Yes, another bread recipe...I know my last post was bread as well, but I just can't stop making it! It's my favourite thing to bake (and eat...) and this is a really good one....the next few posts will be about different things...promise!
I was sent an EPICA digital probe thermometer to try, and decided that bread would be the perfect thing to test it on, as it can be difficult to tell when bread is cooked. It is all very well doing the "tap it on the bottom and see if it sounds hollow" test on a plain loaf, but if you are baking something with a filling or that is intricately shaped, you can't generally pick it up when it is hot without it falling apart, and if it is filled it won't sound hollow anyway. Bread will also often look like it is perfectly cooked on the outside, before it is actually fully cooked in the middle. There is nothing more disappointing than serving up a beautiful loaf of bread only to discover that it is still raw in the middle...Therefore the best way to tell if it is actually cooked is to test it with a thermometer - it should measure 94°C/200°F in the centre.
The Epica thermometer is very simple and straightforward to use, and can be switched between Celsius and Fahrenheit. The long, thin metal probe makes it easy to stick it right into the centre of whatever it is you need to measure, and I found it easy to insert it into the centre of the loaf without leaving any visible marks. It took about 8 seconds to give a temperature reading, which is relatively fast, and it seems to be perfectly accurate; it has a min/max setting - it will tell you the minimum and maximum temperatures recorded during a readout which would be especially handy for cooking meat. It also comes with a protective cover for the probe which clips into place easily, so you can put it in a drawer without worrying about stabbing yourself when you put your hand in there...
I checked the internal temperature of the bread after it had been baking for 35 minutes and looked done, (stick the thermometer into the middle of the loaf and wait for the temperature to stop climbing) it read 187°F - so not quite cooked (given that the thermometer came out with wet dough on it, definitely not cooked!), so I gave it another 10 minutes in the oven and checked again. This time the temperature registered as 200°F so I removed the bread from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes before testing it, it was cooked perfectly - no raw dough but still soft, so clearly the readout was correct. I also tested it while making a batch of fudge and found it much easier and more accurate than the large, clunky, non-digital sugar thermometer I usually use. Overall I found it to be a very handy piece of kit, and it will certainly be getting a lot of use in my kitchen. It is available (for a very reasonable price) in the UK here, and in the US here.
On to the bread itself. I fancied something fresh and summery (and had a lot of lemons...) so went for lemon and coconut pull apart bread (pull-apart bread is also one that I have had issues with getting the bake right in the past - so perfect for thermometer testing). There is coconut milk in the dough, which, along with the butter and egg, helps to make it wonderfully soft; and the filling is comprised of butter, sugar, grated lemon and orange zest and desiccated coconut. I topped it off with a zingy glaze made from icing sugar, lemon juice and coconut milk. The butter and sugar in the filling melt and make the bread go all crunchy and caramelised around the edges, and soft in the middle. It pulls apart into pieces easily, so is perfect for sharing (although once you start pulling pieces off it is very hard to stop...) and the smell while it is cooking is fantastic - fragrant lemon mixed with freshly baked bread and nutty coconut...Heavenly. Once I was done taking photographs, half of the loaf disappeared within seconds, it was that moreish...and although it is best eaten fresh, it was still soft and delicious the next day, warmed slightly in the microwave before serving.
Lemon Coconut Pull-Apart Bread
- 400 g (3 + ⅓ cups) strong white bread flour
- 7 g (2 tsp) fast action yeast
- 50 g (¼ cup) sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 50 g (scant ¼ cup) butter
- 120 ml (½ cup) coconut milk (or whole milk)
- 2 eggs
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 40 g (3 tbsp) butter, melted
- 125 g (⅔ cup) sugar
- finely grated zest of 3 lemons and 1 orange
- 60 g (packed ¼ cup) desiccated coconut
- 150 g (1 + ½ cups) icing (powdered) sugar
- 2 tbsp coconut milk or whole milk
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Place the flour in a large bowl, add the yeast to one side and the sugar and salt to the other. Melt the butter in a small pan, remove from the heat and stir in the coconut milk. Add the butter mixture to the flour along with the eggs and lemon zest.
- Mix until it forms a rough dough, turn out on to an un-floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic (use a stand mixer if you have one), the dough will be sticky at first but will become smooth after a few minutes of kneading.
- Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with greased clingfilm, either place in the fridge to rise overnight or in a warm place for an hour or so until doubled in size.
- If you let it rise in the fridge overnight, let it sit out at room temperature for half an hour to warm up before continuing.
- Line an approx. 22x11.5cm (9x4.5in) loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
- Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into an approx. 30x50cm (12x20in) rectangle. Brush the melted butter all over the dough. Mix together the sugar, zest and coconut and scatter it evenly over the dough, press it down gently.
- Slice the dough into 5 even strips (roughly 10x30 cm) (a pizza cutter is the ideal tool), lay the strips on top of each other then slice in to 4 pieces.
- Stack the dough pieces upright in the tin and loosen them slightly. Cover, and leave to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes until puffy.
- Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5.
- Bake for about 45 minutes until the temperature in the centre registers as 94C/200F, or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin on a wire rack.
- Meanwhile, make the glaze; sift the icing sugar into a small bowl and stir in the coconut milk and lemon juice. It should be pourable but not runny, add a little more lemon juice if it is too thick or a little more icing sugar if it is too thin.
- Turn the bread out onto a serving dish and pour over the glaze. Serve warm.