Friday, November 30, 2012



There are moments in life, when the heart is so full of emotion 
That if by chance it be shaken, or into its depths like a pebble 
Drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret 
Spilt on the ground like water, can never be gathered together. 
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

A turbulent week. Emotions rampant; head down, fingers scurrying across the keyboard. A very short blog post is called for. In between home improvement… well, home finishing… projects, taking extra time to snuggle Marty as the end nears and working on my various projects. Bits and pieces. My life, my emotions spread thin, bumping up and down, a commotion of sensations. My words come out in short gasps, my movements fluttering from one thought to the next as I gather them up and jot them down, painting words in black and white. Time is fleeting, rushing past like my nine-year-old self on a bike whizzing home, wind whipping my thick mess of hair out of my eyes for the first time all day, hurry hurry. Or time slows down to a trickle, as thick as molasses, as slow as my son preparing to execute any chore we have requested of him… one sock, first shoe, check text messages, tie shoe, stare off into space and dream for a while, second sock….
Apartment renovations continue in fits and bursts and our hallway is nearly finished. Ceiling lights purchased for the kitchen and even as boxes and now-empty suitcases gather round us like so many faithful, adoring disciples, we may soon be able to drag the truck-sized toolchests (in the plural), the various painting supplies, ladders and the rest of the home improvement paraphernalia up to the attic and give ourselves just that much more floor space. I slowly, painstakingly send out change-of-address notices as I slowly, carefully order my work here at the computer. The desolate rain bursts into glorious sunshine, winter leaving icy fingerprints on the windowpanes.

My projects old and new clutter my worktop and my life, I finalize stories and tap joyfully on the send button, waiting for the satisfying whoosh of email sent; writing mojo back in full swing. New ideas fill my head and take shape as I discuss the creation of this event or the writing of that piece with friends and mentors, pushing myself forward on a surge of activity and enterprise. I connect with those around me, hoping for newfound involvement in my city of Nantes. The bright clear days find me wandering through town, seeing hitherto unnoticed artwork, graffiti scrawled across unlikely spaces, new buildings perched above my line of vision in unexpected material, impulsive colors, in stunning juxtaposition to the graceful, elegant old beauties in fading cream and black, the architecture one expects in this place. My camera captures images, which cry out to be transformed into words.

And Marty. No words to describe the sadness in our hearts, the heaviness crawling through our home as we watch him, sadness and discomfort replacing mirth and curiosity in his eyes.

And I bake. A flurry of flour, a dusting of salt, a sprinkling of yeast; hands, fingers sinking into dense, soft dough, pushing, pulling, worries and frustrations released in the gentle, rhythmic movement, replaced with a utopian calm. My mind wanders to words, sentences, tales amid the fragrance of vanilla and sweet apples, redolent with the exotic nip of cinnamon, against the tang, the heady earthiness of the yeast. Warm from the oven, drizzled with sugary icing, the crunch of almonds and we sit together en tête-à-tête in the bright kitchen drinking coffee and eating sweet bread. No words are needed.

An apple-filled yeast coffee cake, this Apple Cinnamon Twist is added to November’s Twelve Loaves line up of fabulous recipes. Twelve Loaves is a baking-from-scratch event created by Lora of Cake Duchess, Barb of Creative Culinary and myself to inspire our fellow food bloggers to bake. November’s challenge was all about our favourite Autumn Fruits: Apples & Pears. I saw this fabulous twisted loaf on Kate’s blog Food Babbles and couldn’t resist! I made some slight changes to her recipe including changing her pears for apples and the results were incredible. The dough is fast and easy to put together, more time is spent waiting than fiddling with fussy ingredients – time spent writing or painting or hugging a Boston Terrier. Once filled, the dough is cut and twisted like for my Pesto Parmesan Russian Rosa Loaf, a joy to make once one gets the hang of it. Topped with a marvellous cinnamon glaze, this was one of the best sweet yeast coffee cakes I’ve made yet and worth making over and over again.

I am sharing this with Susan of Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting!

