Cinnamon Swirl Bread and Cinnamon Toast Thins

After testing at least five different recipes for cinnamon swirl bread, I think I’ve finally found a favorite. And while my original goal was to find a recipe similar to the one served in my old elementary school cafeteria — a cinnamon swirl bread that was baked free-form and served warm with icing, what I realized was that the best cinnamon raisin bread was the one Fuzz liked.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

The one that didn’t have to be served right away, but that could be cut into slices, frozen, thawed the next morning by whomever happened to get downstairs first, toasted, and topped with butter.

Cinnamon Toast

And as an added bonus to the recipe, it could easily be turned into cookies! Just cut it into thin slices, brush with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and dry it out in a 250F oven until it becomes crispy and light.

cinnamon toast thins

The recipe that worked best multiple times was a variation on Dorie Greenspan’s cinnamon swirl bread. Hers was perfectly good, but I wanted to make it my own and came up with a few changes.

The original recipe makes a giant loaf and the slices fit awkwardly in our pop-up toaster.  The new version makes two loaves.  I made one in an 8×4 inch pan and one free-form because I knew that the second loaf was going to be turned into cinnamon toast thins.

bread dough

For the changes to the dough itself, I added more sugar, a bit more salt, some vanilla and a dash of Princess emulsion (zest would be a good substitute).  For the filling, I changed it entirely by omitting the butter in favor of an egg water mixture (a trick I learned from King Arthur flour co., who says the protein in the egg helps keeps the cinnamon sugar mixture from separating from the dough) and increasing the cinnamon sugar and raisins.   I also topped the loaves with more egg wash and sparkling sugar for a little crunch.  The bread is time consuming due to the long rising periods, but aside from that it’s very simple.  If you measure the temperature of your milk with a thermometer you won’t kill the yeast, and if you weigh out about 20 ounces of flour on a scale, you won’t have to worry about the dough being too sticky or too dry due to discrepancies in the American method of measuring flour by volume.  Also, the best thing I’ve found when it comes to improving homemade bread is using a stand mixer with a dough hook.  Before I started using a stand mixer to knead dough, my loaves would always be heavier and dense.  So even though I like the idea of kneading by hand, I always pull out the stand mixer to make bread dough.  It’s never let me down, and I can’t say the same thing about a bread machine.


Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is an easy, reliable recipe for cinnamon swirl bread. When I first posted this I used an 8x4 inch pan and made a second loaf free form. Now I usually use two 8x4 inch pans. Also, all-purpose and bread flour both work very well.
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 32
  • 1 1/4 cup warm milk (115 F)
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted or salted butter, very soft
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Princess emulsion or lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 20 ounces/560 grams (3 3/4 to 4 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
  1. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the warm milk, the yeast, and a pinch of the sugar. Stir to soften and dissolve some of the yeast. It may not bubble at this point.
  2. Combine the remaining warm milk, butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the egg, vanilla, zest and salt – you can use the paddle or a spoon. Add the yeast mixture and 3 1/2 cups of flour and stir until very well mixed but still sticky. Attach the dough hook, and with mixer on medium-low speed, add the remaining flour, gradually (about ½ cup at a time), until the dough is thick and stretchy. Continue beating with the dough hook for about 3 to 5 more minutes or until the dough is smooth and you pull it. It should be fairly easy to handle, but should not feel dry.
  3. Grease a bowl with oil and put the dough in the bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for 1 ½ hours.
  4. Make the filling by mixing the sugar, cinnamon and flour together in a bowl. In another bowl, mix together the egg and water.
  5. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Take the first piece and roll or press it into a long rectangle about 6x18. Brush the rectangle generously with egg mixture and sprinkle half the cinnamon sugar over it. Sprinkle on about ½ cup of raisins. Starting with the short side, roll into a cylinder. Pinch ends to seal and place in an 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch metal loaf pan which has been lined with foil or parchment and sprayed with baking spray. Repeat with second dough section and remaining filling.
  6. Set the loaves in a warm place to rise for another hour.
  7. When dough has risen, brush the dough with a little remaining egg mixture being careful not to deflate it. Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for about 45 minutes, tenting the loaves with aluminum foil for the final 20 minutes if needed. Remove the loaves from the oven, and after about 10 minutes, remove loaves from the pans. Let cool.
To make cinnamon toast thins, cut the free-form loaf into thin slices and lay them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush slices lightly with a mixture of melted butter and oil, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until slices appear dry. Let cool. They should crisp as they cool.


