Allow me to wax nostalgic for a moment. As the youngest of three children (and the only girl), you would have thought I would have been a "sugar and spice and everything nice" kind of child. You know, with ribbons and curls, and doted on by all. In truth, I was quite a tomboy. I wore hand-me-downs from my older brothers; and my hair was straight as a pin and short as theirs, at least until Dorothy Hamill came along and I grew mine out just a little to copy her famous haircut.
I still vividly remember being 12 years old and having someone comment to my mother about her three fine sons. Ouch! Considering the fact I was wearing earrings and a skirt, that really burned my biscuits. And it started me on the road to a more ladylike existence.
As I tried to find ways to become more feminine, and searched for elegant, drop-dead-gorgeous role models, I discovered Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall and Audrey Hepburn. Surely with the right hair and clothes, I too could look like that! There was only one thing holding me back. It wasn't charm, or style, or Edith Head to make my clothing. It was something far worse, something too dark and sinister, as plain as the nose on my face. To be more precise, it was ON the nose of my face. That's right, I had... freckles.
Not just a beauty mark or two; not just a faint spray across the bridge of my nose, but Freckles with a capital F. OK, sure, Howdy Doody had more freckles than me, and maybe Opie, but I had plenty. I even have freckles on the soles of my feet! As a young girl trying to be a femme fatale, I was doomed.
Over time, I grew to accept my freckles, and even learned to use them to my advantage. I was never going to be a tall, cool goddess, but I made a darn cute Gidget girl and had my share of admirers. Many of them professed an affection for the freckle on the end of my nose as their favorite, and so life went on. I married my true love and had my baby girl, and she has freckles on the bottom of her feet. It's the circle of life, or at least the small dots.
Many years later, I came across a recipe for a sweet dough using crushed sugar cubes coated in cinnamon in place of the traditional cinnamon sugar swirl. It was a delicious bread, but we don't often have sugar cubes in our house. My husband, David, loves Cinnamon Red Hots, and I always give him a big bag near Valentine's Day.
So, putting Yankee ingenuity to work, I made the bread using the Red Hots for the sugar cubes and voilà! Freckle Bread was born. The pink spots of melty cinnamon-y goodness reminded us of my freckles after a day in the sun. And the delicious after-burn reminded me of a kiss from my sweetie on Valentine's Day, sugar and spice and everything nice!
Let's get started on this recipe for Freckle Bread.
The dough is a basic sweet dough and can be made by hand, in a stand mixer, or on the dough cycle of the bread machine.
To easily make lukewarm water and milk, start with HOT water, and cold milk. The end result mixed together will be just right: lukewarm.
Add the egg, and whisk well. If your egg is at room temperature, the mixture will stay lukewarm.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the machine and program for the dough cycle, or mix and knead by hand or stand mixer as usual.
At the end of the dough cycle, remove the dough and gently deflate it. Pat the dough into a rough rectangle.
When using add-ins, like chocolate chips or nuts or cinnamon bits, a good rule of thumb is 1/2 cup of add-ins for a typical 3 cup flour recipe. Too little, and you won't get the enough flavor. Too much, and the bread won't rise properly.
Add about 1/3 of the Red Hots.
Gently fold the dough up and over the cinnamon candies.
Knead with the heel of your hand, pressing the dough together over the candies. Continue until well incorporated.
Add another 1/3 of the red hots. Repeat the kneading step above.
After two additions, you'll begin to see the cinnamon candies showing under the skin of the dough, and some poking up near the surface. Add the last of the candies, and knead those in.
Beware the "pocket" effect. If the candies are not well distributed they'll form a pocket and push through the dough. Gently knead until they're well dispersed.
Shape the dough into a loaf, and place it in a well-greased loaf pan. If you're concerned about the candies sticking, you can use parchment in the pan. Allow the loaf to rise, covered.
If you prefer your freckles on buns, you can divide the dough into 9 pieces.
To shape the buns, tuck in any loose candies, and pinch the bottom of the dough together to form a round ball.
Turn the ball of dough over, so the seams are on the work surface. Cup your hand around the side of the ball and move in small circles to tighten the skin of the ball. For those of you who drive a stick shift, this is nearly the same as gripping the ball at the end of the shift, but looser.
Evenly space the buns in a well-greased or parchment-lined 9" x 9" pan. Cover and allow to rise.
Back to the loaf. It'll look full and rounded. You can see the streaking where the dough rose around the candies.
The buns will look full, puffy, and will be barely touching one another.
Bake the bread or buns in a preheated 350°F oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 190°F. Due to the high sugar content of the bread, you'll most likely need to tent it with aluminum foil to keep it from over-browning.
I highly recommend placing a "drip tray" under the loaf to catch any dribbles of melting candy. I use an old cookie sheet lined with a used piece of parchment. Easy clean up!
Be aware of hot sticky sugar from the melting candies as you turn the bread out of the pan.
Freckle lovers unite! Notice the melty, gooey spots of cinnamon and the crisp spots on the outer crust. A delightful contrast of textures to tease the tongue.
A simple vanilla glaze becomes the icing on the cake. Er, bun.
So, for all you freckled Fannies like myself, celebrate that which makes us unique with this sweet and spicy bread, and be sure to share a slice with the one who lights your fire!
Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Freckle Bread.