Standard holidays may routinely sneak up on me, suddenly appearing on the calendar only days prior to any celebration, but October 16th is a different story. Uncharacteristically prepared for this particular date, nothing would stop me from participating in the 7th edition of World Bread Day. Unofficially the best day for bread, bloggers and bakers across the globe are called upon to share their latest yeasted exploits, producing loaves, rolls, pastries, flat breads- You name it, you’ll find it in the blogosphere today. Since joining in on the fun way back in 2007, not a single Bread Day has passed me by, and that’s not about to change for as far as I can foresee.
This year, inspiration came straight from my archives. Filled with forgotten recipe fragments and bare-bones ideas, this loaf was surprisingly well fleshed out already, simply waiting for the chance to be baked. A gently spiced, swirled loaf inspired by the traditional Dutch Fryske Sûkerbôle, the concept had haunted me for years. Finally, I had my star ingredient to make it all happen: Large crystals of amber brown rock sugar, glittering like gemstones, straight from Germany.
Literally translated as “sugar loaf,” somehow it stuck out in my mind as being called a “sugar lump bread,” which may be an oddball, awkwardly wordy title, but more accurate in the case of my rendition. Besides, aren’t you more curious about a bread made with whole lumps of sugar, rather than one that sounds merely sweet? Rolled up tightly like a giant cinnamon bun, almost all of the sweetness is confined to periodic pockets of lightly molasses-flavored cubes. Gooey and melted around the edges from the oven’s warm kiss, larger pieces remain crunchy in the center, creating an irresistible textural combination, made all the more enticing by the surrounding soft, buttery crumb.
It may not look like anything special from the outside, or even from the look of the recipe, but this is one loaf you’ll have to make – and taste – to believe.
Almost meltingly tender, the loaf borders on the richness associated with brioche or challah, but without any of the heaviness. Though the original plan was to turn a few thick slices into french toast, I never made it that far. Even untoasted, untopped, and completely unadorned, it was one of my favorite breads in recent memory. Seemingly overnight, the entire loaf disappeared- And I only got two slices myself! Let that be a warning to any bakers who dare try this addictive bread… Hide your sugar-flecked treasure well, or be prepared to start whipping up a second batch right away!
Sugar Lump Bread (Fryske Sûkerbôle)
3/4 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk, Warmed
1 1/4-Ounce Package Active Dry Yeast
4 1/2 – 5 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 6-Ounce Container Vanilla Soy or Coconut Yogurt
6 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine, Melted
3 Tablespoons Amber Agave Nectar
1 – 3 Tablespoons Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1 Tablespoon Turbinado Sugar
To begin the dough, warm the non-dairy milk to just about body temperature, or around 100 degrees. Approximately 1 minute in the microwave should probably do the trick; there’s no need to break out the thermometer here. Sprinkle the yeast over the liquid, and let it sit for 5 minutes, until bubbly and active.
Meanwhile, stir together 4 1/2 cups of the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeasted “milk,” yogurt, melted margarine, and agave, and slowly being to incorporate the liquids into the dry goods. Be prepared to get your hands in there and get dirty, as it should take a good bit of handling to bring the dough together. You want it to be stretchy and tacky, but not sticky, so add in up to 1/2 cup of flour if necessary. Continue to knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Lightly grease a large bowl, drop the dough in, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to sit at room temperature for about 1 hour, or until doubled in volume.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
On a clean, floured surface, turn out the risen down and use your knuckles to gently punch it down, redistributing the bubbles evenly. Sprinkle a little bit of extra flour over the top, and use a rolling pin to smooth it out, being careful to keep the width no longer than your loaf pan. Roll it out as long as possible, so that the whole rectangle is about 1/4 inch in width. The flatter you can roll the dough, the more of a swirl you will achieve.
Evenly sprinkle the cinnamon over the entire surface of dough, except for 1 inch at the edge, in order to seal the loaf later on. Follow that with the sugar lumps or cubes, distributing them randomly but as evenly as possible. Starting at the short end that is fully covered in cinnamon, begin to roll up the rectangle as tightly as you can manage, until you reach the bare inch of dough. Brush a dab of water on the edge, and pinch it to the rest of the loaf to close the roll. Place the loaf with the seam side down in the prepared loaf pan.
Let the bread rise at room temperature for 45 minutes – 1 hour, until the top of the loaf is peaking above the rim of the pan. Gently brush entire exposed areas with non-dairy milk, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Move the bread into the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until amber brown. Let cool completely before slicing and savoring.
Makes One Loaf