There is nothing particularly "festive" about this bread. I mean, it's bread. You can make bread anytime, holiday season or not. But in my head, if you add cinnamon swirl to something, it's like hitting the "easy" button for festive-ness. Something about the warm, spiciness of cinnamon makes things just a little bit more special.
I've come to realize over the last few months that I do actually enjoy working with yeasted doughs. I thought I hated it because...well, it's finicky. Don't kill the yeast, don't deflate the dough too much, make sure it rises enough, don't over proof it, blah blah blah. I know, it's a lot to consider. But really, just follow the instructions. It's not as horrifically difficult as it might seem on paper. And then, when you have the final result, you sort of want to run around your apartment shouting and showing off your loaf of bread to your boyfriend and/or cats and/or your instagram feed. Because hey man, I JUST MADE PRETTY BREAD SO EVERYONE MARVEL AT ITS MAGNIFICENCE NOW PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
Don't let the level of detail in this recipe scare you off. Read over the recipe a few times, and just take it step by step. It really does come together quite easily, and produces a beautiful result. The recipe is based off of a shokupan (Japanese style sandwich bread) recipe, which makes it extra light and fluffy. It's great just sliced, or toasted, or toasted with butter, or probably toasted with nutella, too. You have options with this loaf.
This bread is perfect for gifting, whether you make full loaves, mini loaves, or knots. Who wouldn't want to receive a loaf of cinnamon-y, swirly deliciousness?
Cinnamon Swirl Bread
recipe from America's Test Kitchen
Makes 2 full-size loaves
for the dough:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 3/4 cups bread flour, plus extra for work surface
3/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder (usually found in your grocery store’s baking section)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 TB instant or rapid-rise yeast (I always use instant)
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp salt
for the filling:
1 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
3 TB good quality cinnamon (use saigon cinnamon, if you are lucky and have a spice shop nearby)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
for the egg wash:
1 large egg, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt
- Cut butter into 32 pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon flour; set aside to soften while mixing dough.
- Whisk remaining flour, milk powder, sugar, and yeast together in bowl of stand mixer (don't add the salt here). Using stand mixer fitted with dough hook, add water and egg and mix on medium-low speed until cohesive mass forms, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
- Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let stand 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 sides of bowl, 7 to 15 minutes.
- With mixer running, add butter, few pieces at a time, and continue to knead until butter is fully incorporated and dough is smooth and elastic and clears side of bowl, 3 to 5 minutes longer.
- Transfer dough to large greased bowl and, using bowl scraper or rubber spatula, fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees; fold again. Turn bowl and fold dough 6 more times (total of 8 folds). Cover tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to middle rack of oven.
- Pour 3 cups of boiling water into loaf pan in oven, close oven door, and allow dough to rise for 45 minutes.
- Remove bowl from oven and gently press down on center of dough to deflate. Repeat folding step (making total of 8 folds), re-cover, and return to oven until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
- Whisk filling ingredients together until well combined; set aside.
- Grease two loaf pans.
- Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and divide into 2 pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough, pat into rough 6 by 11-inch rectangle. With short side facing you, fold long sides in like business letter to form 3 by 11-inch rectangle. Roll dough away from you into ball. Dust ball with flour and flatten with rolling pin into 7 by 18-inch rectangle with even 1/4 inch thickness.
- Using spray bottle, spray dough lightly with water. Sprinkle half of filling mixture evenly over dough, leaving 1/4 inch border on sides and 3/4 inch border on top and bottoms; spray filling lightly with water. (filling should be speckled with water over entire surface).
- With short side facing you, roll dough away from you into firm cylinder. Turn loaf seam side up and pinch closed; pinch ends closed. Dust loaf lightly on all side with flour and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Repeat with second ball of dough and remaining filling.
- Working with 1 loaf at a time, use a bench scraper to cut loaf in half lengthwise; turn halves so cut sides are facing up.
- Gently stretch each half into 14-inch length. Line up pieces of dough and pinch 2 ends of strips together. Take piece on left and lay over piece on right. Repeat, keeping cut side up, until pieces of dough are tightly twisted. Pinch ends together. Transfer loaf, cut side up, to prepared loaf pan.
- 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; preheat oven to 350F. 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 lip of pan).
- Brush loaves with egg mixture. Bake until crust is well browned, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325F, tent loaves with aluminum foil, and continue to bake until internal temperature registers 200F, 15 to 25 minutes longer.
- Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pans, return to rack, and cool to room temperature before slicing, about 2 hours.