Adapted from a recipe on Food Babbles which was adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe

For the dough:
3 ½ cups (450-460 g) flour, stirred up and lightly spooned into measuring cup and levelled
3 Tbs (50 g) sugar
1 ½ tsp (6 g) active dry yeast
1 ¼ tsp salt
3 Tbs (45 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 tsp vanilla or orange extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup (250 ml) milk (I used half whole, half lowfat), warmed to tepid/skin temperature

For the filling:
½ cup (100 g) sugar (I used less)
3 Tbs flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 medium apples, peeled and grated
1 Tbs lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioner’s/powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla or ½ tsp orange extract, optional
3 Tbs heavy cream or whole milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Prepare the dough:

Place all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir or whisk to blend. Add the soft butter, the warm milk, the room temperature egg and the vanilla and stir until blended, all the dry ingredients are moistened and a shaggy dough forms. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes, dusting with flour if needed. Any large chunks of butter left should be incorporated and the dough should be soft, elastic and light without being too sticky.

Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and turn the dough to make sure it is oiled all over. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and the clean kitchen towel and let rise for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until the dough is doubled in size.

Make the filling:

Peel and grate the apples (I used the large holes of my grater), discarding the core. Toss the grated apples with the lemon juice.

Whisk together the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl to blend. Add the grated apples to the dry mixture and stir to blend well, making sure all of the dry ingredients are melted into the apples leaving no clumps. Cover and set aside.

Assemble the Twist:

Line a large baking sheet, long and wide enough to hold two long loaves, with parchment or oven-safe paper.

Gently deflate the risen dough by scraping it out of the mixing bowl and onto a lightly floured surface. Using a large, sharp knife, divide the dough into two equal pieces, returning one temporarily to the bowl.

Roll half of the dough into an approximately 10 x 12-inch rectangle with the long side perpendicular to your body. Spread half of the apple filling evenly all over the dough rectangle, leaving a ½-inch edge empty on three sides – one long, two short – and 1-inch filling free across the top edge. Starting at the long end nearest your body, roll the dough up around the filling into a jellyroll or log and seal the edges. Gently roll back and forth to even out the thickness of the log.

Using a very long, sharp knife – a butcher’s knife works best – slice the log lengthwise in half. Gently lift each half onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and place them side by side, cut side up (the many layers of the “open cut” will be up). Keeping the filling side up and starting from the center, twist and twine the two lengths together as tightly as possible with squishing the dough and filling. Pinch the ends to seal and tuck underneath.

Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Cover the loaves loosely with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The loaves should be pretty much doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Bake the loaves for 30 – 40 minutes or until risen and golden brown. If the loaves seem to be browning too quickly, just cover lightly with foil. The finished bread should sound hollow when tapped.

Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 1 hour before making and drizzling the cinnamon glaze.

Prepare the Cinnamon Glaze:
Measure then sift the confectioner’s sugar into a small mixing bowl with the cinnamon. Add the cream or milk, the extract if using, and, stir with a fork or small whisk until well blended, smooth and creamy. The glaze should be smooth and just liquid enough to ribbon off of a spoon to drizzle all over the bread but not so liquid that it runs together and off the bread.

Slice and enjoy!


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A beautiful and poignant post. I feel your pain, dear friend. I'm ever so sorry to hear about Marty... Praying for him.

This apple treat is so comforting and look really divine. Hopefully, it has soothed your sadness.



Barb | Creative Culinary said...

I know what today brings Jamie and as I look at my sweet pup, surely nearing the end of her life at the age of 14 I am sobbing for you and your family; knowing all too well how much our pets become so much more than the word pet can evoke. Their enduring love and devotion is often beyond any we will have with human counterparts; that perfect love we all crave.

I know how much you love Marty and I pray for your strength as you navigate without him; just know your friends are here for you and understand.

I only wish I could bring you some comfort food; you provide such beautiful and comforting treasures for us so often. XOXO for real...Barb

Jeanne said...

