The quest for the perfect Orange Bread

Twenty years ago, on a Christmas morning just after we’d moved into our new house, my neighbor rang our doorbell.  With a greeting of “Merry Christmas,” she handed me an orange coffeecake which had been baked in a bundt pan.  I said, “thank you,” and we chatted a moment.  My husband and I ate the coffeecake for breakfast.  We were delirious.  It was the most delicious thing we had ever tasted.

And thus began my ordeal.  Later that day I knocked on her door to say how amazing the cake was and I asked for the recipe.  She said it was an old family secret and she couldn’t give it to me, but anytime I wanted the cake I could ask her and she would make one for me.  Right…like I would actually ask her to bake a cake for us.

So the hunt was on.  I searched new and used bookstores for cookbooks.  Whenever I traveled I’d seek out local bookstores for any community cookbooks. I’d check the index for orange coffee cake, orange rolls, orange bread.  I’m a pretty good baker myself, so I was able to eliminate the recipes I knew didn’t fit the bill.  If I came across one I wasn’t sure of, I would buy the cookbook and make the recipe.  I did this for several years with no luck, and then the internet happened…a whole new way to search.  For fifteen years I scoured the internet.  I printed out dozens of recipes and made them all.  Zip. Zero. Nada.

And then a couple of months ago I was browsing Pinterest for new recipes.  The moment I saw the photo I knew I had found it.  I made the coffeecake the following day.  Eureka!  It was just like I remembered it.  Scrumptious! The recipe is from a blog called Southern Sweet and Salty. The writer of the blog is a woman named Julie.

It’s a yeast cake, so it takes a little time to prepare…but your time will be well spent!

Glazed Orange Pull-Apart Bread

2-3/4 c all-purpose flour + 2 tbs
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c milk
1/2 stick unsalted butter (2 oz)
1 (1/4 oz) envelope active dry yeast
1/4 c water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange, about 2 tbs
2 eggs, beaten

1 c light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Zest of 1 orange, about 2 tbs
1/2 stick + 2 tbs unsalted butter, melted

1-1/2 c powdered sugar
1 tbs orange liqueur
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbs fresh orange juice

Whisk together 2 cups of flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter into the milk. In a small bowl, mix the zest, water, and vanilla extract. When butter has melted, add the contents of the saucepan to the bowl. When mixture is between 110º & 115º, add yeast. Whisk and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Add yeast to flour mixture and stir to combine. Add the eggs and stir until eggs are incorporated. Add the remaining 3/4 c of flour and stir until you have a dough that is slightly sticky to the touch. If dough is too loose, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Lightly grease the bowl the dough was mixed in with vegetable oil and turn dough in the bowl to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean dish towel and allow to rise until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour.

When dough has risen, punch it down. Knead the 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Allow the dough to rest five minutes. In the meantime, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon to break up any big lumps of sugar. Stir in the orange zest. Roll dough out to a 20″x12″ rectangle. Pour the melted butter over the dough and spread to the edges. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the butter and lightly press down. Cut the dough vertically into 6 even slices. Stack the slices on top of each other and cut again into six pieces. Lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan. Place the dough stacks in the pan with the edges up. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size again, about 45 minutes. Heat oven to 350º while dough rises. Uncover the pan and bake 30-35 minutes or until deeply golden brown on top. Let bread cool in the pan 15-20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and invert bread onto a plate. Invert again so that it’s right-side up. Using your hands should do the trick.

Assemble the glaze. Whisk together the powdered sugar, liqueur, vanilla extract, and orange juice in a small bowl until smooth. When bread has cooled, pour glaze over bread, making sure to get the creases. Serve at room temperature with tea or coffee and enjoy!