I’ve had the idea for this bread brewing in the back of my mind for MONTHS. I stopped at a coffee shop in Grand Central one morning a while back to get a cup of decaf, because I live life on the edge, and the bakery display case had slices of a pound-cake-like something labeled “Nutella Swirl”, and I am only human, so I took a slice up to the office with me for a mid-morning snack. Imagine my disappointment when I took a bite and … blah. It was just … sweet. Sugary and slightly greasy and tasting not at all of chocolate or hazelnuts. If you’re going to take the name of the almighty Nutella in vain, you need to do a bit better.
I wanted it to taste like, you know, Nutella, not just sugary echoes of something vaguely chocolatey. I decided that if I tried to up amp up the Nutella in an already super-rich cake we’d all be in trouble, so I turned to breakfast rolls, pains au chocolat, and chocolate brioche as my inspirations instead. I have a great cinnamon bun recipe in my repertoire that’s (relatively) low on sugar– no goopy icing or caramelized pecans here– and high on flavor. With a few modifications it yielded a soft, yeasty pull-apart bread laced with melty blobs of Nutella. As far as yeasted breads go, it bakes up fairly quickly– one 25 minute rise, roll out and slice the buns, one 15 minute rise, 20 minutes in a hot oven, and boom: breakfast heaven.
Nutella Swirl Bread
Adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/4-oz. packets rapid-rise yeast (that’s three of the quarter-ounce envelopes)
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 2/3 c. plus 3-4 tbsp. whole milk, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 13-oz. jar Nutella
1 egg, beaten, for glaze
about 1/2 c. toasted, finely chopped hazelnuts (optional)
Whisk the dry ingredients together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk 1 2/3 c. milk, the melted butter, and the eggs together and then pour over the dry ingredients. Mix on medium speed with a dough hook attachment, occasionally stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. When the dough is fully mixed, smooth, and slightly springy, turn it out into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set the bowl aside and allow the dough to rise for 25 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 10 x 13″ (approx.) roasting pan, or two 9″ round cake pans, with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk the Nutella and 3-4 tbsp. milk together until the Nutella thins and is easier to spread.
Take about 1/3 of the risen dough and roll or stretch it out to fit the bottom of your pan (or pans). This will form the bottom of your buns and keep the filling from oozing out all over the place. Press the bottom layer into the prepared pan and set aside.
Now, look: every time I use this recipe my dough is SUPER sticky. I mean, incredibly soft and goopy and sticky, almost to the extent that I suspect there may be an error in the original recipe. That being said, even though it’s messy, the super soft dough bakes up into a tender, moist bread that is very, very lovely indeed. If you want a final product that’s firmer and closer to cinnamon buns than to pull-apart breads (like monkey bread), you may want to go ahead and knead in an additional 1/2 to 3/4 c. flour. I, on the other hand, just keep flouring my work surface and rolling pin as carefully as I can, using only as much flour as I need to keep the dough from sticking. It’s messy, sure, but I really like the softer, more yielding texture of the final product. Feel free to be as stingy or as generous with flour as you please.
Roll out the remaining dough on a floured work surface until you have a rectangle that’s about 10″ x 20″. Drop the Nutella/milk mixture over the dough by the spoonful and use an offset spatula to spread it out to within 1/2″ of the edges. Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the Nutella (if using).
Beginning at one of the long ends, roll up the dough into a log, working slowly and flouring as necessary to keep it from sticking to your work surface and tearing. Again, you’re going to get more of a long blob than a perfectly round log, on account of the softness of the dough, but don’t worry: you’re doing great! Using a sharp serrated knife, slice the roll into 20 slices, each about 1″ wide. Position the slices, swirly cut-side up, atop the rolled-out dough in the prepared pan(s), 20 in the roasting pan or 10 in each cake pan. Brush the tops of the rolls with beaten egg and allow to rise for about 15 minutes. They should puff up and smoosh into each other a bit more.
Bake in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then lift out of the pans using the parchment paper. Set on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes more. To serve, simply tear off warm, fragrant, melty pieces and devour greedily, with coffee on the side. Makes 20 servings.
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Even though the recipe is originally based on a Norwegian cinnamon roll, the brioche-like texture and divine pastry-shop smell make me think of one thing: a good Parisian patisserie. When I came back from a trip to Paris with Julia Lambert a few years ago I remember trying to keep my Parisian breakfasts going with my New York lifestyle for as long as I could, but alas, the desire to sleep 15 extra minutes won out, and it was back to a hurried bowl of cereal before I knew it. Let us imagine, however, that we are sophisticated, put-together ladies who take a leisurely breakfast over our morning e-mails. Hot-from-the-oven Nutella Swirl Bread, a cup of espresso, and this pretty fluttering robe by Eloise would get any morning off to a great start.
I love how this robe has volume and ruffles without seeming overly fussy or froofy. Y’all know I love a good froofy robe, but I love how modern, fresh, and comparatively simple this feels.