Terms, Contact Info, Recipe Index, and link love


Soft Frosted Peanut Butter Chip Sugar Cookies

  Family trips to the grandparent's farm in the hilly terrain of Western Wisconsin are some of my favorite memories.  In that two hour car ride I'd memorized every landmark, and been to every Kwik Trip bathroom en route.  We'd hit the curvy back roads and I knew that soon I'd hear the familiar crackle and pinging of tiny rocks as we turned onto their gravel driveway.  Mounting that last hill, Grandpa and Grandma's little farm spread out before us, and the sweetest mutt of a dog named Heidi rang alongside as we pulled in.

  Upon entering the house, I was engulfed in a lavender/cookie scented hug from Grandma Edna, and then I'd run across the room to be swept up by my Grandpa Carmen.  And every time, as long as I was little enough and he was physically able, he always threw me up in the air and said, "Ellie May, you're gettin' so big!"  He's the only person who's ever called me that, and I'm pretty sure nobody else could ever get away with it.

  As the years passed things got more difficult for them, and the farm got sold.  And then Grandma left us, and visits to see Gramps got harder.  Watching a man who never took a sick day in his life rapidly deteriorate in health and strength is incredibly difficult.  A tractor seat was replaced by a wheelchair, farm boots with slippers, patches and prescription eyeglasses for his once stellar vision.  But he still wore his Packer baseball hat, still donned the same flannel shirts, and when I leaned in for a hug he still greeted me by "Ellie May."

  But even that lessened, to the point where he barely recognized us.  The last time I saw Gramps was during Christmas break, and the skinny man staring blankly into space was just not my Grandpa.  I felt as though we'd lost him a long time ago.

  Last week, Thursday night, he passed for good.  And while it is so sad, there is also a great sense of relief, knowing that he is at peace.  And, as we mentioned at the funeral, we're sure Grandma told him to take off his filthy barn boots before entering the gates of heaven, and Grandpa probably denied the fact that they were dirty.

  As far as baked goods go, there is one memory that pops up in my head.  I was just starting to get my hands dirty in the kitchen, and I remember asking Grandma or somebody what Grandpa liked to eat.  Peanut butter cookies, I was told.  I remember making the classic peanut butter cookie for him, criss-crossing the dough with a fork and thinking what a strange method it was.  I loaded up a big ol' Ziploc for him and went on a trip with my dad to the farm.  Presenting my Grandpa with those labored over cookies was everything to me, especially since peanut butter cookies are also my favorite among most baked goods.  That is one thing I'm very glad we had in common.

  I made these cookies a couple weeks ago, before I had any clue that Grandpa would be passing so soon.  I'm glad I did, because they are the perfect cookie to mark his memory.  My love for peanut butter has only grown as I've gotten older, and one woman who understands that better than most is Averie of Averie Cooks.  She is the sweetest, and has a book out dedicated to peanut butter recipes, so obviously I like her.

  I love the traditional peanut butter cookie, but one other cookie I also love is the Lofthouse-Style sugar cookie.  You know, those disgusting, light, soft-frosted sprinkled cookies you see in grocery stores?  Love 'em.  Basically, Averie took that sugar cookie concept and threw in a peanut butter twist.  It's pure genius.  A super soft sugar cookie dotted with melted peanut butter chips, and mounded with a sinfully good peanut butter frosting that's so so smooth.  It's perfect, my two loves combined.  And because I'm crazy and was too lazy to run to the store, I made my own peanut butter chips, and that just took things up to a whole other level of goodness.

  I adapted a peanut butter chip recipe I found on Culinary Adventures in the Kitchen, originally from mah gurl Izy at Top with Cinnamon.  They're were so easy to whip up, and as long as you keep them cold, they hold their shape very well, and are way too tempting to pop into your mouth.  Just know the instant they're out of the freezer they get melty, so keep them in there until the last possible second.

  That being said, these are ah-mazing.  They do rather fall apart in your hands, and I think I squished mine down a bit too much prior to baking so they turned out a little flatter and more fragile than Averie's, but they were still magnificent.  Do not skip the dough chilling process, it's mandatory for a thick cookie.  I did do a pre-chill in the freezer for 10 minutes to speed things up a bit, but do what you will.

  That all being said, I leave for Phoenix on Monday, and I am excited/scared/don'tknowwhattoevenfeel.  Here's to opportunities, and I'm glad I got to say one last goodbye to my Gramps before I left.  I know he would've loved these cookies, and he and Grandma would both be proud that I'm going off exploring with their daughter.  They both taught me so much, and I'm especially grateful for their awesome sense of humor.

