Waaaay back when my husband David and I began dating, after years of friendship, he told me that most of the people he was working with were very, very beige. Not that they dressed in tan tones, but rather that they lived in tan tones; not a colorful character in the bunch.
Of course I just had to ask if I was beige, too. " No,” he said. “You're...
...Walt Disney's dreams come true.” Be still my heart! I knew he was a keeper from that moment on. Of course there was that other time that he said my eyes looked like limpid pools of toxic waste, but that's another story.
Twenty years later, I know he still thinks I'm pretty fun to be around, and I feel the same way about him. It still means a lot to me that I miss him during the day and I'm happy to get home at night, and talk to him about the day.
I think one of the things that keeps us interested in each other is that we've always been active learners, and it gives us new ideas and subjects to talk about. A few years ago David took up beekeeping; this year we're learning to raise chickens, and of course there's always the raising of a smart, beautiful, unique teenage girl to keep us on our toes.
We are all three avid readers, and often read the same books. That, combined with daughter Shannon's very definite views on the world, makes for some very interesting conversations.
Here at work, I'm so very lucky to be involved in many different learning situations. Of course I learn from my co-workers every day; but more specifically, I teach at our Baking Education Center here in Vermont.
The Baking Education Center opened its doors in 2000, with one classroom in the same building as our retail store and bakery. Since that date, more than 22,000 students of all ages, from all over the world, have taken classes here in Vermont.
Today, the Baking Education Center, or BEC for short, hosts two classrooms, including the Sands Room – where our retail store used to be. It's fun to walk through the room now, with its walk-in fridge and freezer where the cash registers used to be, and the wood-fired oven where the cookbooks used to live.
Classes are held almost every day of the week: for home bakers, children, families, and professional bakers. We've been graced with the presence of many famous chefs and bakers, including MaryAnn Esposito, White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier, Peter Reinhart, Mark Isreal, Kiko Denzer... the list goes on and on.
Add to that the vast array of in-house talent, including our own Susan Reid, PJ Hamel, and Master Baker Jeff Hamelman, and you can see why Arthur Flour is the largest educator of home and professional bakers in the world. I do the happy dance each time I realize what a great institution I get to be a part of, combining my love of baking with my love of teaching. Win-win!
In true New England fashion, I have connections to several of the staff members at the BEC. Michelle Kupiec, another instructor, used to work in computers with my husband David many years ago; and Robyn Sargent has been a friend ever since I was her daughter's pre-school teacher. Robyn's daughter, Megan, is now graduating from high school, so we go back quite a way!
Robyn also writes the curriculum for the BEC, and it's always a treat to see the new and exciting things she has in store for bakers. One recent class was Breakfast Breads Around the World. Ohhh, how exotic! I was delighted and enchanted with the Noon Rogani recipe in this class.
Inspired by Maggie Glezer’s book “A Blessing of Bread,” the bread is Azerbaijani in origin. Azerbaijani refers to an ethnic group hailing from the Azerbaijan (az-er-buy-jon) region of northwestern Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan. For these people, bread is literally sacred: a symbol of fruitfulness and prosperity. Bread is served at every meal, and in great variety, including flatbreads like lavash, tandoori baked breads, and pastries.
Noon Rogani will remind you of a big round cinnamon bun without the icing. It's a delightfully delicious bread, and all the more fun as you have to roll it out to a 5-foot-long rope!
Ah-ha! Now you're just dying to see how that goes, aren't you? Let me be your guide to Noon Rogani.
Gotta love the dough cycle on the Zo bread machine; such lovely gluten development. Now, in classes we don't use bread machines, so do make the dough by hand or in your mixer if you're so inclined.
After the first rise, lightly flour your work surface and pat the dough out to a rough rectangle or, as Robyn says, a pillow.
Roll the dough out with your pin to approximately 23” square, 1/8” thick.
Blend together the cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, melt the butter, and brush half of it over the dough.
Generously sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the dough and press it in gently with your fingers.
Fold over the long edge farther away from you, and begin rolling the dough into a log.
I left my dough scraper in the photo for scale. You can see that the rope of dough is quite thick, and a bit longer than the rectangle we started with. Now, the real fun begins!
Clear off a large swath of counter space. PJ was curious as to how home bakers could manage a 5' rope without benefit of our long baker's benches in the BEC, so I used this 4' table in the kitchen to roll. Let's see if we can make it fit.
Rolling the rope of dough like a Play-doh snake, we've hit the 4' mark. Now what?
Just turn the snake and keep going up the sides of the table. Six inches on either end, and we've hit 5'.
Once the rope is long enough, it's time to make like Chubby Checker and do the twist. This reminded me of rolling up a towel to give someone a good snap in the bum, and that brought back memories of the one and only time I snapped my dear husband. I wasn't even TRYING to connect, just horsing around, but you could hear that SNAP in the next state, I swear. He wheeled around, I dropped the towel and ran, yelling “ I'm SORRY!” all the way. He eventually believed me, but I've never even jested with a rat tail again!
Anywho, back to the bread.
Once you've twisted the whole rope, gently spiral it flat on your work surface or a piece of parchment. Roll with enough tension to keep the spiral shape, but not too tight or the bread will rise up to a volcano shape as it bakes.
You can definitely see the Middle Eastern influence in the shape of this bread, resembling a turban.
Brush the loaf with the rest of the melted butter and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Let rise for 45 to 50 minutes, or until puffy.
Ready to go. Don't worry about small tears, or bubbles. This is a rustic loaf and those are just part of the charm.
Don't you just love the twisted spiral design? To serve, you can slice the bread in wedges, but I like to pull off long pieces of the rope, unwrapping as I go along. It's funny to see the spiral getting smaller and smaller as you go.
That is one impressive loaf of bread. Inside, the cinnamon-y goodness is warm and fragrant, just waiting to melt in your mouth.
Azerbaijani breads can also be savory, so try using some of your favorite cheeses and herbs as a filling. Feta is very popular and would be great in this bread, with a big bowl of olives on the side.
So, please bake, rate and review our recipe for Noon Rogani, and remember to try new things, meet new people, and never stop learning!