One of my favorite bakeries in Cambridge is Hi Rise Bread Company right outside of Harvard Square. They make excellent sandwiches and their breads are incredible. My all time favorite item there is their elusive vanilla loaf. This loaf is absolutely amazing. It has a gorgeous crust that I just can't stop eating. The sugar crystallizes a bit on the edges while baking, giving the loaf an amazing slightly burnt sugar buttery crusty edge. It's hard to explain, but it's oh so good.
When I wrote my wistfully dreamy post about Hi Rise Bread Company a few months ago, more than one person wrote to me telling me that an adaptation of the vanilla loaf recipe was available. I was so excited!
It took awhile to gather the ingredients together (especially the vanilla beans and the vanilla sugar), but once I had everything I couldn't wait to make my favorite loaf!
You will need 3 vanilla beans for this loaf, which makes this loaf relatively expensive to make. I was able to pick up vanilla beans at Costco for about $1 a bean (I had to buy 10). I also saw them at the local grocery store for $5 each. So, the prices do vary.
You have to plan a few days in advance for this bread, since one of the ingredients is vanilla sugar. This just involves splitting open a vanilla bean and putting it in a container of sugar (2-3 cups) for a few days.
For a printable version of the recipe, click here.
Adapted from Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge, MA, via Amanda Hesser
(makes 2 loaves)
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (upper left photo). Scrape the first vanilla bean and get all the seeds into the bowl, along with the vanilla extract (upper right).Add the eggs one by one and beat to combine (lower left). Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and fold in, mixing minimally with a rubber spatula, until just combined (lower right).
Divide the batter between the loaf pans. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the pans and bake another 25-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out almost clean.
While the loaves bake, make syrup. In a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat. Note: it takes a while to dissolve the sugar since the ratio makes a pretty concentrated sugar solution. Just be patient and keep watching the solution - don't make burnt sugar here! Add the vanilla beans and seeds and stir a little to loosen the seeds. Remove pan from heat.
When the loaves are done, cool them for 10 minutes in the pan on a rack, and then turn them out onto the rack.
Brush the loaves generously on all sides with the syrup. Repeat the brushing with syrup a few more times as the loaves cool. Note: I did not have a brush, but I was able to successfully spoon small amounts of vanilla syrup over the bread.
This loaf is delicious, but it's not the same as the Hi Rise Bakery vanilla loaf. This loaf is a little less sweet and less dense. It's fluffier - a bit more cake-like and less pound cake-like than the original Hi Rise version.
Considering that this recipe already involves 8 eggs and 3 sticks of butter, it's a bit scary to imagine what more must be added to make the denser and sweeter Hi Rise loaf!
In any event, this loaf is still very good and I still can't stop eating it. I've been having it every morning with a nice cup of espresso. The espresso is the perfect balance to the buttery, rich cake. This loaf still has the signature burnt sugar crusty edge that I love, and it has a deliciously strong, fragrant vanilla flavor.
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