Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I have made Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread a few times before. My previous attempts were loosely based upon Martha Stewart’s recipe, after some tweaking, the loaves ultimately came out very nicely; 4-stars. That version of the bread still hold the title bestowed by my elder son as “the best bread [I've] ever made”. Chris Kimball is a latecomer to Cinnamon Swirl Bread, but claims to have solved some problems that I have not. Most importantly, that the cinnamon swirl prevents the dough from fully binding to itself, leaving air pockets in the shape of the swirl and a slice of bread with a tendency to fall apart.

Delicious bread, but lacked cinnamon flavor

But deciding which loaf is better is not so simple. Chris Kimball loaf’s appearance is like a work of art, and the interior texture is amazing. He was using a Japanese Sandwich Bread (shokupan) as his base, which is heavenly. But his loaf definitely lacks both cinnamon and vanilla flavor, because he includes it only in the filling (and not in the bread itself).

Issues / Comments:

  1. In step 10, I inadvertently rolled dough the wrong way. I ended up with an 18″ cylinder, when I should have ended up with a 7″ cylinder.  This is one thing I hate about Chris Kimball’s instructions. For example his exact instructions were, “With short side facing you, roll dough away from you into firm cylinder.” “Facing me”…nothing is facing me. I think he thinks he is being clear but I read these instructions 10 times over, and still rolled it the wrong way. He frequently describes rolling things up in this manner, and I end up rolling it the wrong way at least 50% of the time. I wish he would add a phrase at the end saying “roll dough away from you into a firm, 7-inch cylinder”.
  2. I like Chris Kimball’s technique of using a dry filling because it allows the baked bread to remain cohesive.
  3. Without any cinnamon in the bread dough, I was left wanting more flavor. The huge amount of cinnamon (3 tablespoons) in the filling could not compensate, because it was hit and miss from one bite to the next.
  4. The one teaspoon of vanilla extract is barely discernible. It needs to be doubled, at least.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $3 for 2 loaves.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 11:00AM. Ready: 4:00PM. (ready for slicing at 6PM)

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared them today are given below:

Dough:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3-3/4 cups (20-2/3 ounces) bread flour, plus extra for dusting
3/4 cup (2-3/4 ounces) nonfat dry milk powder
1/3 cup (2-1/3 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) water
1 large egg
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 cups (7-1/2 ounces) raisins