  Ellie May's all grown up now, but there will always be a part of me that will forever love the farm life and peanut butter cookies.

Soft Frosted Peanut Butter Chip Sugar Cookies
Yield: 13 cookies

Ingredients for the peanut butter chips (if you decide to go the homemade route):
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1-3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ingredients for the cookies:
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (no substitutions, I used Swans Down)
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 2/3 cups of peanut butter chips, or a 10 oz. bag (the recipe above will make just enough)

Ingredients for the frosting:
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (half a stick), softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • Splash of cream or milk, if needed to achieve proper consistency 
  • Chocolate sprinkles, optional for garnishing

To make the peanut butter chips, line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.  Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl, starting with only 1 tablespoon of milk. Stir until well combined. Add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until your mixture has reached a smooth consistency.  Conversely, add more powdered sugar if your mixture isn't thick enough.  It should be of piping consistency, but still moist, like Play-Doh.  
Scoop your mixture into a large Ziploc bag (with a small hole cut in the corner) or a piping bag outfitted with a small round tip.  Pipe little chips onto the prepared baking sheet and place in the freezer until firm (it doesn't take long).  Transfer into an airtight container and store in the freezer until the very moment that you are ready to use them.  

While you wait for your chips to freeze, you can make the cookies.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large bowl and electric hand mixer), cream together the egg, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the cake flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix on low speed until just incorporated, about 1 minute.  Add the peanut butter chips and mix until just incorporated, dough will tacky and sticky.  

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Using a medium 2-inch cookie scoop, or an ice cream scoop/big spoon, form heaping two-tablespoon mounds (I made 13). Place mounds on the prepared baking sheet and flatten mounds slightly (don't overdo it, they will spread when baking), cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking. Do not bake with warm dough because cookies will spread and bake thinner and flatter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, line another baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place mounds on baking sheets, spaced at least 2 inches apart and bake for about 8 to 9 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, or until edges have set and tops are just beginning to set, even if slightly undercooked, pale and glossy in the center.  Do not overbake because cookies will firm up as they cool.  Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.  

For the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large bowl and electric hand mixer), combine the peanut butter and butter, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Slowly add the sugar, salt, and mix until frosting comes together.  Add a splash of cream/milk to achieve desired consistency.  
Add a generous dollop to each cookie (about 2 tablespoons) and smooth as desired with a knife or small frosting spatula.  Immediately garnish with sprinkles, you may need to press them in a bit.  Serve immediately.

A few notes from Averie:
Cookies will keep in an airtight at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. I'm okay with leaving buttercream frosting at room temperature for a couple days; if you aren't, refrigerate the cookies, knowing they'll dry out more. Unbaked cookie dough can be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 4 months, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.

Sources: adapted from Averie Cooks, peanut butter chips barely adapted from Culinary Adventures in the Kitchen, originally from Top with Cinnamon


Mixed Berry Apple Crisp

  Crisp.  Because it's a cloudy day, because there's three old Golden Delicious sitting in the fridge, because there's some berries verging on freezer burnt, because it's getting to that time of the week when we're down to basic pantry supplies and a scattering of condiments and half sticks of butter in the fridge.  And I needed something sweet, and I needed it pronto.

  So I peeled some apples, and I tossed them with some frozen berries in some sugar, flour, and spices.  I let myself daydream about autumn weather and sweaters and days gone by as I rubbed pieces of cold butter into brown sugar and oats.  I marveled at the intoxicating smell this created in the oven, I watched the berries take over and dye the apple slices purple.  A bubbling, warm, toasted mass of goodness emerged with the perfect ratio of filling-to-topping.  

  No, I didn't have any leftover berries or apples to photograph with this.  And no, we had no vanilla ice cream.  In fact, this was an on-a-whim post/photoshoot, because it was all I could do to snap a few pictures before eagerly shoveling spoonful after spoonful into my face.  I didn't make this with the intention of putting it on my blog, I just wanted crisp.  

  I made a summer crisp and I ate it warm from the oven in under an hour.  I made it because I was bored, because it was raining today, because we had aging fruit begging to be turned into softened jewels nestled beneath a golden topping, because I needed to remember that you can indeed make something from nothing.

  That's real.

(P.S. I highly recommend baking this along with Opus Orange's 2010 EP, it's all 2 minute ukelele songs with simple lyrics.  Nothing But Time is what I hear when I think about making this crisp.  K bye.)

Mixed Berry Apple Crisp
Yield: one 8x8 inch pan

Ingredients for the filling:
  • 3 large Golden Delicious, or other apples
  • 1 1/2-2 cups mixed berries, fresh or frozen (no need to thaw)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the topping:
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • A pinch or two of salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cold & cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease an 8x8 inch square pan.  Peel, core, and slice the apples into about 1/4-inch thickness.

