April 23, 2013

Lemon Bubble Ring

Now, you guys know that yeast dough and I have had some troubles in the past. It's not that I don't love it-- if you'd ever seen me tear into a ciabatta roll or gnaw on the end of a fresh loaf of Italian bread like some kind of animal, you wouldn't doubt it-- but we've certainly had our fair share of fights. I think it all stems from  the first time I tried to make focaccia and ended up with this sort of wet cement mixture that could have been used to patch drywall. Since then, I've hesitant. I've shown it my fear, and it's responded in kind.

But, with some help and counseling from Max and Old Reliable, Viola (my mixer) and I have decided to try stepping out, removing the training wheels, and mixing the dough without a bread machine. Now, I love Max, you know I do, but I have very little control over the dough after all the ingredients have been added. You know how sometimes you need to add a little extra flour, and sometimes you don't need quite all of it? If Max is helping, I can't adjust that until after the dough has already been mixed and allowed to rise. So, in the interest of better baked goods, I'm trying not to break Max out every time there's yeast involved. He still has a place of pride in my kitchen, though. And he's still the best way to mix up dough when you're busy with other things.
One of the types of yeast breads that Viola and I have had the most success with is sweet dough. I don't know why, but you add a bunch of sugar to the mix and I am all over that sucker. This lemon bubble ring is no exception. The recipe comes from Old Reliable, and really the only changes I made were to add some zest to the dough itself, and to sub in nutmeg and allspice for the ground mace (I'd never heard of it before this recipe, and I wasn't going to hunt it down for 1/4 teaspoon).

And good lord, is this thing amazing. The soft dough, the bright lemon zest, the warm note from the spices, and the hint of that melted butter on top. Plus, it's super pretty with little effort. And there's no need to stand on ceremony when eating it. Want a piece? Just tear it off. That's the whole point of it. And trust me, you will want to tear into it.
There are very few things in this world that can compare to homemade sweet dough. Very few.

Lemon Bubble Ring {Printable Version}
Yield: 1 loaf (32 “bubbles”)

5-6 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup sugar, divided
2 pkg. active dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1½ cups milk
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
Zest from 2 lemons, divided
2 tbsp. melted butter or margarine
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large mixing bowl, mix 2 cups flour, ½ cup sugar, yeast, and salt. In the microwave, or in a saucepan over low heat, heat the milk and butter until very warm, 110°-120°F (butter does not have to melt completely). With the mixer on low speed, beat the liquid into the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and ½ tsp. lemon zest, and beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add ½ cup flour and continue to beat another 2 minutes. Mix in 2 cups of flour to form a soft dough.

Switch to the dough hook (or continue by hand on a lightly floured surface), and add the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time until the dough is no longer sticky. Mix on low, or knead by hand, about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down the dough, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, cover, and let rest about 15 minutes.

Spray a 10-inch tube pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix ½ cup sugar, remaining lemon zest, nutmeg, and allspice. Divide the dough in half, and cut each half into 16 equal pieces. Shape into balls by tucking the ends under. Arrange half the dough evenly in the prepared pan, brush with half the melted butter, and sprinkle half the sugar mixture on top. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cover with a towel, and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes (dough is doubled when you can dent it by pressing lightly with one finger).

Heat the oven to 350°F. Bake about 35 minutes, or until golden brown, and the dough sounds hollow when you tap it. Cool in pan about 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe adapted slightly from The Goodhousekeeping Illustrated Cookbook