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Cinnamon Swirl Bread

There’s a little bakery in the town my mom grew up in, and it was the best bakery in the world. We would live for the twice a year visits to my grandparents, because it meant bakery. Cloverleaf rolls. Cake donuts. Peanut brittle. Cinnamon swirl bread.

I visited it as an adult a few years ago. The quality of its donut fry has gone off in later years, but the cinnamon swirl bread is the same delicious, toastable, raisin-free, slice it always was.

I’m literally on the other side of the US now. But I miss the swirl bread so much I just had to replicate it.

And you know what? I think my loaf might even be better. It makes fabulous toast, but is also delightful as-is. My baby practically inhales it.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

  • 600g bread flour (4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups warmed milk
  • 4 Tbsp softened butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon*
  • more softened butter

Combine the bread flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. It is actually important that you use bread flour here – it really does improve the texture of the loaf. You’ll also notice it’s measured in grams. I measure all my flour for bread by weight, as it improves the inter-loaf constancy.

Anyway. Give the dry ingredients a quick mix with the paddle, then crack in the egg and pour the warm milk into the running mixer. When all the milk is incorporated, swap out the paddle for the dough hook and start kneading. After about 3 minutes of kneading with the dough hook, drop the softened butter into the running mixer by tablespoons. Make sure all the butter is incorporated before adding more.

When all the butter is kneaded in, set the mixer bowl inside to rise until the dough has doubled. Meanwhile, combine your cinnamon and sugar with a fork, and grease a loaf pan with the extra softened butter. I’m using a 10″x5″ loaf pan.

When the dough has risen turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it flat into a rectangle, the short side of which is a little smaller than the length of your loaf pan, and the long side is at least twice as long as the loaf pan.

Smear the entire surface of your dough with the cinnamon sugar mixture. There will be plenty. Wash your hands, then start rolling up the dough. Roll it as tight as you can, to prevent gaps in your swirl. Pinch the seam shut, pulling the bottom of the dough around to enclose the last bit of cinnamon sugar, and plop it seam side down into your prepared loaf pan.

Cover the loaf pan and let it proof until the loaf has risen to fill in the pan. While it’s proofing, preheat your oven to 350 F. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool the pan on a rack for 15-20 minutes, then turn the loaf from the pan to finish cooling.

*If you are a cinnamon connoisseur, this bread is a great recipe to use your expensive Vietnamese cinnamon. Whatever you do, don’t use Ceylon cinnamon.

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Cinnamon Rolls

It’s taken me years to master cinnamon rolls. Proper, yeast rolls, without cheating and adding chemical leaveners. But I’ve finally done it. They are soft and sticky, glorious and raisin-free, everything a cinnamon roll should be.

These rolls are great for Sundays. I can throw the dough together in only fifteen minutes, before we leave for Mass. When we get home, it’s all risen and ready to turn into cinnamon rolls.

This dough does require a stand mixer. It’s very sticky, I don’t want to think about mixing it or kneading in all that butter by hand. Don’t worry, it’s easy on a mixer’s motor. Here we go!

The Dough

  • 5¬†cups flour + extra for dusting
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • more butter, for greasing pans

The Filling

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon

The Icing

  • 16 oz. powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp coffee*
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • pinch of salt

Combine your dry ingredients in your stand mixer’s bowl. Microwave your milk for ~2 minutes. When the milk is ready, give everything a quick stir with the paddle to combine it all, then crack in the eggs. Start the mixer, and pour the warm milk slowly into dry ingredients and eggs. When all the milk is combined, swap out the paddle for the dough hook and knead it for a couple minutes, until it looks mostly cohesive.

It will be very, very sticky.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, start the mixer again, and start dropping in the softened butter by tablespoons. Let each addition of butter be kneaded in completely before you add more. Mixing the butter in like this is what I call brioche technique. It lets the gluten develop without the butter undermining it’s structure, but still gets all the fat in there to make a tender bread. But it isn’t proper brioche because I don’t bother with preferments and long fermentation times and the like. My attention span isn’t long enough.

When all the butter is kneaded in, let the mixer go another minute or two, then cover the bowl and leave it to rise, at least an hour.

When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a well floured surface and shape it into a rough rectangle. Add a little more flour to the top and roll it out so it’s thinned to about a quarter inch, and cover the surface with the filling. Spread the filling out so it covers every bit of the surface

You’ll notice I don’t use melted butter in the filling. This dough is so butter rich that it doesn’t need more, and butter in the roll contributes to the rolls gaping as they cool, which I hate.

Roll your rectangle up tightly. This takes quite a bit of practice, don’t worry if your first few attempts aren’t that hot. Pinch the roll together at the edge – the dough is so soft you can pull the bottom and side of the edge around to encase the cinnamon sugar.

Cut the long roll into individual rolls and place into buttered pans. I cut mine into 16 pieces and bake two 9″ round pans of 8 rolls each. You can always cut bigger and bake a 9″x13″ pan containing a dozen. Or you can cut smaller and make lots of tiny ones.

On cutting cinnamon rolls. Some people use knives. But Joe Pastry taught me to use dental floss, and it’s really the only way to do this.

Brush the tops of the rolls with a little melted butter (this helps them pull apart better at the end) and let the rolls proof for another 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 400 F.

Bake the rolls for 15-20 minutes. When they’re done, whisk together the icing and drizzle it over the rolls. If you don’t like/can’t tolerate coffee, feel free to substitute more milk, or water, or whatever. But I like coffee and always have the dregs of a pot floating around for just these sorts of emergencies.

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