“Anyone who gives you a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven is a friend for life.” — Lemony Snicket, from When Did You See Her Last? (2013) (All The Wrong Questions book 2)
Cinnamon Star Bread
If you have not read Lemony Snicket’s All the Wrong Questions series, you have missed a fun experience. This is not a book to read in public unless you want to be scowled at by serious, stuffy adults who dislike bursts of laughter. If you have read the much darker toned Edward Carey’s The Iremonger Trilogy, you will enjoy the much lighter toned All the Wrong Questions books. These are “You must read this!” books. Both take a 17-degree tilt on reality, and move forward from there. Like all excellent books cataloged as junior fiction, the books entertain middle school readers as well as adults.
While the Cinnamon Star Bread is not a cinnamon roll, pulling off a piece of Cinnamon Star Bread is better than any plain cinnamon roll. Each braid is a right size special event serving. The bread presents very well. What you bake looks exactly like the picture on the King Arthur Flour website. It appears you spent hours crafting the bread when you have not. If you have at most ten people over for a holiday breakfast or brunch, there won’t be any leftovers.
I have made this bread twice. Once in mid-November 2017 before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday as a test to see if how the bread would work as a holiday meal dessert, and, again in December for Christmas Morning’s family gathering. Both times were a success.
For the November baking I used the by-volume ingredient list. I combined all the ingredients into a stand mixer in the order listed. By accident I grabbed from the pantry the King Arthur bread flour. I used Bob’s Red Mill potato flour. I used Parkey® margarine instead of unsalted butter. I used vanilla extract. The water was heated to 115 F (46.1 C) as listed on the instant yeast package. The nonfat dry milk made the dough reek of rotten milk. That is part of using dry milk, I have decided. I then used the stand mixer to knead the dough for 8 minutes. After raising for an hour the dough had doubled in size. I divided the raised dough into four balls and let rest covered in the oiled mixing bowl I used for the first raise for 15 minutes.
The kneading mat has circle sizes printed on it so I was able to roll each disc out to the 10-inch (25-cm) circle. I moved the rolled disc onto a pizza tin older than I am. I brushed the egg glaze onto the disc, then sprinkled with 2 plus some tablespoons sugar-cinnamon mixture. I used Frontier ® Coop Ceylon Cinnamon and regular granulated sugar. This process was repeated with the next two discs with all remaining cinnamon sugar mixture sprinkled onto the third disc. The forth disc was placed onto the stack of discs. A 3-inch biscuit cutter was placed in the center of the stack. With a pizza cutter, I nicked the edge of the stack to eye-ball measure out 16 strips. Once I was satisfied with an even sized 16 strips, I gently cut the stack from the center out with the pizza cutter from the edge of the biscuit cutter to the edge of the stack.
Taking two strips I twisted the strips out (thumbs out, wrist up) twice. I pinched together and tucked under the ends of the two strips. I did this all the way around so there were eight braids. After removing the biscuit cutter, I slid the braided star from the pizza tin onto the parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. The star raised for about an hour.
After applying an egg wash, the bread baked for 15 minutes in a 400 F (204.4 C) oven. The result was beautiful. We had the still warm bread for Sunday evening supper dessert. No knife needed. You simply pull a braid from the center and you are served.
On Christmas Eve 2017 I baked the Cinnamon Star Bread, again. After a conversation with my father, who is the baker in the family, I printed the ingredients listed by the gram from the King Arthur website. I weighed the dry ingredients and Parkey® margarine to the gram as listed on the ingredients list. This time I used the King Arthur all-purpose flour. Everything else was the same as the November baking. The lukewarm water (115 F or 46.1 C as listed on the instant yeast package) was still measured by volume. I do not know if it was because grams is more precise than measuring dry ingredients by volume, but the dough was a better quality dough after raising for 1 hour. The dough felt softer, and worked better on the kneading mat.
When it came time to layer the discs, I placed parchment paper onto the pizza tin to assist sliding the star bread onto the baking sheet . This arrangement worked wonderfully. After a one-hour raise and application of the egg wash before going into the oven, the star bread baked in 15 minutes.
A note of caution needs to be made when slicing the 16 strips. On one of the strips of the December star I sliced to far into the top disc and, I thought, it did not look right. I was not pleased with the look of the finished product. It was not as pretty as the November star bread. If you want a uniform center, be careful how you slice into the center for the braid strips.
Cinnamon Star Bread will be wonderful for potluck dinners. This bread should also do well at bake sales and silent auctions. If you want to impress the in-laws, this braided bread to do that. If you follow the instructions exactly, and apply the egg wash, the braided bread will look like the King Arthur Flour picture. The bread is best served with good quality coffee. A dark breakfast tea would also go well with this.
The #bakealong recipe can be located at https://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2017/11/01/cinnamon-star-bread-bakealong/
Lemony Snicket’s All the Wrong Questions series website is here: http://www.lemonysnicketlibrary.com/
Here is National Public Radio’s review of Heap House. You must read this book! As the reviewer Amal El-Mohtar points out, you do not want to read this book in a place where you are expected to be quiet. https://www.npr.org/2014/10/17/356989525/heap-house-is-a-treasure-of-a-trash-tale