I’ve only talked about Loki a few times on here, but I’m sure that I’ve made it clear that I’m pretty much devoted to him.
I think that when it comes to soul mates, we don’t get just one. I mean, I think we just get one of each kind, but there’s, like, a variety of soul mates for each of us. You know, there’s the ever important spouse-y soul mate, and there’s the bestie soul mate, of course. I mean, those two are pretty much given. But I just know that we all get more than that. Like, there’s definitely the shopping soul mate. Some people might assume that this is actually one and the same with the bestie soul mate, but I’m pretty sure that I have another friend who isn’t actually my bestie, but who is the funnest person in all the malls to go shopping with.
I’m completely confident that Loki is my four-legged, furry, adorable, K-9 soul mate. No doubt about it. He’s not just awesome, either, he’s a really good boy. I mean, if he gets ahold of a tissue of any kind, he will shred it, but I don’t hold it against him. It’s like crack for him…he can’t help himself. Who am I to judge? I have my own bad habits, after all.
Anyway, he never runs off. The one and only time he ever left our yard without us, he was attacked by a big old German Shepard who was clearly PMS-ing. Loki just wanted to say hi, maybe play around in the yard a little bit, but she was eating and went all psycho on his ass. Look, I get it. I know when I’m PMS-ing that I’ll go all exorcist on you if you even look sideways at my chocolate. She can’t really be held responsible for her actions. Loki wasn’t really hurt, just shaken and scared, but he never left our yard alone again.
During my entire stay at my sister’s, he never once slipped out of the back yard with his furry cousins when the gate was inadvertently left open. It was always funny to walk outside and see him sitting just inside the gate, staring out and watching his cousins. I can just picture him saying, “You’ll get in trouble. I wouldn’t go if I were you.”
Then, one day, Piper squeezed out of the barely open gate. Loki loves Piper. She’s a pretty, white Westie, and he’s a handsome, white Bichon…they’re so cute running around together.
But she’s a bad influence. She escaped and she turned around and totally peer pressured the Lokmeister to go for a little run with her. She was all, “Come on, man. They’ll never know! We’ll be back before they even notice that we left. Don’t be a chicken…I have the coolest stash of cat poop to show you. It’s only two streets over. Come on!”
Well, unfortunately, she had him at “cat poop.”
It only took about five minutes of calling for them before they returned, but I swear to you, it was like five hours. Have you ever noticed just how long five minutes really is?! It’s insane. I was terrified. After all, it was morning time, and people were on their way to work, driving all half asleep while they put make up on, drink their scalding coffee, and text their kids about getting them after school. Who is going to notice two little white puppies out for a stroll on their own?!
Anyway, I turned the corner and there they are, running down this little side street, the sun rising behind them, big old toothy grins on their little faces like this was the most wonderful day EVAH.
In retrospect, it’s hilarious, but at the time, I was just so relieved, I didn’t laugh.
Fortunately, my naughty puppy niece apparently knows her way around, and kept my doe eyed little boy away from the harder parts of the neighborhood. I will never forget how funny they looked running towards me, though. Loki was all, “HI MOM!! I just had the BEST TIME EVAH! We went exploring, and I saw NEW yards, and DIFFERENT trees, and even a NEW sign post to pee on! And the sun is shining and my friend Piper showed me her cat poop stash! It. Was. AWESOME!!”
Meanwhile, Piper had slowed to a walk and veered off to hide from me behind a tree. She knew she shouldn’t have led her innocent cousin astray, and she wasn’t about to just walk up and be all, “Heyyyy, Aunt Darla. How’s it hangin’?”
I was so relieved to see them both safe, that I only grounded her for a little while, though. Then I wired the gates closed so that I would never have to go through this again.
And I ate some bread. Like, 12 or 14 pieces, but I think I deserved it. It was a scary morning.
Really scary. So I had super special vanilla swirl bread.
