Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I've been lax about making bread.  November - January is so busy anyway, I haven't been making the time.  I very intentionally don't order bread through my buying club, because I'm planning on making it myself, and then I don't and everything is on a tortilla.   Just the other day I went to the supermarket for fruit and a couple of staples and I was drawn in by the bread and bought some sandwich rolls, since I knew I wasn't going to make them this week.  

Well, it's a new year. Let's make some bread.  Not just bread, either, let's make some sweet and warm and cinnamony bread. 

This recipe makes three loaves, which I think is perfect because you get one to freeze, one to give away and one for right now.   If you don't have three loaf pans, do cut down the recipe. 

First, scald some milk.  Lots of folks out there will tell you that if you're using pasteurized milk, there is no need to scald it, but other folks tell you to go ahead and scald if you're making bread.  Scalding is about bringing it up to just shy of boiling, stirring all the while, and then quickly turning it off. 

I used skim, but you will experience a different level of luxury if you use whole. 

Set the milk aside to cool.  Get it down under 125 degrees before using it. 

What I like to do, for efficiency, is wait until it's down to lukewarm, and toss in the butter.  

We're going to need 4oz of softened butter anyway, why not soften it right here in the milk and that'll help cool the milk too. 

Get some yeast foaming in a cup of warm water and a sprinkle of sugar.  Once frothy, add a cup of sugar.

And three eggs. 

And a teaspoon of salt.   

Then slowly stream in your warm milk and butter, while mixing. 

And then quite a bit of unphotographed flour.  8 cups - a mix of white and whole wheat.   If you use all white, it'll be softer, more whole wheat, it'll be drier. 

Also, while we're doing the ingredient thing, this is a good time to set aside some butter to soften.  You'll need it for greasing the bowl the dough rises in and for greasing the loaf pans, and for brushing with butter near the end. 

Mix it together either by hand, or until your machine gives up on you and presents you with dough creeping way up and over the dough hook. 

At this point you can give up and revert to doing it by hand. 

Knead until smooth. 

Then roll into a ball and set to rise in a *buttered* bowl. 

Leave it to rise until doubled in size.  I either put dough in my basement near my boiler, or I tuck it away inside my china cabinet. 

Meanwhile, make the cinnamon sugar mix to go inside the bread.  

That's cinnamon, white sugar, brown sugar, nutmeg and yes, cayenne.  A pinch of cayenne doesn't make things hot, it makes things better. 

See? You can't even tell there's cayenne once it's mixed together. 

Once the dough has doubled (somewhere between 1 and 2 hours), take it out of its hiding place. 

And divide it into thirds.  You're making three loaves.

Roll a third of the dough out to about a half-inch on a floured cutting board.  You're aiming for a rectangle, but no one is looking. 

Dampen the dough with a little water - like a teaspoon, and spread that around.  Then spread a third of the sugar-cinnamon mixture on top.  

Roll the dough tightly from edge to edge. 

Enlist the help of a spouse or a friend for the dirty work. 
This roll actually isn't so tight.  Looser rolls mean gaps in the bread where the cinnamon swirls fall. 

If the roll is too long now, give it a solid smush and then roll a bit more to re-shape.

Do that with each third of the dough and cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Drop each into a *buttered* loaf pan and set aside to rise again.  You want them to rise until they're fluffy up above the pan.  Probably less than an hour. 

Once they've risen, bake at 350 for about 45-50 minutes, but come back and visit at 30. 

At the 30 minute mark, take the loaves out and brush with butter, then rotate them and put them back in. 

They're done when they're golden brown, sound hollow when you thump them, and their interior temperature reaches 200 degrees. 

Sous Chef Brian demonstrates his new toy. 
Let them cool 5-10 minutes until you're comfortable touching the loaves (not the pans, the pans are still hot) and dump them out of the pans and on to baking sheets. 

Don't stack them to cool. 
Give them 20 minutes or so longer to cool and then slice away. 

We're all ready for a toaster and some butter. 

This recipe is cross-posted at the blog for the South Philly Food Co-op, whose mission is to open a member-owned cooperative grocery store that provides affordable and nutritious food to all residents of South Philadelphia while empowering the local community through sustainable practices, food-centric education, outreach, and community building.  

Become a member-owner (like me!) by filling out the application here.

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Cinnamon Swirl Bread
You can smell it already, right? The rich smell of cinnamon in a slightly sweet swirl all through your breakfast?
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk (scalded)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 and 1/4 cups, plus a tablespoon sugar, divided 
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 packets or 4.5 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 cup plus three teaspoons warm water, divided 
  • 1/2 cup (4oz) plus 2 tablespoons butter, divided 
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • a pinch of cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 8 cups flour - mixed whole wheat and white
Scald the milk and set aside to cool. Mix a tablespoon of sugar in with the warm water and add the yeast. Let sit until frothy. When milk is lukewarm, add 1/2 cup butter. Add 1/2 cup white sugar, salt and eggs to frothy yeast mixture and mix together. Slowly add in milk and butter, stirring or mixing. Gradually add 8 cups of flour (I prefer 6 white and 2 whole wheat), stirring until well mixed. Drop dough onto a floured board and knead until smooth. Roll into a ball. Grease a large bowl with butter and turn the dough in that bowl to cover all sides. Set aside to rise until doubled (1-2 hours).Mix remaining sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, cayenne and nutmeg in a small bowl. When dough has risen, divide into thirds. Roll each third out into a rectangle as wide as your loaf pan is long. Dampen dough with water and top with 1/3 of cinnamon-sugar mixture. Roll tightly and lay seam-side down in a buttered loaf pan. Repeat for all three loaves. Set aside to rise until fluffy over the top of the loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes, brushing with butter and rotating midway. Bread is done when internal temperature reaches 200 degrees and bread makes a hollow sound when thumped. Cool for 5-10 minutes, then remove from pans to continue cooling.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 3 loaves

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