In a large bowl, toss together the apple slices, berries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Transfer the apple mixture to the baking dish and spread in an even layer.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, and salt.  Add the butter pieces and use your fingers to work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle the butter mixture over the apples in the baking dish.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the topping is crisp and golden and the inside warm and bubbly.  Slip a small sharp knife through to test that the apples are cooked through to your liking.  Let sit for about 30 minutes before serving (what a joke, I made it maybe 15 minutes, tops).

Sources: adapted from A Family Feast 


Brown Butter Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

  "Why don't you go stay with Auntie Penny for awhile, run off to Phoenix!"

  I was sitting by a man-made lake in my college town, pouring my heart out to my oldest sister.  I wasn't happy, I was feeling unsettled, and the last thing I wanted to do was study for a biology exam.  I was quiet for a minute, what if?  What if I just did that?  School was driving me crazy, boys (or the lack thereof, at the time) were clouding my head, friends were falling apart and/or moving away, and even food was getting to be unappetizing.  This is coming from a girl who freaking lives for baking.

  So, what if indeed?  I called my aunt the next night, working out some tentative details.  I went home that weekend and sprung the idea on my family.  And you know what?  For the first time in a long time, I got excited.  I got really excited.  I was taking a year off of school (I'd prefer forever, but we'll see), why not travel?  See some new terrain?  I've yet to get out of the Midwest, and while I love it dearly and it will always be home, I gotta get, man.  I just gotta get.

  So, what I'm saying is, I'm leaving June 30th for a 2.5 day roadtrip with my dad.  We're driving me and whatever will fit into my car across the country to (a very very very hot) Arizona.  It will be at least for the summer, depending on how things go.  But it's all up to me, my choice.  My decision.  My future.

  Basically, I've just been listening to the Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron soundtrack on repeat and baking this trailer to pieces, trying to channel my inner something to push through with this.  Because if you know me at all, you'll know I hate decisions.  I hate 'em.  I hate the fact that no matter what you choose something will change or alter something else and yadda yadda yadda.  I'm a worrier, and I suck at making up my mind.  Now you know.  I've gotten better, I like to think, but you should know that I wrestled with this move and went back and forth on it a good 2 or 3 times before we finally bought my dad a one-way plane ticket to return and said that's that.  I'm going, goshdarnit.  I'm going to the terrain of Breaking Bad, to scorpions and cacti, away from my blissful rainy days (albeit the hell it wreaks on my hair), leaving behind both old and new friends for awhile.

  Am I crazy?  I don't know.  But I'm doing something, and however it turns out, I think it's experience I need that I couldn't gain any other way.

  I'm going to do my darnedest to keep up with blogging while I'm there.  You bet I'm packing up my camera and all my weird food props, my aunt is going to have to put up with me semi-taking over the kitchen and whatever good light sources I can find.  Because if there's one thing I know, it's that I need this outlet more than ever.  It killed me not having consistent posting during the school year.  I cursed every paper I wrote because it wasn't a blog post, it wasn't me typing about pretty cakes and cookies and whatever ramblings were going through my head.  I missed it dearly.  

  Meanwhile, I have a solid month or so to figure out logistics, pack, try not to binge on online shopping, and of course bake bake bake.  I have not left this trailer since Sunday and I am really starting to feel it.  I've kind of been hiding under a rock, because a lot has happened in previous weeks, and I'm determined that nothing will deter me from this adventure of mine.

  So I bake, write, play with the puppy, and spend the rest of the time on Pinterest and/or Spotify.  The amount of Netflix I have watched should be illegal.  Also, Molly's new book, get your hands on it like right now.  Opening a restaurant in the budding years of an early marriage?  I raise my glass to the both of them, and curse them for making me want pizza every time I pick that book up.  Also, the deep dark corners of Spotify are both disconcerting and full of hidden gems.  Ham Sandwich, an Irish Indy band whose song Ants resonates with me like none other right now, is kind of the best thing ever.  And Youth Lagoon will make you feel like daydreaming and writing, and just being pleasant.

  But that's all that stuff, what about cookies?  What about indeed.  First off, there's something you should know about my mother, a trait that she shares with my little sister, Lucy.  They are both fiercely independent individuals with very specific tastes.  Now, it depends on the subject with each of them, but suggesting things to either of them and gaining approval is one of the small victories in life that deserves a private celebration dance.  My greatest victory was suggesting the show Sherlock, which both are now considerably hooked on (self high-five).