Filling:
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
A pinch of salt

  1. Cut a stick of butter into 32 small pieces and mix with 1 tablespoon of flour to evenly coat. Lightly beat 1 egg using a fork. Measure 12 ounces of water and heat in microwave for 1m20s until it reaches 110-degrees.
  2. Add bread flour, powdered milk, sugar and yeast to bowl of standing mixer.  Using the dough hook, turn only lowest speed while slowly adding water and egg. Increase to medium-low and mix for 2 more minutes; scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes before adding salt.
  3. Set an oven rack to the middle of your oven, and put a loaf pan on the bottom of a turned-off oven. Begin to heat 3 cups of water until boiling,which will be used in step 6.
  4. After 20 minutes has passed, add salt and mix for 10 minutes on medium-low. Allow the mixer to continue to run while slowly adding the small cubes of butter; mixing for 5 more minutes until the butter becomes incorporated into the dough.  Add the raisins and mix for 1 more minute. Spray a large bowl with non-stick cooking spray, and empty the dough into bowl.
  5. With a rubber spatula, lift one edge of the dough and fold it over onto itself (towards the middle of the bowl). Rotate bowl 90-degrees and fold again. Continue rotating and folding a total of 8 times.
  6. Cover dough with plastic wrap and place on middle rack of your turned-off oven. Pour 3 cups of boiling water into the pan placed on the bottom of your oven. Allow to rise with the oven door closed for 45 minutes.
  7. Remove dough from oven, and gently deflate the dough by pushing down in the center. Repeat the fold/rotate as described in step 5. Again, cover dough with plastic wrap and place on middle rack of your turned-off oven. Allow to rise with the oven door closed for 45 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, whisk together the filling ingredients, and set aside.  Grease to loaf pans.
  9. Lightly flour a work surface, and empty dough onto it. Use a bench scraper to evenly divide into 2 parts. One piece of dough at a time, work dough into a 6″x11″ rectangle. Fold dough up like a letter, to form a 3″x11″ rectangle. Roll dough up into a ball, dust with flour, then use a rolling-pin to form a 7″x18″ rectangle; it should be 1/4″ thick.
  10. Use a spray bottle to lightly spray the dough with water. Evenly cover the dough with half the filling, but leave 1/4″ border on the 18″ sides and 3/4″ on the 7″ top/bottom.  Again, lightly spray with water. Roll the dough into tightly into an 7″ cylinder, pinch the seam closed, and pinch the ends closed too. Lightly dust entire surface with flour and allow to rest of 10 minutes.
  11. Repeat with second loaf.
  12. Again working with one loaf at a time, cut the dough in half lengthwise. With the cut-side upward, stretch both halves until they are 14″ long. Place the two halves next to each other; pinch an end together and tightly braid the two strips together, maintaining the cut-side upward. Pinch the final end together, and place in loaf pan with cut-side up. The raisins that are exposed need to be pushed into the seams of the braid.  Repeat with second loaf.
  13. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in turned-off oven for 45 more minutes. Remove loaves and pan of water from the oven, and pre-heat to 350-degrees. Allow the loaves to continue to rise for another 45-minutes until the tops rise 1″ above the pan’s lip.
  14. Lightly beat an egg with a pinch of salt. Brush the top of the loaves with egg wash and bake at 350-degrees for 25 minutes. Tent each loaf with aluminum foil and reduce oven to 325-degrees. Bake for about 20 minutes more until the internal temperature of the loaf reaches 200-degrees.
  15. Allow pans to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing from loaves. Allow loaves to cool another 2 hours before slicing. You can also wrap tightly in plastic wrap and save in the freezer until you’re ready for your second loaf.

Beautiful loaf, crust is delicious and not over done.

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8 Responses to Cinnamon Swirl Bread

  1. Diane says:

    In my Google reader, another recipe for cinnamon bread popped up. Because the flavor was lacking in the CI recipe, this other one’s flavored butter might help. Just a thought. When I read the CI recipe, I was intrigued by it, so maybe I’ll try it with your suggestions along with the butter from “Not Rachael Ray.”
    Anyway, here’s the link. http://www.notrachaelray.com/2012/02/20/cinnamon-vanilla-bread-with-tahitian-vanilla-bean-whipped-butter/

  2. EP says:

    I made the ATK cinnamon swirl bread today. Or should I say, I’m still making it. I’m at the letting it rise at room temp phase. This bread has close to 4 hours in combined rise time alone (over 5 different steps). I had made a similar cinn swirl bread that only needed 2 rises and was also braided inside-out but in a wreath on a cookie sheet. It was great.

  3. rainey says:

    I made this bread a couple times after seeing the ATK show on it just last month.

    There’s a lot to love about this bread including how well the filling made with confectioners’ sugar holds the integrity of the loaves. But both times I’ve made the bread the structure was so tender that the loaves sort of collapsed on themselves in the center. That didn’t effect the flavor, of course, but it was disappointing all the same. Particularly since they’re such gorgeous loaves right up until they start sagging in the middle.

    Did you have that experience? Got any ideas about how to deal with it? I’m thinking the dough doesn’t need that much butter. I’d also prefer to cut down on some of the sugar so the bread wouldn’t go from barely toasted to half incinerated in the course of 90 seconds but I think the flavor really needs the sugar.

    Meanwhile, it’s great to be able to check my experience out with yours. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Dennis says:

    Made this today and found there is a big problem with the instructions. Step 15 “Allow loaves to cool another 2 hours before slicing.” This is NOT POSSIBLE! This stuff is so good you will be lucky if there is any left in 2 hours!

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