise the dough until 3/4 larger than its original size.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Carefully take the dough out of the bowl and place on the lightly floured counter. Push some of the air out of the dough, pat it into a rectangle and cover. Let it rest for about ten minutes, then uncover and roll it out into a rectangle, making sure it is no larger than 3/4 of the width of the baking sheet. Brush the dough with the jam, taking care to stay withing an inch margin of the edges, and sprinkle the almonds on top.

Now roll the dough from the top tightly towards you, making sure you don't leave any large gaps and that the dough is rolled evenly across the board. Pinch the seam and turn the dough over so that the seam is on the bottom. Cut the roll lengthwise in half. Carefully transfer one half onto the baking sheet and place the other half next to it, both with the cut side up. You'll be able to see the different layers in the bread.

You'll have to work quickly now. Working from the middle, carefully cross the cut halves over one another until you reach the end. Tuck the ends under, turn the sheet around and do the same with the other half of the bread. Cover the bread with a greased piece of plastic wrap and let rise in a warm environment for about 25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and brush the dough with the egg, then sprinkle the coarse sugar on top. Readjust any pieces of nut or dough that may have fallen out of place.

Bake the bread on the baking sheet for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a rack and enjoy slices with a cup of coffee or tea and a lick of butter!

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