Orange Coconut Pull-Apart Bread

A glimpse of spring came earlier this week, with rising temperatures, freshly revealed patches of brown grass, and a collective sigh of relief. However, just as soon as it came, it left, drowned out by a new layer of white and acknowledged with a thick scarf wrapped around my neck. Winter is not ready to leave yet. I tucked my spring clothes back in the closet and, with a hint of reluctance, pulled on another winter sweater.

Soon, I must remind myself. Soon.

In an effort to knock the winter doldrums away, I've been trying to brighten up the kitchen with more color and brighter flavors. It was this spirit that guided me back to an old family recipe, a favorite of my Grandmother Irene. She would make her orange rolls as a welcome to spring and the arrival of Easter, adored and devoured by friends and family alike. Though I have never met her, I feel as if I know her, just a little bit, through her food.

I played with her recipe a bit, decreasing the sugar and adding a touch more orange, but keeping the essence of the recipe close to heart. There are too many family memories and remembrances wrapped up in the layers of dough to alter it any further.

Though I took an easier route with the dough—cutting it into squares and stacking it—instead of creating individual rolls, I feel as if my grandmother would not have minded. A little short cut now and then never hurt anyone, right? Once baked and soaked in glaze, I took my first bite. And then second. And third. This bread holds the heart of spring in each layer. I find myself easily saying just one more slice before repeating the phrase a few minutes later as if it was my new mantra.

While the wind may still blow and the snow may still fly, in my small apartment it is spring.

Orange Coconut Pull-Apart Bread is a riff on a dear family classic. Though it may take a new form, the flavors are still full and bright. A sweet, rich dough is painted in melted butter and topped with a mixture of orange sugar and coconut. The dough is sliced, stacked, and baked, wafting sweet aromas throughout the home. When it emerges, it is drowned in an orange glaze, which soaks deeply into every nook and cranny of the loaf. This loaf is a special one; it should not be missed nor failed to be shared.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Coconut Whipped Cream, and Chocolate Candied Ginger Biscotti
Two Years Ago: Butternut Squash Spinach Tart, Chocolate Toffee Scones, and Rosemary Sea Salt Crackers
Three Years Ago: Coconut Cream Cupcakes, Yeasted Waffles, and Italian Breadstick Popcorn

Orange Coconut Pull-Apart Bread

Yields 1 loaf

Bread Dough
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1/4 cup (60 ml) barely warm water
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (115 grams) sour cream
2 3/4 to 3 cups (350 grams) bread flour (all purpose will also work)

Dissolve the yeast in the barely warm water and allow to sit about 5 minutes until activated (looks frothy). Stir in sugar, salt, melted butter, eggs, and sour cream. Gradually add 2 3/4 cups flour, mixing well. If dough sticks too freely to the spatula, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Cover dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in a warm place, about 2 hours. Punch down dough and allow to rise a second time until doubled, about 1 hour.

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 2 oranges (about 2 tablespoons)
3/4 cup (180 grams) sweetened shredded coconut, lightly packed
2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter, melted

In a small bowl, rub together the sugar and orange zest with your hands until fragrant. Stir in the sweetened coconut.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it forms a 12 by 20-inch rectangle. Spread evenly with melted butter and sprinkle the filling over the surface, pressing it lightly into the dough with your hands. Using a pizza cutter, cut the rectangle into 6 vertical strips of equal size. Stack the strips and then cut the stacks into 6 squares of equal size.

In a lightly greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, place the squares, lining them up in the same direction. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Alternatively, cover with foil and allow to rise in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown. Immediately pour on the glaze (recipe below) while the loaf is hot, allowing it to soak in for 25-30 minutes while the bread cools.

Orange Glaze
1/2 cup (63 grams) powdered sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1 orange)
1/2 cup (115 grams) sour cream

In a small saucepan, heat all ingredients on medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour over rolls as soon as they are out from the oven.