Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pistachio Bread

Allow me to introduce you to an unusual and delicious recipe for Pistachio Bread from the great James Beard himself. Paul is not a huge nut person, but when it comes to pistachios he could finish off an entire bag by himself. Matthew also loves pistachios. He loves them even more now that he understands that he is supposed to remove the shell before eating them. It only took him chipping a couple teeth before that finally clicked for him. 

I also love pistachios although I HATE shelling them. My fingernails are very soft and I normally end up splitting a couple or shoving a sharp shard of pistachio shell under my thumbnail. Insult is added to injury if the pistachios are salted. Ouch! I try to avoid shelling those things as much as I can.

However, since having children, I find myself making a lot more things with pistachios. Now, I have a miniature sous chef who is getting remarkably good at shelling nuts. I just hand him the entire bag and a bowl to discard the shells and my little man settles down for an afternoon of fun shelling nuts for his mother. Am I capitalizing on my parental investment or what? 

And THIS BREAD. It's a treat for the pistachio lover, let me tell you! A basic sweet bread dough is rolled up cinnamon-roll style with a filling consisting of chopped pistachios, sugar, and a teeny bit of lemon zest (if you'd like)! It's an unusual and unique bread recipe that makes a great breakfast or afternoon snack. This recipe was also Emma's initiation into bread baking. She enjoyed kneading the dough with me but was not too happy when I prevented her from eating a fistful of the raw dough.

I should note that this bread always seems to brown really, really fast and I nearly always have some sugar leakage from the filling. So be sure to use parchment paper for easy cleanup and keep a close eye on your bread while it bakes so it does not overbrown. Mine is always dark after about 20-25 minutes of baking. You can also skip the egg wash if you do not want any deep coloring to your loaf.

Pistachio Bread
adapted slightly from Beard on Bread by James Beard

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 cup scalded milk (about 110 degrees)
•1/2 stick (1/4 cup) softened butter
2 teaspoons salt
3-4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons lemon zest (optional...it's good with or without it)
1 cup shelled, salted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped
1 egg, well beaten (for brushing)

Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Allow to proof for about 5 minutes or until foamy.  Add the milk, the softened butter, the salt and 1/2 cup sugar to the yeast mixture.  Add the flour, cup by cup, beating well after each addition. Turn out on a lightly floured board and knead for a good 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Form into a ball, place into a lightly oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and turn out onto a floured board or countertop.  Let rest for a few minutes before rolling into a 18x12-inch rectangle.  If using the lemon zest, rub it into 1/3 cup sugar with your fingertips until the oils are released. Brush the surface with melted butter and sprinkle with the 1/3 cup sugar and the coarsely chopped pistachio nuts.  Beginning with the long edge of the rectangle, roll up the dough like a jelly roll, pressing each seam as you do so.  Join the ends of the roll and pinch together to form a ring. Or you could skip the whole ring formation and just make a straight, long batard-shaped bread.  Place the ring/batard carefully on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Slice two-thirds of the way down into the ring, at 3/4-inch intervals. Twist each slice to the right so that the interior of the slice is now facing upwards.

Let the bread rise in a warm draft-free place until almost doubled in size.  While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Brush the entire surface with beaten egg. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes being sure to cover the bread lightly with foil if it begins to brown too quickly.

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