Thursday, April 7

Prof D - {Orange Pull-Apart Bread}

Prof D had a unique way of distributing graded papers. With a controlled flick of his wrist, the stapled sheets spun effortlessly over our desktops, stopping with a quiet shuffle as they reached our chests.

As a professor, and as I'm sure you'd guess, he was quite casual. I spent a lot of time hanging out with him before and after class discussing everything from music to politics, enjoying the fact that he - my very first college professor - respected me enough as a student to get to know me.

But our friendship was a turbulent. Prof D and I had very little in common apart from our sharp tongues and sense of humor, which made for some pretty intense conversations and debates. He liked to start with his involvement in radical/extremist groups as a 20-something, using it as a springboard to get my opinions on ethics and politics, only to challenge them seconds later. But Prof D wasn't arrogant. Although true that we rarely saw eye-to-eye, he was just interested in letting me see things from another perspective. He was passionate enough to make himself remarkably clear in conversation, but refined and collected enough to do so without being obtrusive or overwhelming. He was the only person I'd encountered in my academic career that had ever really made me think.

That said, it took me awhile to warm up to him. Our banter didn't develop until the third or fourth week of class, and he maintained a level of seriousness up to that point that was frightening to a freshman. The first essay he'd ever spent spinning my way had been painted red with ink, marked with a big, fat 1.0 (we use a 4.0 scale at MSU) and stopped at my chest like a speeding car splatting a bug. It was my first college paper, and being graded so brutally made me anxious and apprehensive for both the assignments to come and my relationship-to-be with this seemingly horrid person.

As my classmates shuffled out of class that morning, I sat, dejected, in my seat. I made an effort to piece together my shattered confidence while backpacks zipped and binders snapped shut around me, but it was impossible. Watching the last student leave, I panicked because I wasn't prepared to approach my new and confounding professor to discuss the grade. The words were in my head, but there was no way I could ever vocalize them and challenge his word. What could I, a worthless and inexperienced freshman, possibly say?

"Kaitlin?" His voice pulled me from the frantically spiraling depths of my mind and back to the classroom. "Can I talk to you?"


Sheepishly glancing up, I noticed that his features were not, as I had expected, laced with disappointment. It made meeting his eyes with mine - fleetingly widened with fear and uncertainty - an absolute relief. It was then that I discovered the sincerity and care he'd been concealing beneath his beginning-of-the-year professor mask. There was no anger in his expression; only compassion and understanding.

"I can tell you're not the kind of person who gets grades like this," he said flatly while shifting his gaze to the painted essay on my desk, "so I want to explain myself. You've got a lot of talent - I can tell - but I want to see you grow. I want to see where you can get by the end of this semester, and I want to help make it happen."

I was floored by his kindness and honesty and knew immediately that this would be a turning point not only for the way I viewed academics, but also in how I saw my life. I was, again, at a loss for words, but I composed myself, thanked him and accepted the challenge.

As the semester progressed, I found myself placing an increasing amount of importance on his approval. I worked hard for his class, and got more out of it - a simple 100-level writing course - than I have out of any other I've taken thus far. In one semester, Prof D changed the way I think about everything.

I can't thank him enough.

Orange Pull-Apart Bread slightly adapted from No Special Effects
The original recipe calls for lemons, but I didn't have any, so I went with oranges. What I love about this bread (apart from its buttery goodness) is that unlike most "orange" baked goods, this one actually tastes like orange.

Printable Recipe

Sweet Dough

2 1/2 c (350g) flour, divided, plus additional for kneading
1/4 c (50g) sugar
2 1/4 tsp (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbls (75g) milk
1/2 c (110g) butter, divided and softened
1/4 c (60g) water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, room temp

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups (284g) of the flour, the sugar, the yeast and the salt. Set aside.

Put 4 tablespoons of the butter and all of the milk in a small bowl. Microwave, stirring occasionally, just until the butter melts. Allow to cool about 1 minute, then add the water and vanilla.

Pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredients and, using a spatula or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir until evenly combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until fully incorporated before continuing. If using a stand mixer, replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Add the remaining 1/2 cup (71g) of flour and mix until smooth. If the dough seems to sticky, add 2-3 more tablespoons of flour. Knead until smooth, about five to ten minutes in a mixer or by hand on a well-floured surface.

Place the kneaded dough in a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. In the meantime, prepare the orange paste filling (recipe follows) and oil + line a standard-size bread pan.

After the dough has risen, roll it out on a well-floured surface into a 20 x 12 inch rectangle. Spread the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over the entire surface, then evenly sprinkle over the orange paste filling, pressing gently to adhere. Cut the dough into five 4 x 12 inch strips, then stack them all on top of each other so that you have alternating layers of dough and filling. Cut the stack into six smaller 2 X 4 inch pieces. Take the cut stacks and place them in the prepared bread pan with the just-cut 4" sides facing up. Use your fingers or a butter knife to fan out the layers a little, if necessary.

Cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap and set aside to double in bulk, about one hour. While you are waiting, preheat the oven to 350F.

Bake the loaf for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and allow to cool completely. Drizzle with glaze (recipe follows), if desired, and let set before enjoying.

Orange Paste Filling

1/2 c (100g) sugar
4 Tbls orange zest, from 2-3 oranges

Place the sugar and zest in a bowl and rub the sugar between your fingers until very fragrant and moist. It should resemble wet sand.

