Bread and bread-y baked goods are my Achilles’ heel. And no, I didn’t get a dunking in the Styx, thank you very much. I could (and do) eat only bread and some cheese or a few swirls of piquant balsamic vinegar laced with a rich olive oil, lather-rinse-repeat, and call it a meal. There’s nothing like the satisfying chewy crunch of toasted bread dipped into hot savory soup to add starchy textural goodness and make something delicious even more satisfying and filling. And tender fluffy bread with a smear of salted butter and a dollop of honey is just the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and creamy on top of carby starch of the gods. So while I lurrrrve bread it’s rather ironic that not only can’t I make bread but I’m fairly certain that just putting me in the room with any active yeast colonies will kill them and sterilize anything within a 10 foot radius. Normally I have to buy my yeasted goodies but I have the pro-yeast power sister visiting to counteract my yeast annihilating abilities which means it’s a fungal leavening bake-a-thon!
One of my favorite desserty, breakfasty, snacky, I’m-so-glad-I’m-an-adult-so-I-can-eat-half-a-loaf-for-dinner-every-once-in-a-while breads is cinnamon swirl bread. My ideal version has a moist, eggy, brioche-like bread filled with a gooey, syrupy cinnamon filling and like many a speed dater, I rarely hook up with my fated one but not for lack of trying. Most of the cinnamon breads I’ve found have been either dry, bland, or dense [insert dating joke here 😉 ]. Even if I can find that Mr. Not Too Bad loaf, the cinnamon swirl is usually too dry and skimpy for my tastes. And therein lies the rub, how to get a cinnamony gooey swirl that’s not so liquid that it oozes all over the place or makes your bread so doughy that it fails to cook completely in the center cuz the only thing worse than dry baked goods are dry on the outside and undercooked on the inside ones. Which brings us to this cinnamon swirl bread recipe by The Pioneer Woman cuz who should know bready goodness but a pioneer? The dough is moist and brioche like. Check. The cinnamon swirl is cinnamony. Check. The moist, gooey swirl factor? Not so much. Still a bit dry and anemic. So I’ve doctored the filling by adding moisture and a little more sweetness with a couple tablespoons of corn syrup, an extra tablespoon of butter, and switching out brown sugar for the granulated sugar cuz brown sugar has more moisture (it’s also sweeter than granulated sugar so I’ve adjusted the amount to compensate). It also seems to need quite a bit of time on the dough hook to develop the gluten and give you a nice elastic dough. And just in case this doesn’t become someone’s meal or magically disappear by the next day, it tastes scrumptious toasted or reincarnated as French toast 🙂
Surely you must be joking:
1) Why a butter wash instead of an egg wash? I like a softer, browner crust on my swirl bread which also adds a lovely buttery flavor but if your dream date is shiny and crispy then go with an egg wash (1 beaten egg + 2 tbsp water or milk).
2) Wait a minute. You’ve been stressing how important it is to mix batter till everything is just combined and now you want me to pound it into submission for half an hour with a dough hook?? Yup. With batters for cakes, cookies or pastries, you want a light, fluffy, or friable end product but with breads you want something more elastic and slightly chewy. The more you mix/knead/mechanically manipulate the dough the more you develop the structural gluten matrix of the dough giving you a springy bread dough vs a firm cake.
3) Do I really need to bust out my thermometer? Only if you don’t want cinnamon swirl flatbread. Yeast is more delicate than the other fungus among us (hehe, I couldn’t resist) and will die if it’s heated too much. On the other hand, if your temps are too low, it takes a loooong time for your dough to rise (hence the heated dough bowl tricks below). And I’ll personally attest that there’s nothing sadder than spending hours with dough to realize that you’ve just made super chewy pancakes 😦
6 + 1 tbsp butter
1 c milk (I use 1%)
1 packet (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
3 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp vegetable oil (I used canola)
2 tbsp cinnamon
3 tbsp butter, softened
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 c light brown sugar
In a small saucepan on low heat melt 6 tbsp butter with milk. Remove from heat and cool. When butter mixture cools to 100-105F gently stir in yeast. Let sit for ~10 minutes.
While yeast is activating whisk together flour and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside.
Using paddle attachment on your stand mixer combine eggs and sugar. Add butter mixture and combine. Pour in 1/3 of flour mixture and mix till just combined. Scrape dough from bowl sides and repeat with remaining thirds of flour and mix till just combined. Switch to your dough hook attachment and mix on med-lo speed till it has a smooth and silky feel (it should be tacky but not sticky and easily come off your fingers) ~30 minutes. If it’s very sticky/wet add 2 tbsp flour and mix in–you may have to add up to 1/4 c extra flour depending on how sticky your dough is.
While dough is mixing preheat oven to lowest setting for 15 minutes then turn off. Your oven ideally should be ~100F to make a warm, draft-free place for your dough to rise. Put the bowl you’re going to use to rise the dough in the warm oven or pour hot water into it to heat it up and dry just before you’re ready to put the dough it. Oil the bowl and then roll the dough around to coat it with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free area (like your 100F oven 🙂 ) Let rise till doubled in size ~30-45 minutes.
While dough is rising, mix together 3 tbsp softened butter and corn syrup in a small bowl till combined then stir in cinnamon and brown sugar till it forms a dense paste. Set aside.
Knead dough for a couple minutes to make it nice and elastic. Roll dough out till it’s as wide as your loaf pan ~9 inches wide by 18-24 inches long. Spread cinnamon paste onto dough so that it’s 1/2 to 3/4-inch from the edges. Roll dough into a tight spiral along the long edge and press seam closed. Grease your loaf pan with a little butter and then place dough seam side down in the pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for ~90 minutes to 2 hours in a warm, draft-free place till it is just above the level of the top of the pan. Multitask, kickbox, snarfle some chocolates and roll around with your dog 🙂
Preheat oven to 350F. Melt remaining 1 tbsp butter and brush over the top of the dough then bake till golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped (or if you’re willing to poke a hole in that lovely bread) till a temperature probe registers 190F ~30-40 minutes. In a silicone pan with convection it takes me ~30 minutes. Makes ~12 servings compliments of the Amazing Bready Sister!