Cinnamon Star Bread
Before we go on, let's say this together: "I WILL NOT BE INTIMIDATED BY STAR BREAD." Say it once, then say it again, then say it while you're going back and forth between deciding to make it and not to make it. It looks tricky, I know -- but really, it's a few simple layers, a few simple cuts and a few simple twists. And just like any other fancy-looking yeast bread - take babka or challah - it takes patience; and if you don't have that, then okay: do not make star bread.
But that is the only reason why you shouldn't. So get your yeast and your cinnamon and start doing some wrist exercises, because you're going to bake a very festive, very beautiful and very delicious bread. And you're going to like it.
For the dough:
3 1/2 cups flour, divided
1 package instant yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
For the filling:
3 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Combine 2 cups (280 g) flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large mixer bowl; mix on low speed until incorporated. Heat milk in a microwave-safe measuring cup for 45 seconds to 1 minute, until very warm (120-130°F). Add warm milk, butter, and egg to flour mixture and mix until combined; mix in remaining 1 1/2 cups (210 g) flour.
Switch out the paddle attachment for a dough hook, and knead dough for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. The dough is ready when it feels tacky but doesn't stick to your fingers (if necessary, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time while kneading) Place dough in a large bowl coated with nonstick spray and cover with plastic. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
To check if dough has doubled, lightly flour two fingers and press them down into center of dough. If indentations remain, gently press down dough; cover and let rest 5 minutes.
Turn dough out on a lightly floured board and divide into four equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll one piece of dough out into a 10-inch circle, and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with melted butter, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, and sprinkle dough evenly with 1/3 of the cinnamon-sugar. Roll out the second piece of dough into a 10-inch circle, and stack on top of the first piece of dough. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar; repeat process with remaining dough, leaving the top circle bare.
Place a 2 1/2-inch round cutter in the center of the dough and press gently to leave an imprint. Use a sharp knife to cut the circle into 4 equal sections, from the imprint in the center to the edge, cutting through all the layers. Cut each section into 4 equal strips, for a total of 16 strips.
Using both hands, pick up 2 adjacent dough strips and twist them away from each other twice. Pinch the ends of the strips together firmly. Repeat with remaining strips of dough, for a total of 8 points. Cover the star loosely with plastic and let rise in a warm place until puffy, about 25 minutes.
While the star rises, preheat oven to 375°F. Brush star with the beaten egg, then bake for about 25 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar and serving.