Recipe by Sarah Phillips and Kelly Hong; Food styling and photos by Kelly Hong © 10-23-2014 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com
Cookie butter has roared onto the American food scene recently, and has developed somewhat of a cult following. Find out how we incorporated this into an unusually braided bread loaf. You can use Nutella, instead, if desired.
This stunning loaf is perfect for the holidays. It makes a beautiful gift to give someone.
Speculoos Cookie butter originated in Belgium, in 2008.
Speculoos cookies are crispy cookies, highly spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
Belgians would often make cookie sandwiches, by spreading butter on bread, and adding speculoos cookies on top.(I think the whole idea of a cookie sandwich is pretty hilarious).
They noticed that by the time lunch time rolled around, the crunchy speculoos cookies softened and the crisp cookies transformed into a sweet, spicy and delicious filling.
This phenomenon gave birth to spreadable cookie butter, the brain-child of two Belgians, who appeared on a TV show called “The Inventors.”
BREAD RECIPE HELP
1/4 cup water, heated to 100 to 110 degrees F; measured with an instant read thermometer
Two 1/4-ounce packages or 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar or 1 teaspoon honey
3/4 cups whole or 2% milk, heated to 100 to 110 degrees F; measured with an instant read thermometer
1 stick (4 ounces or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided; spoon into measuring cup and level to rim.
1 cup creamy-style Speculoos Cookie butter, warmed slightly in the microwave, until easily spreadable; can use Nutella, if desired
1 egg white, beaten
NOTES: In this country, there are two main producers of speculoos cookie butter, Biscoff, and Trader Joe’s.
You can purchase the Biscoff cookie butter here. You can always substitute it with Nutella if desired.
Trader Joe’s has apparently had some difficulty keeping their cookie butter in stock, due to the demand.
It is so popular, that it even has its own facebook page.
STEP I: MAKE THE BREAD DOUGH
Mix the bread dough:
1. Rinse a medium size mixing bowl with hot water to warm it. Place the measured warm water in the bowl.
2. Sprinkle the yeast over its surface and let stand for a few minutes. Whisk the yeast until it has fully absorbed the water.
3. Add the sugar to the yeast and stir. It will start to bubble a little.
4. Immediately add in the warmed milk and stir.
5. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the 1/2 cup sugar and the salt at medium speed until light and fluffy.
6. With the mixer on low, beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until blended, then add the vanilla.
7. Turn the mixer on low, and add in 2 cups all-purpose flour in 1/2 cup increments until combined after each.
SARAH SAYS: This step is very important as you will start to develop the gluten in the bread, for a well-risen dough.
8. Beat in the yeast / milk mixture slowly at the side of the bowl with the mixer on low.
9. Switch the mixer to a dough hook.
10. Gradually add the remaining 2 1/4 cups of flour and beat at medium speed until a soft, sticky dough forms, about 5 minutes.
Let the bread dough rise; then deflate and divide it:
1. Grease a large straight-sided mixing bowl with a light coating of vegetable oil.
2. Take the dough from the dough hook without pulling at it so it tears. Do not break it into small pieces, either. Scrape the dough into the greased mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap, greased side down.
SARAH SAYS: When washing a bowl used for mixing bread dough in, use cool soapy water, not hot water, to prevent hardening the flour mixture on the bowl.
3. Let the dough stand in a warm place until it is doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
SARAH SAYS: Sarah's Microwave Bread Proofer, is my rising place of choice because it works well and fast every time.
Professional bakers use atmosphere-controlled "proof boxes" to keep the dough at the right temperature and humidity for the best possible rise. I devised a way to have a proof box in my own home, without the great expense: the microwave proofer.
It normally takes 45 minutes to an hour in my microwave proofer for the yeast to accumulate a volume of carbon dioxide gas strong enough to stretch the gluten strands that hold it in and make the dough rise. It should typically double in volume (size).
4. Turn the risen dough out onto a well-floured work surface and press it down with your fingertips into an oval shape.
5. Guide the sides of the dough into a rectangular shape using the sides of your hands.
Divide the dough into quarters. Make sure you cut straight down with a bench scraper or sharp knife; do not pull or tear at the dough.
SARAH SAYS: For more accuracy, you can weigh each dough piece to make sure you have evenly divided the dough.
