This rich and sticky sweet bread serves a crowd and is a perfect addition to any brunch table. I have used a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat flour in this recipe, but it can also be made with 100% all-purpose flour if desired. Also, feel free to substitute 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon for the chai spice. Adapted from Cook's Illustrated. —Yossy Arefi
8 to 12
softened unsalted butter, divided
milk, warmed to 110º F
water, warmed to 110º F
2 1/4 teaspoons
active dry yeast (one envelope)
1 1/4 cups
whole wheat or spelt flour
Chai Spiced Coating
light brown sugar
unsalted butter, cool but pliable
vanilla bean, seeds scraped
In This Recipe
Use 2 tablespoons of the softened butter to generously grease a 10-inch bundt pan. Use your fingers to ensure that butter gets into every nook and cranny of the pan.
Combine the warm milk, water, sugar, and active dry yeast in a small bowl. Let sit until the yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes. While the yeast is proofing, combine the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
When the yeast is ready, turn the mixer on low and stream in the yeast mixture. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of softened butter and the egg. Knead the dough until it is shiny and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. The dough should be soft and sticky, but if it seems like it is overly wet, add more flour a few tablespoons at a time.
Coat a large bowl with oil or cooking spray and turn the dough into the bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and set it in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
While the dough is rising prepare the chai spiced coating by mixing the spices and vanilla bean seeds into the sugar. Brown the butter by cooking it over medium heat in a small saucepan, stirring frequently until the milk solids turn light brown and the butter has a nutty fragrance. Set aside to cool slightly.
When the dough is finished rising, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a square about 8 inches by 8 inches. Use a pizza wheel or bench scraper to cut the dough into 32 pieces. (If you're feeling ambitious, make 64.)
Working with a few pieces at a time, roll each piece of dough into a rough ball, then roll in the cooled browned butter followed by a roll in the brown sugar. Layer the dough balls in the bundt pan snugly. Repeat until all dough balls are used.
Cover the bundt pan with a clean towel and set it in a warm place to rise until it reaches 1 to 2 inches below the rim of the pan. This should take about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake the bread until the top is dark and caramelized and the sugar is bubbling around the edges, 25-30 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan for 5 minutes then carefully turn it out onto a plate. Cool for 5 more minutes then dig in. This bread is best served warm the day that it is made.
Yossy Arefi is a photographer and stylist with a passion for food. During her stint working in restaurant kitchens, Yossy started the blog Apt. 2B Baking Co. where, with her trusty Pentax film camera, she photographs and writes about seasonal desserts and preserves. She currently lives in Brooklyn but will always love her native city of Seattle. Follow her work at apt2bbakingco.blogspot.com & yossyarefi.com.