Cinnamon-Swirl Bread

I really dig cinnamon bread. I think it’s the gooey cinnamon swirl, melted butter and rising yeast, and cinnamon-sugar crust that lures me in. There is just something about it that says, “homey deliciousness” to me. You agree?

When I make this bread–which is fairly often–Erick and I always say, “we should totally make french toast with this!”  Every time, because we’re so proud of our ingenious thinking, we act as if it’s the first time we’ve ever come-up with this brilliant scheme. Erick usually says, “Epic.” And I squeal like a 13 year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Food gets us really excited in the Horrmann household.

While this is a great idea in theory, it never works. We always eat the bread before it has a chance to get dipped and thrown in the pan. Someday. Maybe someday. Gotta have goals in life people.

This recipe is from the Sono Baking Company. It’s this bakery somewhere in Connecticut. My youngest brother bought this cookbook for me this past Christmas and I haven’t stopped baking since. If you’re looking for an amazingly well-written, semi-advanced, but simple baking book — this is my recommendation. John (he’s the baker who wrote the book) has made me a better baker. Truly.

Okay, I’ve plugged the book enough. Happy baking.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Dough:

3/4 cup warm milk
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup pus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon coarse salt
6 1/2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
2/3 cup raisins (optional)

Filling:

2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 large egg, beaten, for egg wash
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

To make the dough: In a small bowl, pour the warm milk over the yeast and let proof for 5 minutes. Make sure it gets bubbly.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the flours, sugar, salt, and butter and beat on low speed until the butter breaks down and dissolves completely in the dry ingredients, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the yeast mixture and the water and beeat on low speed until the flour is absorbed and the ingredients are well combined, 1 to 2 minutes. The dough should be tacky but not sticky when you touch it. It should be damp enough that the dough still attaches a bit to the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too dry, it will collect around the paddle–add water by the tablespoon. (Err on the side of too much water; you can always add more flour as you knead.)

Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface. Knead by scooping the dough up from underneath with the thumb and the first tow fingers of each hand, then folding it over on itself. Give it a quarter-turn and repeat. As the gluten develops, the flour absorbs moisture; as you work it, the dough will pull together into a ball and become less tacky. Knead for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and springy. Pat the dough into a 9-inch round. Sprinkle with the raisins, and knead briefly to incorporate. Stretching it gently, fold in the left and right sides to the center, then the top and bottom. Place the dough, smooth side down, into a lightly oiled bowl, then turn the dough over so that both sides are coated with oil. Cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until increased in bulk by 1 1/2 times and very soft, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Deflate the dough and turn the dough in the bowl so the smooth side faces up. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again in a warm place until increased in bulk by 1 1/2 times, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, to make the filling: Stir together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Measure out 1/3 cup to sprinkle on the finished loaf; reserve it separately.

Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface, smooth side facing down. Gently stretch it to flatten it to a rectangle, about 6 by 14 inches, with a short side at the bottom. Make sure that the edges are not too thick, or you’ll end up with a loaf that sloped down in the center. Brush with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar filling, allowing a 1-inch border at the top and bottom. Rolling from the top, roll the loaf as tightly as you can into a log. Gently press the seams together. Place the loaf seam side down in a buttered 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until the loaf is increased in bulk by 1 1/2 times and has risen over the top of the pan, 30 to 45 minutes.

Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet, place it in the oven, and immediately reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees. Bake, rotating the sheet about two-thirds of the way through the baking time, until the crust is evenly golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 40-45 minutes. Turn the loaf out immediately, on its side, onto a wire rack to cool.

Brush the cooled loaf all over with the melted butter, and sprinkle with the reserved 1/3 cup cinnamon-sugar mixture. Transfer to a wire rack and let stand until the sugar dries, about 30 minutes.

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