Poor little Marty - and poor you. At least you have had these past few months with him as a bonus, to spoil and cuddle him. And ohm what a cake! When I was little, my dad's consulting rooms were above a continental bakery, and on Friday afternoons he always brought home a sweet treat for us to have on Saturday morning for breakfast - this is exactly the sort of cake he would have fallen in love with! Sending you hugs xx

Kate | Food Babbles said...

Jamie, I am so sorry for the pain you're experiencing. Pets have such a special place in a family and truly are members just as people are. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Marty through this tough time. Your loaf turned out lovely and I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Lorraine Joy Alegria-Vizcarra said...

The bread looks wonderful.

shaz said...

Dear Jamie, I can't even begin to imagine the sadness you must be carrying within you. Yet you still manage to write ethereal prose for your readers and bake such satisfying goodies. Take care dearie, hugs to you from across the oceans.

Rambling Tart said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Marty and his decline. :-( We lost both our dogs this year and it was so difficult. When their deaths are sudden it's somehow easier than watching them slip away. Wishing you comfort and strength. XO

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said...

I can't read this post without wanting to give you a cuddle. So much has happened to you over the past 90 days but nothing hurts as much as knowing you'll lose Marty. I have a friend who is in a similar situation Her dog is 14 and has cancer and can't last many more days pain free. It breaks my heart for both of you.

The coffee cake will help but only a little.

Jill Colonna said...

So sorry to hear about your Marty and praise your ultimate comfort in creating this twist cake. Absolutely stunning, Jamie. As for your phrase, "time slows down to a trickle, as thick as molasses, as slow as my son preparing to execute any chore..." I shall have to put this on the fridge, it makes me chuckle. My 12-yr-old has suddenly arrived at this stage. Tough one!
Courage! Jill xo

Barbara Bakes said...

Such a beautiful bread! I love the almonds sprinkled on top. I'm going to have to remember to do that.

Lora CakeDuchess said...

I know it's so hard to lose a beloved pet. My old kitty recently passed away and it was so hard for all of us to go through. I send you many, many hugs. Your bread is stunning and I'd love a slice with a cup of coffee and a nice talk with you:)xx

Judy@Savoring Today said...

Coffee cake is a weakness for me and yours is beautiful the way you have twisted it -- the presentation is fabulous! Well done!

Terra said...

My heart is heavy for you, and truly sad. I am so sorry, know I am thinking of you lots this weekend, and marty is truly blessed to have such a beautiful family. Your coffee cake not only sounds awesome, but looks really fun to make! Sending lots of love and hugs to you, Terra

Mairi @ Toast said...

Poor Marty, it is so hard to lose a pet....they become such a part of the family. Sending thoughts & prayers your way. Oh & what beautiful bread, just lovely.

Lora said...

So sorry about Marty. I know that feeling all too well. My mother once told me the Chinese say when you give birth, you also give death. Strangely, it made me think of the numerous wonderful dogs I have had. When we bring them into our lives were are responsible for them but I believe we also are responsible to make sure their end is handled with love and dignity. Letting go of that constant source of unconditional love can be one of the hardest things to face. A beautiful, comforting treat. Sending you a big hug.

Anonymous said...

no matter how often one takes that journey with a beloved pet it never gets any easier. my thoughts are you and marty and the rest of your pack....

marla said...

Love this recipe! Will be linking back to this in my upcoming post :)

Deeba PAB said...

Oh my poor Marty...and poor you & JP, and the boys. This is the toughest part of keeping a pet. My heart is heavy, yet I admire what you can do with words and 'bread'! You are the best bread baker I much beauty and words to hang on to. Much love sweet sistah, and peace too! xoxo

Lisa said...

Jamie..I know how tough this is and your post brought tears to my eyes. It never gets any matter how many times you go through it. Our pets are family..our fur, feather or scales babies :( You know I'm here for you, sweet friend xo.

On a lighter note..this bread is one of the most stunning next to several of your other breads. Such a talented baker!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

How can our pets become so deeply a part of us ... So sorry Jamie.
Truly gorgeous bread worthy of Marty's heart.


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