A mom's journal of the sweet things in her life...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I've definitely been getting a bit braver when it comes to baking with yeast. My failures still outnumber my successes, none of which I've bothered to blog about. I'm not too proud to admit my failures but I don't see the point in recanting them here, when this where I look to reproduce my favorite recipes. But this recipe, was definitely a success. The recipe came from Cook's Illustrated, and I baked this bread on day two of the flu/cold virus that had claimed both my children and kept them at home from school. Which, surprisingly, freed up my time, as they were basically zombies on the couch and I didn't have to leave the house to pick them up from school and cart them off to their usual activities. Had that not been the case, I definitely couldn't have tackled this recipe on a weekday. It was definitely time-consuming in the way of 'waiting'. Plus said virus hadn't yet claimed me as another victim - at least not at the time that I baked this bread, but it did shortly thereafter.
This recipe is perfect for a Sunday project, or on another day when you know you'll be home. Don't be intimidated by the long instructions. I promise, it's easier than it looks and it's so worth the time. I've even provided step-by-step pictures in case you're like me and take great comfort in seeing what it's supposed to look like. I modified the recipe by omitting the raisins, but have provided the recipe as written in case you're a freak and actually like raisins in your bread. ; )
Cinnamon Swirl Bread
(Source: Cook's Illustrated | April 2012)
For the Dough:
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 1/4 cups (20.5 ounces) bread flour, plus extra
3/4 cup (2.25 ounces) nonfat dry milk powder
1/3 cup (2.33 ounces) granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) warm water (110 degrees)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. salt 
1 1/2 cup (7.5 ounces) golden raisins *optional (I omitted)
For the Filling:
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioner's sugar
3 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
For the Egg Wash:
1 egg, lightly beaten
pinch of salt
For the dough: Cut butter into 32 pieces and toss with 1 Tbsp. of the flour. Set aside to soften while mixing dough. Whisk remaining flour, milk powder,sugar and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add water and egg using the dough hook on medium low speed until a cohesive mass forms (about 2 minutes), scraping bowl as necessary. Cover with plastic and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and place loaf or cake pan on bottom of oven. Remove plastic from mixer bowl, add salt and mix on medium low speed until dough is smooth and elastic and clears the sides of the bowl (7 to 15 minutes). With mixer still running, add butter a few pieces at a time and continue to mix until butter is fully incorporated and dough is smooth and elastic, 3 to 5 minutes longer. (If you're adding raisins do so now, mixing until incorporated about 30 to 60 seconds). Transfer dough to large greased bowl and fold dough over itself by gently lifting the edge of the dough and folding towards the middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees, fold again and continue turning and folding until you have folded 8 times total. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to middle rack of oven. Pour 3 cups of boiling water into the loaf pan in the bottom of the oven, close oven door and allow to rise for 45 minutes.
Remove bowl from oven and gently press down on dough to deflate. Repeat folding step (another 8 times), re-cover, and return to oven until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
For the filling: Whisk filling ingredients together until well-combined; set aside.
Grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pans. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and divide into 2 pieces. (If you have a scale - it's best to use to ensure even loaves). Working with one piece of dough, pat into a rough 6 x 11 inch rectangle.
With the short side facing you, fold sides in like a business letter to form a 3 x 11 inch rectangle.
Roll dough away from you into a ball. Dust with flour, flatten with rolling pin into a 7 x 18 inch rectangle (with even 1/4 inch thickness).
Using spray bottle, spray dough lightly with water. Sprinkle with half of the filling mixture evenly over the dough, leaving 1/4 inch border on sides and 3/4 inch border on top and bottom. Spray filling lightly with water until speckled with water over entire surface.
With short side facing you, roll the dough away from you to form a cylinder, 
Then, turn loaf  seam side up and pinch closed. Pinch the ends closed too.
Dust the loaf lightly with flour on all sides and let rest for 10 minutes while you repeat these steps with the second half of the dough. Use a bench scraper to cut the loaf in half length-wise, turn halves so that the cut sides are facing upwards.
Gently stretch each half into 14 inch length.
Line up the two halves and pinch two ends together. Take piece on left and lay over the piece on the right.
Repeat, keeping cut side up, until the pieces of dough are tightly twisted. Pinch bottom ends together.
Transfer loaf, cut side up, to prepared loaf pan. (Press any exposed raisins, if using, into the seams of the braid.) Repeat with second loaf.
Cover loaves loosely with plastic, return to oven, and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Remove loaves and water pan from oven; heat oven to 350 degrees F. Allow loaves to rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes longer. Top of loaves should rise about 1 inch over the lip of pan.
Brush with egg mixture.
Bake until loaf is well-browned, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees, tent loaves with foil, and continue to bake until internal temperature registers 200 degrees, about 15 to 25 minutes longer.  Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pan, return to rack,  and cool to room temperature before slicing.


  1. This looks delicious! I literally just posted some coconut bread that uses the same method to make the swirls inside it. You loaf looks soo beautiful.


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