Another of those feats was getting my mom onto Pinterest.  My mother brushed facebook away, gave twitter a trial and deemed it ridiculous, and tends to stick mainly to goodreads and email.  But now, we have our exciting evenings in the trailer sitting on our laptops and commenting on what each other has pinned.  Today she stuck her head into my room and asked whether or not the butter for those Joy the Baker cookies I had pinned needed to be set out to soften.

  So I made cookies today.  And no, the butter doesn't have to be softened, it needs to be melted down to a beautifully deep brown liquid.

  I've basically already found my dream cookie, but that has not stopped me from trying and posting several subsequent versions of the esteemed chocolate chip.  This one was quite different, the dough was extremely thick and a little on the dry side.  The result was cookies that were greatly heaped and didn't spread much, and were a bit more on the Chips Ahoy! side of the texture spectrum.  But, nonetheless, they are indeed delicious.  Toasted coconut and brown butter add incredible depth, and while there is a goodly bit of crunch on the outside, the middles are still quite soft, if you don't overbake them.

  I found that pressing down on the formed dough balls before baking encourages them to spread out a bit more, but I don't know how much of that is just me adjusting to my gas/non-convection oven.  Do what you will, whatever the shape they're sure to be delicious.

  And a quick S/O to some amazing parents/taste-testers.  In the past few months I have watched them relocate from our family's home, help my little sister adjust to the biggest change of her life, learn to cope with a new puppy, get my sisters and I through relationship issues that have sprung up, wrestle with finances, work their tails off trying to sell the old farm, and just deal with the general stresses of moving.  But here they are, still smiling, in a marriage that stands strong and knows how to find enjoyment in the little things; like sharing warm cookies.  

  I don't know what I'd do without them.  Well, actually I do, as heartless as that may initially sound.  I'd be the strong independent woman they raised me to be, because I've learned that they can't always be around.  So I value their time and the advice they have when I'm with them, and I'm sure I'll be taking advantage of the "keep calm and just call mom" card when I'm across the country job hunting in a few weeks.

  K yes mush fest done.  This post got long and I'd apologize but...I needed the length.  I've been inside my own head in a square of a room for almost a week.  I will ramble on about Phoenix and chocolate chip cookies as much as I have to to keep sane in the midst of this organized chaos.  Peace, readers, I have Pinterest boards and playlists to update.

  “It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
-Wendell Berry

Brown Butter Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: about 30 cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and browned to about 3/4 cup browned butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup toasted coconut (you can use sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the brown butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar.  Mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes, mixture will be grainy.  Add the egg and egg yolk and mix on medium speed until combined, mixture should smooth out.  Beat in the vanilla extract until combined.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Fold in the toasted coconut and chocolate chips with a spatula, dough will be very thick.

Roll or scoop the dough into tablespoon-size portions onto the prepared sheets, leaving a couple inches between each cookie.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.  You'll want the cookies to be getting golden but make sure the middle is still quite soft, that makes for a lovely center to balance out crispness.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  

Sources: barely adapted from Joy the Baker


Braided Pear Nutella Bread

  I'm sitting at my kitchen table eating sour blueberries trying to figure out what words I should stick on this page.  I keep getting up every five minutes to pull a bored adolescent dog out of whatever she's not supposed to be doing.  It's like having a kid around here, she's glaring at me from the corner and dragging her toy bone across the wall in defiance.  Oh, I see you, little curmudgeon.

  I'm at a loss for words because everything seems to be in upheaval lately.  There is no feeling settled, or sure.  My life has been stuck in a blender and somebody is mercilessly hitting the frappe button.
But I'm good, I'm excited!  I've been taking time to make decisions and let go of what is no longer good for me, and if that doesn't get me somewhere I don't know what will.  I feel like my 19-year-old summer is going to be one for the books.

  And in the midst of this upheaval, we have here one of the more challenging baking adventures I've had the time to take on in quite awhile.  When I heard that Joy the Baker is doing a Baking Bootcamp challenge, you'd best believe that I was down.  But, being that I am me and can't leave anything alone, I decided to adapt this bread on the very first get-go.  Pears and Nutella sounded amazing in a sweet yeasted bread, so I went for it.  This led to a minor kitchen catastrophe including me still learning to adjust to our new gas oven, taking beautiful pictures of a beautiful bread, going a little too heavy-handed on the pears, twisting my bread totally wrong, and cutting into the finished product only to reveal that the entire thing was raw inside.

  I made some mistakes, people.  A lot of 'em.  But it just so happens that the day I made this beast was also a day in which I wasn't taking crap from anyone, not even my kitchen.  I threw the raw scraps on the table for passersby to devour as they wished and tackled the mountain of dishes in the sink.  Pretty soon I was slapping more dough onto the table and braiding like nobody's business, I was determined to make this work.

