A Star is Born

Get Your Glow On

Shining brightly as a beacon of hope and guiding light, stars hold a heavy symbolic weight with their ethereal luminescence. When it comes to Christmas specifically, it’s the crowning jewel on top of a majestic evergreen tree, the pinnacle of the holiday spirit itself. Why not add a little bit more star power to the whole season, starting with your plate.

Gold Star Bread

What Is Star Bread?

Gold Star Bread is a glorious, glowing ode to brioche, cinnamon rolls, monkey bread, and coffee cake all wrapped up in tender outstretched rays. The dough itself is soft and buttery, rich and warmly spiced, infused with the flaxen hue of ground turmeric. That alone could be turned into a luscious loaf. For a special occasion, though, we might as well go all out. Mocha infuses each twist and turn as a sweet wake up call. Ease into a festive day ahead with your very own golden star leading the way.

Sharing pull-apart bread with loved ones is a whole different experience from whacking off a simple slice. You eat with your hands, drop all pretenses, and can surrender yourself to the tactile sensation of the warm, freshly baked dough. While it makes for a showstopping breakfast or dessert, the assembly is no more complicated than any other yeasted treat.

Gold Star Bread

Filling Ideas for Star Bread

If you’re not a coffee person, you’ve got plenty of flavorful options.

  • Easiest of all, simply omit the coffee powder and keep it cocoa.
  • Swap the coffee and cocoa for ground cinnamon.
  • Use brown sugar and chai spices.
  • Add roughly chopped pecans, walnuts, and/or crystallized ginger.

The sun may hide away on some winter days, but the stars will still come out to guide your way. Hold on to that golden glow through the holidays and beyond.

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Pull Yourself Together

There are few universal truths in life, but I know this to be true: Everyone loves pizza.

Pizza is quite possibly the world’s most perfect food. Between the crispy yet chewy crust, savory-sweet tomato sauce, and gooey cheese, it’s easy to understand the appeal. While some may dispute the ideal approach to each individual component, no one will disparage the overall concept. Even as it shape-shifts into different forms, that fact remains unshakable.

Thus, in honor of World Bread Day, I present to you pizza bread like you’ve never seen before. Forget the juvenile cafeteria fare that the notion may evoke and brace yourself for the ultimate pizza experience reconfigured as a generous loaf. Accordion-Style Pull-Apart Pizza Bread takes notes from monkey bread as an irresistible finger food, translates it into savory terms, and then flips it on its head for the final grand presentation.

If you want to impress friends, this is your new party trick. Though it may look complicated, it takes little more effort than shaping a standard loaf of bread. Divide and conquer, rolling out small sheets of dough piece by piece, then reassemble the whole thing like Frankenstein’s monster, but far more attractive. Tomato sauce gets baked right in for complete coverage so all you have to do is add cheese and toppings, then slap it together. There are no points awarded for cleanliness, so get in there and have fun!

The trick is knowing your spacial limitations. There is no loaf pan that I know of designed precisely for such unconventional culinary experimentation, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find creative solutions. I quickly ran out of dough before my standard 8 x 4-inch pan was filled, which ultimately came at my benefit. Simply tuck in the open end using foil as a brace and insert a ramekin with water for support. Now, you have both the perfect package and a built-in steam bath to help it rise to even greater heights.

What else can you add to your pull-apart pizza bread?

I’m glad you asked! Like the classic, fillings are as limitless for toppings. Dig into any of your favorites, such as:

  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Sliced olives
  • Diced red onion
  • Plant-based pepperoni, sausage crumbles, or bacon
  • Sauteed mushrooms
  • Diced bell peppers
  • Fresh basil, parsley, or scallions
  • Baby arugula or spinach
  • Diced pineapple

The only way you can go wrong is if you don’t try it in the first place. Even bad pizza is pretty good, and I can assure you, this one far exceeds all expectations.

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King Me

Let’s get one thing straight: There’s nothing on this green earth that could compel me to hide coins, plastic babies, dried beans, or any other foreign objects in an otherwise edible food product. I have far too much dental trauma to inflict that kind of chaos on others.

Right off the bat, you can probably guess that my take on King Cake, the essential Mardi Gras staple, would be far from traditional.

