Friday, March 11, 2011

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Cold, rainy weather is the perfect time to enjoy warm, just-from-the-oven bread.  The house is warmed from the oven and the scent of the yeast is intoxicating.  If I bake bread, I try to coordinate it on a day when I am also doing laundry.  My small laundry room provides just the right environment for dough to rise.  The moisture in the air from the wet laundry and the warmth from the dryer help the process along nicely.  I have also used my van on a sunny day to really kick-start some bread dough.  Even on the coldest of days, if the sun is out, my van will get very warm if it's parked in our black-topped driveway.

I wanted to share this recipe with you because I've been making it for a couple of years now and it's hasn't failed me yet.  I have a small aversion to baking with yeast.  I used to have all kinds of trouble with it but I find I am getting better at it.  Practice really does make perfect!  This bread is delicious and if you choose to toast it and spread little butter on top, you'll have a hard time stopping at one slice.  Guaranteed!

This is one of those recipes that I treasure for one reason alone...if I time it just right, this bread is just coming out of the oven when my kids are coming home from school.  I find no greater satisfaction than the look of sheer bliss on their faces when their noses catch that first whiff of cinnamon.  "Have you been baking?!" they'll ask.  Backpacks don't get dropped any faster than when the aroma of cinnamon bread or chocolate chip cookies is in the air. 

Another contribution from one of my favorite sources, Marcy Goldman.  This one comes from The Best of Better Baking.  Marcy has a new cookbook coming out in the fall and I am looking forward to adding it to my collection.

Vanilla-Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Here's What You'll Need:
1 1/3 cups warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons non-fat dry milk powder
1/4 cup instant potato flakes
3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups bread flour
milk, for brushing
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar

Here's What You Do:
Spray two 8x4 inch loaf pans with cooking spray.

Whisk the water and yeast together by hand in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Let this mixture stand for 2-3 minutes so the yeast can dissolve.  Stir in the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, dry milk, potato flakes and 3 1/2 cups flour.  Mix to make a soft mass.  Using the dough hook (if don't have one, you'll need to do this by hand) knead the dough on the lowest setting for 8-10 minutes.  Add more flour as is needed to form a soft dough.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form the dough into a ball.  Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl.  Tear off a piece of plastic wrap and lightly spray it.  Cover the bowl loosely with the plastic wrap and set the bowl someplace warm and free from a draft.  Let the dough rise for 30-60 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.

Once it has risen enough, very gently punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 12x10 inch rectangle. 

For the filling, brush with the milk and sprinkle on the cinnamon and sugar. With the shorter end facing you, roll up the dough tightly into a log. cut the log in half and place each loaf into a pan.
Spray the dough lightly with cooking spray and cover each pan loosely with sprayed plastic wrap so it doesn't stick to the dough. Return to a warm, draft-free location to rise for 30-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the loaf pans in the oven to bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the loaves are lightly browned. Let the bread cool in the pans for about 15 minutes and then remove from the pans to finish cooling on a wire rack. Leaving the bread in the pan will cause steam to build up and the bottom of the bread will become soggy.

Bread + Moisture = BAD!

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