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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Bread Dough:
- 1 1/4 cup warm milk (115F)
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon Princess emulsion or zest of lemon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 20 ounces/560 grams (3 3/4 to 4 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour**
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- 1 cup raisins
- In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the warm milk, the yeast, and a pinch of the sugar. Stir to dissolve and keep an eye on it to make sure the mixture foams from the yeast.
- 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 3 1/2 cups of flour and stir until very well mixed yet still sticky. Attach the dough hook, and with mixer on medium-low speed, and add the remaining flour, gradually (about ½ cup at a time), until the dough is thick and stretchy. This particular dough is sticky and will not completely clear the sides of the bowl, but if you press it with your finger it should not stick. 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 shouldn’t feel dry.
- Rub a large bowl with butter and put the dough in the bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for 1 ½ hours.
- Make the filling by mixing the sugar, cinnamon and flour together in a bowl. In another bowl, mix together the egg and water.
- Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Take the first piece and roll or press it into a long rectangle about 6×18 (it doesn’t have to be precise). Brush the rectangle generously with egg mixture and sprinkle about 3 ½ tablespoons (or half) of 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, but instead of putting it in a loaf pan, put the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet. Set the dough in a warm place to rise for another hour and a half.
- When dough has risen, brush the dough with remaining egg mixture being careful not to deflate it. Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for about 45 minutes, tenting the loaf with aluminum foil for the final 20 minutes. Remove the loaf from the oven, and after about 10 minutes, remove it from the pan. Let cool.