Ever feel like you’re being pulled apart by the seams from all the stress?
You know…the stress that always seems to converge on the very spot on which you happen to be standing at any given moment? That stress?
I feel that way all the time. Fortunately, this bread does, too. And I always say that there’s nothing better than food that understands exactly what you’re going through.
With the minutes ticking down to the first day of the school term, I can already feel the jitters creeping up all around me, as if someone’s broken into a museum of entomology and set loose all the live specimens.
I didn’t want to bog down this (truly wonderful!) post with my pre-term anxiety, but I’ll get to this amazing recipe in a second. Pinkies! But there are some major changes going on this autumn that make it different from the rest.
First off, I’m going to be teaching this year! Scary, right? Anybody who has ever been a teacher, thought of becoming a teacher, known a teacher, or had a teacher (all right, do we have everyone on board now?) knows at least something of how nerve-wracking it must feel to get up in front of an entire classroom for the first time.
Sure, I’ve been a teacher and workshop instructor before. This past summer, I taught enrichment high school writing and media classes that totally sucked up my life and threw my soul back bright and shiny new–that lesson planning does some major buffing on your self-esteem! I had a total blast, and I know I will be fine as soon as I set foot into the classroom and actually get this teaching gig on the road.
Did I mention that the kids (I say “kids”–I mean “people who are probably an average of 1-3 years younger than me; in many cases, they may be older) are all college-age? My parents tell me that it’s one kid teaching another kid.
They’re probably completely right. They were right about, well, pretty much everything else growing up! Except for my being allergic to chocolate, grass, and shellfish. They lied about those. But I guess they knew they were lying, so they weren’t really wrong, either. I adore my parents–they make everything so much more interesting.
Flour Power: When you’re feeling down, try going to the store and picking up something fresh that you’ve never used before! Then try making a new recipe with it. I did this with fresh basil this past Thursday and made basil almond pesto, and it turned out great–nothing like a refreshing success to perk up your day! Recipe to come soon!
On a brighter note, I’m teaching a subject I love–animals in literature!–which is completely jiving with my emphasis in children’s literature, so I’m very excited for that.
Losing sleep is my major way of coping with things. Combine that with mild loss of appetite (not that you could probably tell with the flood of recipes that are about to sweep your way!) and general immune system blah-ness, and you have a grand old way of starting off a new school year. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, though–wish me luck! I can fight, too, Sore Throat, thanks.
The other big change is one I just found out about today–my roommate is moving out! And we’re not talking about your-contract-is-up-thanks-buh-bye moving out. We’re talking “some anxiety about living so close to campus and working so hard at the library all the time and needing some space off-campus” moving out!
Funflour Fact #3: Did you know that Mel Gibson plays the voice of John Smith in Pochahontas? Erm, yeah. I used to love John–now, not so much…..
I’m going to miss her. It makes me so sad when I can’t help ease the anxiety of someone who’s close to me, but I understand why she had to work this one out on her own. To some extent, it probably doesn’t help that we’re in the same graduate program (although I’m also going to miss being able to come back and blow some steam about things happening with our people). We’re both extremely hard workers and very tough on ourselves–not to mention we’re kind of twins, since we both (and her identical twin! and her dad!) have the same birthday–and I guess always having someone else around for comparison can be difficult.
I know it’s hard on me sometimes. I’m naturally a very competitive person–sometimes I compete with the people next to me on treadmills…and they don’t even know it. I find it both hilarious and super, super ridiculously necessary sometimes. And while I know I’ve been struggling to keep this out of my life and the lives of those around me, I can only imagine that she’s feeling anxious sometimes by the comparison, too.
At any rate, this was supposed to be my gushing about this recipe I found on Julie’s blog post–and it still is! GUSH GUSH GUSH thisisamazingyouNEEDtotrythisandthenshoweverybodyelsetoo–but the jitters were eating up my brains. I made this pumpkin cinnamon pull-apart bread yesterday morning for a dinner and it was absolutely devoured. Thank goodness we all still have the good ol’ reliable kitchen! The only bad things that happen there are that you made too many cookies and have to eat them all by yourself.