  And it took me all danged day, but I did it.  And now that I've gone through hell for it, I promise this will be much easier on you.  I even took step-by-step pictures because visuals are good, and I want you to see that this is indeed possible.

  So, here we go, hold my hand and let's braid this sinfully delicious bread.

  We start off with a foamy, proofed yeast-milk mixture.  Into this mixture is dumped the dry ingredients, and we stir together to form a shaggy dough.

  This dough is turned onto a floured surface, and we get to gently knead it into a smooth, round ball of goodness.  This has got to be my absolute favorite part of baking, holding that perfect ball of dough in my hands.

  We place our baby into a greased bowl and cover lightly with plastic wrap, and after about an hour it is doubled in size.  Pretty easy so far, yes?  Yes.  Turn that risen dough onto a floured surface and knead it gently just a couple of times.

  Now things get real.  Roll the dough out into a rough 18x12-inch rectangle shape, spread it with Nutella and leave a 1-inch border so we can roll and seal this thing.  Next come the pears.  I know you love pears, but don't go heavy-handed with them or the dough's going to have trouble cooking thoroughly.  A scattering of thin-diced pears is all that is required.

  Here we go, we've rolled our baby into a log and tucked the ends under, and we've also turned it to face us vertically to make this easier.  Be gentle, Nutella likes to leak through tender yeast doughs, but don't fret if it does.  Life is messy, and this thing is going to be far from perfect, but it will be delicious.

  Now we do something rather odd, we have to cut our log in half, leaving 1-inch of the top attached for stability.  Be sure you're doing this on a cut-able surface, such as an old farm table with many battle scars from dedicated teenage bakers and young toddlers with forks.  After you've done that, turn the halves so the Nutella-pear filling faces upward and it's ready to be braided (didn't picture that part, but you get the gist, it's not hard to turn them up to face you).

  Swift hands lift the left strand continuously over the right strand to form this crazy-looking braid.  It's normal for you to have to reorient this thing as you twist it.  Pinch the ends together to seal.

  Now we join the ends of the braid together and pinch to seal into a lovely wreath shape.  Now take a moment to breathe and pat yourself on the back.  You just braided bread, yo.

  Now we have to disrupt this wreath and lift it into our prepared pan.  Just take a deep breath and don't let your fear show, use both hands to slip your baby into its greased little home.  Brush it with an egg and send it off to the oven.

  A half hour later and you are rewarded with a beautifully browned mass of sweet yeasted bread, just oozing with Nutella and tender chunks of pear.  Go you, you're an absolute rock star.

  Check out Joy's post with info on how to enter a King Arthur Flour giveaway just by trying your hand at this bread before June 22nd, she also has much nicer step-by-step photos and an alternative berry-cinnamon filling that I decided to change up.  This bread is totally possible, and I am so glad I gave it a second chance so that it could be just right for you.  

Braided Pear Nutella Bread
Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients for the dough:
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant or active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, lukewarm
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the filling:
  • 1 heaping cup Nutella
  • 1 heaping cup of pear, cut into 1/2 inch dice (I used Green Anjou pears)
  • 1 large egg, beaten for egg wash
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

In a medium bowl, stir together the yeast, sugar, and milk.  Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, until foamy and frothy.  Whisk in the egg yolk and melted butter. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  Pour the milk mixture over the dry ingredients and stir together until a rough dough is formed.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until the dough springs back when lightly touched.  Shape into a ball and place in a large, greased bowl.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.  

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and grease a 10-inch cast iron skillet (alternatively, you can use a 10-inch springform pan, or a 10-inch cake pan with 3-inch sides).

Place the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead twice.  Roll the dough into a rough rectangular shape of about 18x12 inches.  Place the Nutella in a small microwavable bowl and heat for about 30 seconds to make it more spreadable.  Spread the Nutella over the prepared dough, leaving a 1-inch or so border around the sides.  Evenly distribute the chopped pear.  

Starting at the longest side of the dough closest to you, begin to roll the dough into a bumpy log.  Be sure to finish with the seam side down.  Tuck the ends of the log underneath.  With a sharp knife, cut the log in half down its middle, leaving 1 inch of the edge uncut.

Braid the two pieces by carefully lifting the left strand over the right strand, repeating this motion and adjusting as necessary until you have reached the bottom.  Press together to seal.  Join together the two ends to form a wreath shape, and press together.  Using two swift hands, lift the wreath into the prepared pan.  Brush the dough with the beaten egg.  

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling.  Allow to cool for 30 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar and serving.

Sources: adapted from Joy the Baker