I am a sucker for yeast doughs. I find them miraculous, and get childishly excited watching the dough rising and transforming into light and fluffy pastries. Yeast doughs are also very rewarding – all they want from you is some time, and in return they will double their initial volume, warm up your kitchen as they bake and give it that warm bakery smell that is so comforting and cozy. Mmmmm, just lovely.

I love playing with yeast doughs and last weekend I thought it was time to bake a sweet treat. I went to visit my grandmothers, and I knew they would like something like this marbled bread. Although I often show up with my baking experiments practically forcing them into trying something new, I know they will never say no to a good old-fashioned sweet bread filled with something they were once pretty used to – carob.

I believe carob is somewhat forgotten, which is such a shame, because there is something very special in its taste – it is lightly sweet, pretty  aromatic and its taste really resembles chocolate. Let me be once again an advocate of old-school flavours and recipes and allow me to convince you into trying carob… That is, if you haven’t already. I guess it requires a taste for it, like poppy seeds. But if you like poppy seeds as much as I do, you will love carob.

If you are not at all familiar with carob, it is a Mediterranean tree-like plant that grows fruit that looks like giant pods. The benefits of carob are multiple – it is rich in vitamin B, calcium, potassium, magnesium, fiber and protein.  It is low-fat, caffeine-free and mildly sweet (the fruit itself contains about 50% sugar, most of which is sucroze), which is why it is often used as a healthy substitution for chocolate. It is mainly sold in powder and syrup form, and should be found in a healthy food or cake supplies section.

Ok, now that we have covered nerdy stuff, let me also tell you that carob is really delicious (did I mention it tastes somewhat like chocolate?). To me it has that winter vibe, that goes really well with orange, apples, honey, nuts and rum. It has a warm caramel-like note, which is why I knew I had to use it as a filling for my sweet bread.

And now about the marbled bread… More precisely, it is a combination of a bread and a cake. The dough itself is mildly sweet and scented with orange, swirling around a thin layer of carob filling. I think this turned out to be the fluffiest dough I have made so far. Could it be that I gave it extra time to rise (baking a giant batch of these honey cookies while making the bread) or that it was rising over the hot stove or simply that I had just found THE recipe for brioche-like dough?

All I know is that from now on I will stick to this recipe. Because the bread turned out so soft and fluffy, as light as foam, just gorgeous! The carob filling swirls all around giving the bread extra taste and sweetness, but not making it too dense or heavy. I wish you could feel the smoothness of the bread through photographs, but you will just have to trust me.

Make it this holiday, impress your family and guests and enjoy the lovely combination of a soft brioche dough and carob filling.

preparation time: about 2,5 hours, rising included
baking time: about 40 minutes, depends on the pan size, 160°C/320 F
pan size: bundt pan Φ22 cm/8,7 in*

*Ok, obviously, my cake baked larger than the pan. I suggest using a pan larger than mine, or you could always use a bread loaf pan or a large round pan. Any will do really as long as it allows the bread to sit comfortably inside. If you don’t mind the bread sticking outside of the pan, feel free to use the size mentioned in the recipe. The bread will not fall apart, it will just create a top.

Ingredients for the dough:
240 ml milk
50 g granulated white sugar
1 package (7 g) dry yeast
450 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
zest of half an orange (make sure to use organic oranges)
2 egg yolks
50 g melted butter

Ingredients for the filling:
200 ml milk
25 g brown sugar
40 g vanilla sugar
zest of the remaining half of an orange
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
200 g ground carob/carob flour
2 egg whites

1. Start by proofing the yeast. Pour milk into a small saucepan, add a tablespoon of sugar (take it from the total of 50 g stated in the recipe) and warm it up over the stove until it gets luke-warm. Sprinkle the yeast over and stir briefly. Set aside for about 5 minutes, to get the yeast a head start.

2 . In the meantime, sift together flour and salt into a large bowl. Zest half an orange in, add sugar (the remaining of those 50 g) and stir everything shortly. Melt the butter and let it cool to room temperature, leaving it liquid.

3. Add yeast mixture into the flour and using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook start mixing the dough on low speed. After the flour has absorbed most liquid, add two egg yolks, one at a time, allowing each one to mix in well.

4. Finally, slowly pour in the melted butter and mix everything on medium speed (or knead with your hands) for about 5-6 minutes (kneading it will take a bit longer) until the dough gets really smooth. The dough will be slightly sticky. Transfer it onto a floured working surface and knead with your hands adding some flour if you find it necessary (for me, flour sprinkled over the surface was just enough. It is much better for the dough to be on the softer side. As it rises, it will develop just the right texture, don’t worry.).

5. Form the dough into a ball and put it back into the same bowl. Brush the surface with some vegetable oil so it doesn’t dry out. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm spot for about 1 to 1,5 hours. It should double in volume and become foamy, bubbly and oh-so-soft.

6. In the meantime, make the filling. Pour the milk into a large saucepan, add both kinds of sugar, orange zest and cocoa powder and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and mix in ground carob. Let it cool slightly until you beat the egg whites into soft peaks. Combine beaten egg whites with carob mixture adding them slowly so they don’t lose their volume. Fold them in with a spatula.

7. Take the risen dough and roll it out thinly on a well-floured surface into a large rectangle. Try to keep the length of the rectangle about the same size as the outer radius of your baking pan. Make sure that the dough does not stick to the surface as you roll it. Spread the filling evenly and roll it like a cinnamon or a jelly roll. Wrap the edges tightly.

8. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll lengthwise in half and split the two parts slightly. Then fold one part underneath the other and repeat folding the pieces into a braid, intertwining them until you reach the end. Tuck the two ends together and place the braid carefully into a baking pan. Arrange it so it fills the pan nicely. Let rise once again for about 45 minutes to an hour.

9. Bake in a preheated oven at 160°C/320 F for about 35 – 45 minutes. Position the cake in lower part of the oven as it is quite big. Check it half way through baking to see if the top is getting brown too much too soon. If so, cover the top with aluminum foil loosely and let it bake all the way through. It will depend on the size of the baking pan, so adjust the baking time accordingly.

Mine baked for 40 minutes exactly. Check with a sharp knife to see if the cake has finished baking – push it all the way to the bottom and if it comes out with no wet crumbs on, it is done. Also, the top should be golden and crispy and the bread should start to detach from the sides of the pan if you push it gently. Let it cool in the pan for about half an hour. Then take a sharp knife, detach it from the sides of the pan if needed and flip over on a plate.

 Since my cake baked bigger than the pan, it formed a “muffin top”, which is why I only flipped it to cut into slices. Then I flipped it back and kept in a loaf pan so it would hold its shape.

Enjoy warm with a cup of coffee or tea. Cover with a kitchen towel and store it for days, it will remain fresh and soft.


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