I’m still very excited for this upcoming quarter, and what better way to kick it off than a 1.5k open water swim for a breast cancer foundation tomorrow morning?
Any big changes happening in your life soon? This isn’t a one-woman show, and I’d love to hear all about them!
Happy reading, and happy eatings, y’all! (Gosh, I haven’t said that in forever! It feels good to say it now :] )
Pumpkin Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread with Cinnamon Vanilla Glaze
Yield: 1 loaf
Adapted from original recipe: Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
For the Pumpkin Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (see directions)
For Cinnamon Sugar Filling:
- In a saucepan over medium heat, brown your butter. (Note: This will take anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute; make sure you swirl your butter around occasionally, or certain areas will start to burn before the whole thing’s evenly browned. You’ll want to look for a deep golden brown color to tell that it’s done.) Pour into a heat-safe bowl and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in the same saucepan, heat up milk until it bubbles. Pour into bowl along with butter, and allow the mixture to cool until you can place your pinkie finger in it comfortably for a few seconds, but not much longer than that. (If your liquid is too hot to leave your finger in, its heat will kill the yeast. Conversely, if it isn’t hot enough, your yeast won’t be able to rise properly.) Add sugar and yeast. Stir in until sugar dissolves completely, and wait for 10 minutes. Your yeast should produce a foam–this shows that your yeast is active and ready to go! If you yeast does not foam, you’ll have to throw out the batch (sorry!) and try again with fresh yeast.
- Add salt, pumpkin, cinnamon, and 1 cup of flour to the mixture; combine ingredients well. Add an additional 1 cup flour (half a cup at a time works best) and stir well between each addition until flour is just incorporated. Your dough should be only slightly sticky when it’s ready to be kneaded, so you’ll want to use your own judgment here about the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. (You’ll be flouring your board, too, so there will be extra flour incorporated during kneading.)
- Flour your cutting board and turn out dough. Knead for 6-8 minutes by pulling your dough outwards (away from you, taking care not to break it) and folding it back in on itself. Turn dough a quarter of a turn and repeat until poking two fingers into the dough leaves two impressions that hold their shape. At this point, your dough will be done, so place it in a greased bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Place in a warm spot (I usually turn on the heat for 5 seconds in my oven and then turn it off before putting in the dough) and allow to rise for about 90 minutes, until doubled in size.
- Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. (You may skip this step if you’re pressed for time, but I find that the overnight fridge visit really helps give your bread that extra lift!)
- Roll out dough on cutting board into an approximately 16″ x 10″ rectangle, or until 1/4″ thick. Lift dough carefully occasionally with one supporting hand under the middle to prevent sticking. When you’ve rolled out your dough, follow instructions for cinnamon sugar filling (below–i.e. brush on butter and filling).
- Cut dough into sixths lengthwise, then cut again into sixths vertically. Carefully stack dough pieces and place them horizontally across a greased loaf pan; squish in the pieces gently so that they all fit. (During baking, they will expand and not come out in a perfect row, which is perfectly fine! We had lots of fun peeling the pieces off from every which direction.) Cover with damp cloth again and allow to rise 30-45 minutes, or until doubled in size, in a warm place.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake bread for 30-35 minutes, until a dark golden brown. You’ll want to check all areas of the bread with a toothpick to make sure it’s done–if the toothpick comes out clean when inserted completely, your bread is done!
- Prepare glaze (see below) and serve over warm bread. Kick up some fall pizzazz (maybe some apple cider!), and pull away!
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For Cinnamon Vanilla Glaze:
- In a saucepan over medium heat, brown butter. Set aside to cool. In the meantime, combine remaining three ingredients in a separate bowl.
- Brush cooled butter over flattened dough, then sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over the butter so that most of it sticks. (Note: Despite having read about Julia’s squeamish reaction and eventual conclusion that the truck-load of sugar is not an insanely exorbitant amount, I still blanched when I came to this step. Don’t! You can trust these amounts, and nobody else needs to know how much sugar you’re feeding them.)
- 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon milk, with additional as needed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- Combine all ingredients and stir until smooth. Pour over warm bread with some sass and sizzle, and serve immediately. Enjoy!