Enchanted by the bold contrasting colors and over-the-top presentation, I’ve long admired this New Orleans staple. Though it’s not something I encountered before going vegan, it reminded me of many things I have more experience with. Cinnamon buns, brioche, and pound cake all twisted into one flamboyant tribute to the last day of Folly, there had to be some way to bridge this culinary gap. Suddenly it hit me: This was really like Creole challah.

Sweet, tender, buttery strands of pillow-soft bread wind themselves around one another in a brilliant explosion of color. Subtle notes of cinnamon infuse each bite with a gentle warmth, while each slice is just a little bit different. Some have a stronger floral flavor from ube extract, others bring more of turmeric’s sunny glow to the fore, while others balance the natural bitterness of matcha for a satisfying contrast. Together, they create a vibrant harmony in purple, gold, and green.

One fateful Mardi Gras parade in 1892 was dubbed “The Symbolism of Colors,” which forever set and attributed deep importance to this bold palate. Purple represents justice, gold stands for power, and green is for faith. For all the pageantry and costuming, it’s hard to imagine such a celebration decked out in any other hues.

Until I can enjoy the genuine article, let the good times roll with with this kaleidoscopic loaf that blurs the line between side dish and dessert. You could just as happily serve it alongside a festive dinner, slathered with soft vegan butter, or for a final course, toasted and topped with ice cream. If you can hold off until breakfast, it also makes for the most incredible French toast you’ve ever stuck a fork into.

Hey, they don’t call it “Fat Tuesday” for nothing. Might as well make it count!

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Hello Sunshine

Craning their necks high into the sky with bold yellow blossoms, sunflowers seem as bright as the sun itself. Native to North America, one could argue that they’re one of the first authentic foods of the US, cultivated and farmed before corn or squash. Whimsical as they may look, sunflowers are much more than mere decorative elements for your bouquet.

Adding that same cheer and utility to the dinner table, their seeds transcend the bounds of conventional sweet and savory definitions, seamlessly enhancing flavors across the board. Since they’re so versatile and affordable, there’s always at least a handful hanging out in the pantry here. Beyond just snacking on them out of hand, they’re one of my favorite additions to bread. Adding a toothsome crunch and subtly nutty taste into every bite, sunflower seeds make every slice a textural delight.

So, when it comes time to clean out that pantry, there are all sorts of odd measures of various flours to use up, united by these tiny kernels in one incredible loaf. Dark molasses sweetens the deal without pushing it into sugary realms, making it ideal for sandwiches or toast. Soft and supple, cassava flour gives it a satisfying heft, alongside hearty whole wheat.

Such a remarkably simple yet comforting bread seemed like the perfect recipe to share for the 16th annual World Bread Day. There’s so much to celebrate when it comes to this staple food. I feel like I should create something extravagant that will turn heads or become a viral hit, but the fact of the matter is that all bread is good bread, and I think we’ve already had enough sensational headlines to last a lifetime. I just want an easy-going dough that’s as comforting to knead and create as it is to eat and enjoy.

Banner World Bread Day, October 16, 2021

Even on a rainy day, this loaf will still rise and shine. That’s the power of sunflowers, blooming brilliantly for thousands of years.

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Melon Drama

If it’s named for a melon and looks like a melon, then obviously, it should taste like… Not a melon.

Such is the curious case of melon pan. Captivating the imaginations and cravings of Japanese bakers since the early 1900’s, right around the time that Western influences made bread the trendy starch of those in the know, it gave traditional rice flour a run for its money. Simple, sweet buns wrapped in a buttery cookie exterior, the name has more to do with its deeply grooved, crackled exterior than flavor. Said to evoke the appearance of the delicate skin of a muskmelon, covering the fruit like natural lace, it’s one of many theories, though it strikes me as the most plausible explanation.

Some are round, others are more like ovoid footballs. Most are plain, but some are filled with cream or jam. A few intrepid bakers try to make sense of the misnomer by adding artificial melon flavoring to the dough itself. For years, that was my impulse as well, but I could never fully connect the dots. Melon extract is not exactly the most common ingredient in the pantry, and even as a special order, few genuinely tasteful options exist.

What I’m proposing instead might seem like a stretch, but it’s the most sensible extension of the concept I’ve devised yet. The melon family, cucurbitaceae, is a classification that includes a diverse array of plants both sweet and savory, starting of course with melons like cantaloupe and honey dew, but also squashes such as pumpkins. That connection was the catalyst I needed to finally make a melon pan I could better justify.

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