If you need to take away or add a small amount of dough, cut a piece of dough from the heavier section with a bench scraper, and just press it into the dough section that needs adding to.
6. Roll each quarter into a ball. Cover three with plastic wrap. Set aside in a cool place; you do not want to let the dough rise much.
STEP II: FILL AND LAYER THE STAR LOAF
1. Roll out one dough ball quarter into an 11-inch circle on a nonstick mat. Do not flour the mat.
2. Press a bowl or plate, with a 10-inch diameter, gently into the dough to create a mark.
3. Remove the bowl, and spread 1/3 cup of the cookie butter over the surface of the dough, using the impressed mark as a guideline.
4. Roll out another dough ball into an 11-inch circle on a nonstick mat, and gently place it over the first filled circle.
Mark the dough with the bowl, and spread 1/3 cup of the filling within the marked circle.
9. Repeat the steps with the third circle of dough.
10. Roll out the final quarter of dough, and place it on top of the filled stack.
11. Gently press the bowl into the surface, then cut off the excess dough with a pizza cutter or a sharp knife.
NOTE: Set the scraps of dough aside, and cover them with plastic wrap so they do not dry out. Make sure they are placed in a cool place. You can even place them in the refrigerator until ready to use.
It would be a shame to waste these yummy morsels, so we’re going to bake them too!
STEP III: COMPLETE THE STAR LOAF DESIGN AND BAKE THE BREAD
Preheat the oven and cut the dough:
1. Position an oven shelf to the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Gently press a glass with a 3-inch diameter into the center of the filled stack. You will use this impression as a guide, when you cut the loaf.
3. Cut the stack, using a sharp knife into 4 equal sections, up to the center impression you just made.
4. Cut each of the four sections in half, making 8 sections.
5. Cut each of the 8 sections in half, making 16 equal sections of dough.
6. Slide the silpat mat, with the filled bread dough, onto the BACK of a rimmed baking sheet.
NOTE: Just turn the baking sheet over. We are going to bake the bread on the bottom of the sheet, so the risen loaf will not be misshapen by the sides of the pan as it bakes.
Make the distinctive start shape:
To form the distinctive star shape, we will be working in pairs.
1. Lift up the left side of the pair, and twist the section two times to the left.
2. Lift up the right side of the pair and twist it twice to the right.
3. Continue this pattern, working in pairs, until all of the sections are twisted.
4. Still working with the original pairs, lift up the ends of the dough, and pinch them together at the center.
Continue around the loaf until all of the pairs are done.
The loaf should then look like this.
5. Cover the loaf loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes.
It should rise a bit, but not double in size.
6. Remove the plastic wrap and brush the surface of the loaf with the beaten egg white.
7. Bake the loaf for 20-25 minutes, or until it is golden brown.
NOTE: If you are baking the bread dough scraps, remove them from the refrigerator when you place the loaf in the oven.
8. Let the bread cool on the baking sheet, because it is fragile. Remove it from the pan after it has fully cooled.
Optionally, bake the dough scraps:
1. Make sure the oven is heated to 350 degrees F. Keep the oven shelf's position in the middle of the oven.
2. Cut the scraps into 4-inch lengths and roll them into little spirals.
2. Place the rolls into mini muffin tins, greased with non-stick spray.
3. Cover the rolls with a piece of plastic wrap and let it rise for 20 minutes.
They should rise a bit during this time, but they will not double.
4. Remove the plastic wrap and brush the surface of the loaf with the beaten egg white.
5. Add a little water to the unoccupied sections of the muffin tin, so they won’t scorch.
6. Check the rolls at 15 minutes, if they are brown, remove them from the oven. If not, continue baking until they are golden brown.
While the star loaf cools, make yourself a cup of coffee and reward yourself for a job well done, by popping one or two of these little gems in your mouth. :^)
Store baked bread (and muffin scraps), well wrapped in plastic at room temperature, where it will keep for a few days. The baked loaf (and muffin scraps) can be frozen for a month or more. Thaw at room temperature.
The unbaked and formed star loaf can be frozen and stored for a month or more. Let it almost thaw at room temperature, loosely covered with plastic wrap, brush with beaten egg white wash, and then bake. The bread will rise in the oven from oven spring.