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  1. Retired Pastry Chef says

    Your quest for the perfect Cinnamon Swirl brought back my childhood memories of Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake Bread, which my mom served toasted and buttered and had ready for me to eat before catching the bus for school! It had a golden clumps of streusel on top, so it had to be toasted on the tray of the toaster oven so the streusel would not fall off and burn. The inside of the bread was pale yellow (Egg yolks and butter perhaps?), closely textured and slightly sweet. After your first post I ‘harvested’ 3 potential recipes to try. I liked the idea of cutting the rolled dough cylinder lengthwise and twisting before placing the loaf in the pan. This makes a top with nooks and crannies to better secure the added streusel. Off to the kitchen….:-)

  2. Martha in KS says

    Princess emulsion? That cracked me up. Do they pulverize princesses to make it? I work with a couple that I’d like to contribute to the cause.

  3. says

    RPC, let me know if you recreate that bread. At this point in time, we don’t own a toaster oven. I almost bought one just to carry out more toasting and bread experiments, but I ended up liking this one a lot and the fact that the slices fit neatly into a pop-up. I still kind of want a toaster oven, but haven’t justified the expense since I already have three pop-up toasters.

    Stephanie, I’m glad I could help!

    Martha, that was my very first thought upon seeing the Princess emulsion at Hobby Lobby. I guess I should add a link ;).

  4. says

    Yum! Did Fuzz eat the bread with raisins in it? I thought she didn’t like dried fruit? LOVE the egg trick so the cinnamon/sugar doesn’t separate from the dough. Hate it when that happens.
    And yes, what IS in Princess emulsion? I have never heard of it. Maybe because I have all boys? 😉

  5. Sherry says

    Anna: I am so excited to try this recipe this weekend. We eat SO much raisin bread at our house. The main reason I wanted to comment though is that I made your ‘favorite carrot cake recipe’ for a birthday party last night (drying out the raisins and toasting the walnuts in the oven). Everyone said it was the best carrot cake they ever tasted and I totally agree. WHAT A WINNER!!! I’m so glad I always have your site when I need to impress!!! You Rock Anna.

  6. says

    Katrina, Fuzz liked the raisins. She typically doesn’t care for dried fruit in things, but for some reason the raisins that buried in the cinnamon didn’t bother her. They do get quite softer when buried in the cinnamon mixture, so maybe she found that soft texture less annoying that chewy raisins. I have no idea.

    Sherry, I’m so glad you liked the carrot cake! You should also try the Silver Palate carrot cake recipe. That’s my *new* favorite (although I’ve only made it as cupcakes).

  7. says

    That egg trick for the filling is genius. I make a filled bread and I use melted butter, but I’m going to try replacing it with egg.

  8. Jennifer J-W says

    I’m making this now, no princess emulsion or lemon on hand, so I used orange zest. We’ll see. I’m also a raisin-hater, so I’m leaving those out. Being pretty unskilled at yeast breads, I hope this turns out!

  9. Rynda says

    It’s a really cold day here in Minnesota and I have a new stand mixer so I thought I’d try this bread recipe. I didn’t see a direction for when to add the yeast mixture from the small bowl so I just added it after the 3-1/2 cups of flour which was when I realized the recipe didn’t say when.

  10. Rynda says

    Thanks for the clarification, Anna. The dough is easy to handle and the resulting bread is very good. No separation between the swirl and the bread. Downright nifty!

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