Quick Glaze

A splash of milk
Powdered sugar

Pour the milk into a bowl and sift powdered sugar over the top. Whisk to combine and add enough powdered sugar to form a thick glaze. Pour over the cooled loaf.


  1. OMG, this looks amazing! I love orange-y sweets!

  2. Delicious! And how good to have a professor willing to get involved and push you to be your best. That's true passion for the job!

  3. What a sweet tribute to Prof D! I can't imagine you getting a 1.0 -- such lovely writing. I'm glad it was an edifying experience for you. You can always choose how to react and use situations in your life, and you made the very best choice in choosing to grow!

    I'm seen cinnamon pull apart bread, but never orange. I'm dying to eat at least half of this "loaf" :) It sounds heavenly.

  4. That bread looks so yummy! Your pictures are great too. I haven't ever had orange bread but it looks so good that I may have to give it a shot.

  5. This looks so good you had me drooling over my keyboard. Honestly, I hesitate to make this as I know my weaknesses. I'd spend the rest of the day guiltily devouring the loaf while lying to my kids that the recipe stunk and I threw it in the trash.

  6. A Prof D is an important person to meet in your post secondary experience. Mine was a Prof B, not so eloquent, it seems, but just as important.

  7. Look so yummy. I would like this for brakfast now :)

  8. Maybe if you give Prof D some if this bread, you'll get a higher grade ;)

  9. What a great story! And kudos for being so honest. This bread looks truly outstanding.

  10. Alright. That's it. I NEED to make one of these.

  11. i've loved orange things that are sweet ever since i had orange cinnamon rolls when i was a kid. saving this recipe right away with!

  12. This is a beautiful bread photo. I noticed it on Tastespotter. Then, I was taken in by your story. Wonderful post.

  13. That looks so good. I love pull apart breads.

  14. This looks so good! I've never tried a pull-apart bread before, but I'm dying to eat at least 3/4 of that one. I'm glad you found a positive experience in your academics and that you continue to grow from it. You can only go up from here, right? :)

  15. I made the lemon version of this bread last year and it was so good! I bet orange would be delicious too. Gorgeous photos :)

  16. Looks so great with the icing, here in Switzerland, I have never seen a pull-apart bread

  17. Yum! This seems like the perfect treat on a nice spring day. :)

  18. In school, I got really used to putting in minimal effort but acing everything. Until I met a teacher like yours. Funny how the ones that filled us with the most dread and anxiety could benefit us so many times more than the ones who wanted to be a "friend", chat about pop culture, and stamp As on everything... Great post, K.

  19. Your professor sounds amazing. It's so great to meet teachers who truly inspire - it feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

  20. I graduated from MSU's writing program - and I'm trying to figure out which professor this would have been! It's not an overly large program and I had repeat professors multiple times!

    Also - crazy how many seriously awesome bakers live in this city. :)

  21. Thanks for all the kind comments, guys!

    Malis, I had such a hard time restraining myself :P It's so easy to tear off just one more slice....

    Mackenzie, I never thought to bake anything for him. You're right, I totally should have!

    Sophistimom, let me know how it goes! I hope you love it :)

    Stella, I'm glad that you can relate. I was completely used to just skating by, too. His class was frustrating, but it was SO worth it.

    Julie Lynn, to be completely honest, Prof D wasn't a professor - he was a grad student. He just happened to teach a classroom full of freshmen who didn't know/care about the difference. When we weren't calling him Prof, we called him by various forms of his last name. His class was soooooo casual :P

  22. YUM! Just found your amazing blog!!! New follower!
    - Jessica @

  23. I made this over the weekend. It was AMAZING! I usually bake something, eat one piece and then take it to work so I don't eat the whole thing. This one I kept at home cause I didn't want to give it up.

  24. I loved the idea of this recipe so I had a go at it. but when I got to the cutting up of the dough and layering it up I didn't really understand what I was doing.
    With hilarious consequence...

    I had a look on No Special Effects and found the illustration and then it ALL MADE SENSE.
    and now I feel totally dumb....
    however, I will give it another go this week as I've loads of oranges left.

    thanks for the recipe
    It still tastes delicious. Even if it is the UGLIEST thing I ever baked. heh.

  25. allll of your creations looks marvelous..especially that orange pull apart cake...yum!!

  26. I made this for my family's Mother's Day celebration... a total hit. I had my family eating out of the palm of my hand (not literally). Thanks for the awesome recipe! I can't wait to win the love of more people with it ;)

  27. I'm so glad that you guys like this recipe!!!

    Faye, that's totally awesome :D

  28. I'm surprised to hear that you are only 20 years old. You write beautifuly and I'm glad that I spotted your site. Wonderful photography and interesting content.

  29. fantastic food always AND metric system! Now that's a combination I adore. A huge GRAZIE on behalf of all European food lovers! ;O)

  30. Thanks for this recipe Kaitlin! I made it yesterday for a birthday dinner and it was much complemented and easy to make. I really appreciate that you've included the weight of the ingredients - it makes baking so much faster.

  31. You guys are so wonderfully sweet. Thank you!

    Monica, I am so very happy to hear that!

  32. Kaitlin, I made this last night, and it was amazing! We ate the entire loaf today. Thanks for the recipe.


    1. Yay! That's fantastic! I'm glad you liked it so much!

  33. Thanks so much for the recipe. We featured it in our weekly food trend blog post. You can check it out here. Thanks again!

  34. Could you use orange juice in the dough to make it even more orangey?

    1. You could, but you might have to add more flour to compensate. I think extract may be the way to go :)


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