Well this is it, we’ve come to the final recipe in this round of the cookbook club featuring recipes from Sarah Kieffer’s book Baking for the Holidays. It feels like we just got started with round 1, but suddenly it is 5 weeks later and we’re at the end.
The recipe chosen was Nutella Star Bread or one of the variations of the recipe included in the book. A couple of weeks before the club started we were given the list of recipes we’d be doing each week. From the moment I had the list I knew this one was coming, and I was preparing for what I thought was going to be the most difficult recipe to produce because of the way the bread is shaped.
The process involves dividing the dough into 4 pieces, rolling each piece into a circle approximately 10 inches in size and then stacking the circles in layers with a layer of filling in between each layer of dough. After that, the dough is cut into 16 segments that are twisted together to give it its star shape. When I was done, I was amazed at how easily it came together for me. After 5 weeks of anticipating a possible kitchen disaster, it didn’t happen!
I didn’t have any Nutella on hand and we don’t tend to eat it that often. I enjoy it, but because I don’t reach for it that frequently, when we have it on hand it tends to expire before it is fully used. So rather than waste a jar of it, I decided to make the cinnamon variation instead.
As with the cookies I made in the last round of the club, I still didn’t have clear sanding sugar on hand. As I looked at the star rising for the final time, it started to remind me of a poinsettia flower. So once again, in the spirit of holiday baking, I decided to grab the colored decorating sugar crystals I had on hand. With some red and some yellow, the poinsettia idea came to life.
The bread was delicious – as I always say, you usually can’t go wrong with cinnamon and brown sugar! As with the pull-apart bread in round 1, the author said that the bread is best when eaten the day it is made. Once again, this certainly is true when you plan to serve it to company or bring it to someone as a gift, but if it is just you and your family at home, a few seconds in the microwave on day 2 brings it right back to life.
With my first ever cookbook club behind me, I have to say I really did enjoy being a part of it. I met some really nice people, had fun making some recipes that challenged me to try new things and learned several interesting techniques along the way that I already want to apply to some new recipe ideas. Oh, and how could I forget to mention… my family and I got to enjoy eating all of these treats!
Before I turn this over to Karen, I’d just like to take a moment to wish you a very happy holiday season – I hope it is a time of peace and joy for all of you. Since we don’t have a collaborative post planned for next week and it is Karen’s week to write, I’ll also take this opportunity to wish you a very happy new year! Thank you to everyone who started following us or stopped by to read some of our posts in this, our inaugural year of our blog – we truly appreciate it. I look forward to year 2!
On that note, I’ll throw it over to Karen to share how her final week in the club went.
As usual, Ray and I did not have the same experiences! I also was quite focused on the Star Bread from the very beginning. Ray said he was anticipating difficulty, but I felt excitement! Making a star bread was definitely on my list of things I’ve wanted to bake for a long time, so I would get to tick that box off. I was so up for it, I made sure I had my Nutella a month ago and waited in anticipation for the big day.
I prepared my dough the day before. Actually, the time preparing the dough overlapped for Ray and myself, and we exchanged texts about it while making it. Ray must have jumped right to it early the next day, because he sent me a picture of his finished product before I’d even contemplated getting started. I was still drinking my tea.
A couple hours later I sent this text to Ray.
He sent me a supportive text commiserating with me about how he’d had trouble too, which was very sweet. He also sent me the shot of his beautifully made stack of circles pictured above. Clearly, he didn’t understand the situation I was in.
Right about that time Tom entered the room and his wife (me) had a little bit of a meltdown. “I just can’t roll a circle”, which was very evident by the horribly misshaped dough in front of me. He had me go sit down for a bit while he tried to mitigate the disaster on the counter. After I’d cooled down, I came back and took over. As I sullenly finished assembling my star bread, I started thinking that this situation reminded of something…. Oh yes! An episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. Squidward is teaching an art class. All his circles look like amoebas, but SpongeBob produces perfect circle after perfect circle with ease. I supposed that made me the Squidward of baking, and by default, that would make Ray the SpongeBob, right?
Once I got to the part where I cut and began twisting the dough, things seemed much brighter. I was encouraged. Maybe this wouldn’t be a disaster at all. In fact, the results weren’t half bad. As usual, the rainydaybites cookbook club were gracious and supportive, and I found out I was not the only Squidward of the day.
As with many tales of woe, there are stories of redemption as well. This is mine. The original sweet dough recipe was enough to make 2 star breads. As the ambitious soul that I am, and as excited as I was to make the star bread from the start, I made the full recipe. The dough was good in the refrigerator for up to 72 hours, so a couple of days after my angst, I made another.
This experience was very different from the first. I walked into the kitchen almost a new person. I felt a sort of zen calmness and gently divided and rolled my dough circles while listening to Chopin. If the circle needed a rest, it got one. There was absolutely no stress the second time around. I don’t know what got into me, but I need to tap into that headspace more often. This time I chose to use mango and peach preserves instead of Nutella. My son preferred the Nutella, but for Tom and myself, the second star bread was the clear winner in every way.
I would also like to wish everyone a happy holiday season full of peace and happiness. See you next week!