If you’ve never had vanilla sugar, you are missing out. Big time. I had vanilla sugar for the first time a few years ago, when we ordered some from Penzey’s Spices. It’s so beautiful; it’s slightly cream colored with these pretty little specks of vanilla seeds sprinkled throughout. And it makes the most amazing toast in the whole world. I love a thick piece of toasted bread, slathered with salty, melted butter, and sprinkled with lots of fragrant vanilla sugar. So. Good.
Vanilla sugar is expensive, though. And this recipe requires quite a lot (1/3 cup, plus 1/2 cup). Fortunately, there’s lots of great tutorials all over the interwebs that show you how to make your very own vanilla sugar.
Just in case you want to save your precious vanilla sugar, though (and I can’t say that I blame you), you can also make this with just a little vanilla sugar, and a little plain sugar, plus some extra vanilla extract. I’ve included the substitutions in the recipe.
Brush the dough with a little milk and sprinkle on lots of vanilla sugar. The more the merrier. Trust me.
Use the technique here for lining your loaf pan(s) with parchment.
These mini loaves only baked for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees, but a full loaf will bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
I honestly wasn’t sure how this would be. I mean, one of my very favorite treats is vanilla sugar toast, so I was pretty sure it’d be amazing, but I had no idea it would be this good. I mean, it’s seriously delectable. It doesn’t need anything either. Slice it, serve it. Done. It’s that good.
The bread itself has a sweet, rich, light crumb, and the swirl of vanilla sugar that runs through the middle is irresistible. It’s not just a fantastic tasting bread, either. It looks beautiful when it comes out of the oven, and gorgeous inside when you slice it.
Just look at all those lovely little vanilla seeds. Had I used vanilla sugar in the main part of this loaf, then the crumb of the bread would be beautifully speckled with more seeds. This is a rich loaf of bread, not just in flavor, but in ingredients, so I save it for special occasions. Vanilla sugar is expensive, so if you’re unable to make your own, then I highly recommend using regular sugar and adding extra vanilla extract instead. The loaves that I made with all vanilla sugar were more fragrant, and had a stronger vanilla flavor than the ones with regular sugar, but the plain sugar loaves were still absolutely delightful.
I never understood why people call dull things “vanilla.” I think vanilla is anything but boring. It’s delicate and understated, and completely classic, but never, ever boring.
Next time you want a special, unexpected treat, try this bread. You will be so very happy that you did. Enjoy!
Vanilla Swirl Bread [Printable Version]
Makes 1 9-inch loaf
FOR THE BREAD DOUGH
3 1/2 – 4 cups (445 to 508 grams) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (67 grams) vanilla sugar (or plain sugar, for less cost)
2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry or instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 57 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup (125 ml) hot water
1/2 cup (125 ml) milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla (double if using plain sugar)
FOR THE FILLING
1/2 cup (100 grams) vanilla sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) milk
To make the bread dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer with the dough hook attached, combine 3 1/2 cups (445 grams) of the flour with the sugar, yeast, and salt.
In a small bowl, combine the butter pieces and the hot water. Stir until the butter is completely melted, then stir in the milk. Whisk the eggs into the mixture and stir in the vanilla extract.
Turn the mixer on low and add the egg mixture. Increase the speed to medium low and continue mixing until a dough forms. Once the dough comes together, scrape the bowl, increase the speed to medium high, and knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough just sticks to the bottom center of the bowl and the dough is smooth and elastic. If is still very sticky after 5 minutes, add more flour, a little at a time, until the dough is less sticky.
Spray a medium bowl with non stick spray and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled (1 1/2 to 2 hours).
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch down the center of the dough and allow it to rest for 10 minutes (at this point, you can refrigerate the dough, covered, overnight).
Turn the rested bread dough out onto a countertop and flatten into a 12″ by 18″ rectangle. Brush the dough with milk, leaving a 1 inch border around the outside edge. Sprinkle all of the vanilla sugar on the dough. Tightly roll the dough into a loaf shape, pinch the seam closed, and place seam side down in a 9″ x 4″ loaf pan. Cover with a clean dry towel and allow to double in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees (180 C). Once the dough has risen, bake for 30-40 minutes or until the bread reaches 190 degrees inside. Allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack before serving.
Recipe by Darla