For the bread:
3 cups Whole Wheat flour
2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 tsp. fine salt (use 3/4 tsp. if using salted butter)
3/4 cup TruMoo whole milk, warmed to lukewarm
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 Eggland’s Best egg
1/2 cup homemade or store-bought maple butter (*alternately, you could use a maple sugar/butter filling)
1 Tbsp. maple sugar, for topping before baking (or regular white or brown sugar)
2 Tbsp. maple butter, warmed to thin, for drizzle
For the Homemade Maple Butter:
1 cup maple syrup (preferably No. 2 Medium/Amber grade)
3/4 cup Kerrygold unsalted butter, cut in to cubes
To make the maple butter: In a medium-large saucepan, add maple syrup and pinch of salt. Heat maple syrup over high heat until boiling (*be sure to use a large-ish pan, as syrup will boil up about double or more). Attach or insert thermometer and boil until syrup reaches 240° F. Immediately remove from heat and stir in butter until it’s completely melted.
Pour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer or alternately, use a large bowl with a hand mixer. Start on low speed and gradually increase speed until you reach high. Continue to beat on high until mixture is lightened and creamy, about 8-10 minutes total. Mixture should be the consistency of a creamy caramel sauce. Pour into a jar or bowl, cover and refrigerate.
For the bread: Grease an 8 1/2×4-inch loaf pan and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Set aside.
(*If using traditional dry active yeast, proof the yeast in your warm milk, rather than adding with the flour). In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a kneading hook, add 2 cups of the flour, the yeast and salt. Heat the milk to lukewarm in a small saucepan or in a bowl in the microwave. Add the maple syrup and melted butter and stir to combine. Stir in the egg (*make sure your mixture isn’t so hot it might cook the egg!). Add this mixture to the bowl with the flour and mix to combine.
Start adding flour 1/4 cup at a time at first and then a Tbsp. at a time until you have a smooth dough that cleans the sides of the bowl. The dough should not be sticky. Remove the dough to a floured surface and knead lightly, then place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.
Once dough has risen, remove to a floured surface and roll in to a 15 x 16-inch rectangle. Take your 1/2 cup of maple butter and warm lightly in the microwave (5 seconds), to make it easier to spread. If it gets too thin, just allow it to cool a bit. Spread an even layer over the dough (again, if it’s really thin, let is cool a bit before stacking, to avoid a runny, sticky situation). Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut your dough in to 3×4-inch pieces (you should have 20 pieces when you’re done). Stack up 5 pieces and place in the prepared loaf pan, standing them upright. Repeat with another stack of 5 pieces and stand them up next to the first stack. Repeat with 2 more stacks of 5 pieces. Arrange them as best you can, spacing them out a bit and trying to keep them as upright as possible. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise until they are puffy and have risen above the sides of the pan.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350° F.
When dough is ready to bake, if desired, sprinkle top with maple sugar or a bit of regular sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pan front to back. You may also wish to loosely cover the top with foil if it is brown enough already. Continue baking another 10-15 minutes, until it reaches a temperature of at least 195° F.
Allow to cool in the pan until warm, then remove. Warm a few tablespoons of maple butter and drizzle over the top.