Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Do not be daunted by what appears to be a very very long recipe. It is worth every step. The delayed gratification in this baking endeavor is analogous to the very very long drive KP and I are about to make to New Orleans, worth every mile, worth each second of 18 hours. Izzy has packed all of her toys and snacks, our costumes are both “in the works” –I can’t wait to reveal the final product. For a hint of mine: if you were to eat the following loaf of bread every day, my costume would be angry with you. If you were Izzy, you would want to eat my costume…see? It is hanging from the ceiling here, but just a peek.

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Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Adapted from Baking Illustrated

For Bread Dough

1/2 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast

1/2 cup warm water – about 110 degrees

1/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 1/4 – 3 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface

For Filling

1/4 cup brown sugar

5 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup raisins

milk, for brushing

For Glaze

1 large egg

2 teaspoons milk

Make the Dough

Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave until the butter melts. Cool until warm, about 11o degrees.

Meanwhile, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle. Beat in the sugar and eggs and mix at low speed to blend. Add the salt, lukewarm milk mixture, and 2 cups of the flour; mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Switch to the dough hook and add 1 1/4 cups more flour and knead at medium-low speed, adding more flour sparingly if the dough sticks to the sides of the bowl, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

(Variation: if you don’t have a mixer, feel free to mix the dough with a wooden spoon. When the dough comes together, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 12 to 15 minutes, adding more flour if necessary.)

Turn the dough onto a work surface and squeeze the tough with a dry, clean hand. If the dough is sticky, knead in up to 1/2 cup more flour to form a smooth, soft, elastic dough. Transfer the dough to a very lightly oiled large. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. (The ideal rising temperature for this dough is 75 degrees). After the rise, punch down the center of the dough once. (At this point, the dough can be refrigerated, covered, up to 18 hours). Making sure not to fold the dough, turn it onto an unfloured work surface; let the dough rest about ten minutes.

Make the Filling

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins in a small bowl.

Roll, Fill, and shape the Dough 

Press the dough neatly into an evenly shaped 8 x 6 inch rectangle. WIth a short side of the dough facing you, roll the dough with a rolling pin into an evenly shaped 18 x 8 inch rectangle and be sure to flour the work surface so it does not stick. Brush the dough liberally with the milk. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border on the far side. Starting at the side closest to you, roll up the dough, pinching the dough gently with your fingertips to make sure it is tightly sealed. To keep the loaf from stretching beyond 9 inches, push the ends in occasionally with your hands as you roll the dough. When you finish rolling, pinch the seam tightly to secure it. With the seam-side facing up, push in the center of both ends. Firmly pinch the dough at either end together to seal the sides of the loaf.

Place the loaf, seam side down, into the prepared pan; press lightly to flatten. Cover the top of the pan loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise. Let rise until the dough is 1 inch above the top of the pan, about 1 1/2 hours, or about 1 hour longer if the dough has been refrigerated. As the dough nears the top of the pan, adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the Glaze and Bake the Loaf

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Gently brush the top of the loaf with the egg mixture.

Bake until the loaf is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted at an angle from the short end just above the pan rim into the center of the loaf reads 185 to 190 degrees, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on its side on a wire rack until room temperature, at least 45 minutes. (The bread can be double-wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for 4 days or frozen up to 3 months).

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Watch out for the filling on this one. I definitely overdosed the cinnamon (while watching Flight—irony?) an error which was, to my gracious cup bearers, Janelle and KP, an unexpected mouthful of spicy chalk. Oops. But the bread part was fabulous. Should have rolled it out thinner and made more coils in the interior—but oh well, we live and learn! 4 stars. When you catch yourself eating a loaf of bread the same way you bite into an apple, you know it’s good.

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